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  • Published: 5 December 2023
  • ISBN: 9780857527110
  • Imprint: Doubleday
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 432
  • RRP: $55.00

Walking the Bones of Britain

A 3 Billion Year Journey from the Outer Hebrides to the Thames Estuary




Blows the dust off geology to tell the incredibly dramatic story of all the upheavals, volcanic explosions, sea inundations and violent quakes that have shaped our landscape, human history and our everyday lives.

Travelling a thousand miles and across three billion years, Christopher Somerville (walking correspondent of The Times and author of Coast, The January Man and Ships of Heaven) sets out to interrogate the land beneath our feet, and how it has affected every aspect of human history from farming to house construction, the Industrial Revolution to the current climate crisis.

In his thousand-mile journey, Somerville follows the story of Britain's unique geology, travelling from the three billion year old rocks of the Isle of Lewis, formed when the world was still molten, down the map south eastwards across bogs, over peaks and past quarry pits to the furthest corner of Essex where new land is being formed by nature and man.

Demystifying the sometimes daunting technicalities of geology with humour and a characteristic lightness of touch, Somerville's book tells a story of humanity's reckless exploitation and a lemming-like surge towards self-annihilation but also shows seeds of hope as we learn how we might work with geology to avert a climate catastrophe.

It cannot fail to change the way you see the world beyond your door.

  • Published: 5 December 2023
  • ISBN: 9780857527110
  • Imprint: Doubleday
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 432
  • RRP: $55.00

About the author

Christopher Somerville

Christopher Somerville is the walking correspondent of The Times. He is one of Britain’s most respected and prolific travel writers, with forty-two books, hundreds of newspaper articles and many TV and radio appearances to his name.
He lives in Bristol.

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Praise for Walking the Bones of Britain

For someone who hated geology lessons at school, barely able to stay awake during discussions of laminated rhyolites and tuffaceous breccias, Christopher Somerville has made up for this with aplomb and vivid readability. To have tramped more than 1,000 miles from the sea stacks of the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, where in fiery days gone by more than 3,000 million years ago the landscape was literally set in stone, and reach the silty clay of Wallasea Island in Essex is a remarkable achievement. By focusing on the best bits of geological interest along the way such as Arthur's Seat in once volcanic Edinburgh, the sandstone crags of the Pennine Way and the chalky Chilterns, he provides an illuminating new take on the British landscape. Encounters, warm humour, history and plenty of geology (Carboniferous periods, Permian periods, Zechstein Seas, no less) carry you down the winding tracks.

Tom Chesshyre, author of Lost in the Lakes

Rambling alongside the tirelessly energetic Christopher Somerville from the comfort of my armchair is a joy. In Walking the Bones Someville is the perfect travelling companion. Knowledgeable and observant, he picks up the stories of the paths he walks along in much the same way as he illuminates the stones which are under his feet, holding them up for us to see, and then returning them to the path, for the next curious traveller to find. A meticulous exploration of the ground beneath our feet. Glorious."

Katherine Norbury, author of The Fish Ladder and Women on Nature

[Somerville's] infectious enthusiasm and wry humour infuse his journey from the Isle of Lewis to southern England, revealing our rich geological history with vibrant local and natural history.

Observer

An ideal gift for any walking enthusiast who wants to know more.

Patrick Corbett, Geoscientist magazine

Walking the Bones of Britain demystifies our daunting geology on a nine-month journey laced with humour and history.

Roger Butler, The Great Outdoors