There are countless books written about mountains, just take a look around the travel section of a bookshop. However, there are not so many written about hills, in particular, the small inconsequential hills that abound the landscape in our country. A hill might not have the majesty or presence of a mountain, but for Cox, these are more accessible, and still have as much mystery and lore and their larger cousins.
Beginning in Somerset under the ever-watchful eye of the Tor and the inland sea that is the Somerset levels he wanders from Britain’s smallest hill, in Norfolk no less, to the highest point on the South Coast. Yet another house move takes him to a house most of the way up a hill in Derbyshire; he is snowed in and it is a place that alarms his cats, and he is often woken at 3:44 in the morning from a nightmare and he would often hear things being moved in the loft… Not many things scare him, sitting with his feet over the edge of Golden Cap is no problem, but halfway up some mechanical edifice is enough to freak Cox out.
He wades through some family history when he discovers that his great grandmother who lived on Dartmoor, prior to moving to Nottingham. He finds that Dartmoor is at its most eerie in the summer when the heat makes time move like treacle. He spends time walking across Dorset’s hills spotting his third hare since moving to the West Country and amusing himself over alternative meanings for the village names in the area. Just seeing a hill on a car journey and then finding on an OS map late is a thrill, especially if there is access to walk up it later.
As I drive the roads, I watch the hills. I always notice the interesting ones, and none of them aren’t interesting, so I notice them all.
Ring the Hill is not quite a sequel to 21st Century Yokel, more of a slightly lairy companion. He seems to be one of the fastest funded authors on the publisher Unbound as he doesn’t really fit in any of the niches that a regular publisher has. Preferring to write widely about whatever the hell takes his fancy, from folklore to the music that works best when he is walking in a place. It is this wide-ranging fascination with all that he sees is what makes this book such a delight. Hares permeate the book too, not just the scant physical ones that he sees out and about, but the way that they are interwoven into the natural and spiritual worlds. I thought that this was a wonderful book, full of tangents and glimpses of things that fascinate him. I love the traditional linocut illustrations of hares that have been created by his mother and I was glad to see that his very LOUD DAD was back in the book again.
Paul Cheney 5/4
Ring the Hill by Tom Cox
Unbound 9781783528356 hbk Oct 2019