The Shining Levels

John Wyatt’s account of his time spent as the first ever warden of the Lake District in The Shining Levels is possibly the quintessential book of the region, and a classic of British nature writing. Wyatt’s appointment as Ranger in 1961 reflects the national park’s awareness of the need to safeguard the countryside against increased tourism. The book tells the story of Wyatt’s return to the Lakes after a period of working for Oxfam.

John Wyatt’s The Shining Levels (picture c/o http://www.caughtbytheriver.net/

Retreating firstly to an extremely basic cabin in the woods and eventually, finding even this too much civilization for him, to a self-made turf shelter, he recounts his daily interactions with the natural world and his subsistence way of living. Frequently charming and funny and occasionally lyrically profound, his writing is a moving account of a man’s deep bond with the landscape which he loved.

John Wyatt (image c/o http://www.caughtbytheriver.net/)

At the centre of this book is the relationship Wyatt forms with a young, abandoned roe deer he names Buck. The raising of this creature, not as a pet but as a respected companion who needs support if he is to grow to adulthood, is one of the most inspiring examples of a bond of mutual respect between human and animal.

Enchanting accounts of moth-hunting, stalking, coppicing blend with descriptions of friends, co-workers and even a drunken evening at the pub to make this both an entertaining and poignant read. Its the perfect book to take with you on a trip to the Lakes and is guaranteed to infuse a visit with a heightened appreciation of this uniquely beautiful landscape.