When John Lister-Kaye visited Aigas House at the heart of the Scottish Highlands in 1977, he got there just before the bulldozers. The Victorian buildings, inside and out, were crumbling through neglect. The rooms were damp and cold; plumbing and electricity worn and dangerous; plaster and glass fell from the ceilings; woodworm thrived in the floorboards; and the roof leaked. Why on earth would a young couple with three small children make it their home?
Twenty-five years later, the estates and house have been revived to form Scotland’s firstfield studies centreand a warm family home. InSong of the Rolling Earth – A Highland OdysseyMr Lister-Kaye recounts the highs and lows of his journey over the last quarter century and takes the reader on a colourful tour of the Highlands, from before Man to the present day.
It is deeply personal story, drawing on his involvement with the land and wildlife that has surrounded him through the changing seasons. Each bird, tree, insect or animal has its own special place and is vividly described with an insight borne out of detailed research and a devotion to the natural world.
It is not just the author’s knowledge of his land which inspires, but also the skill in its description. The rich language and rhythm of his prose, combined with classical, historical and literary reference, point to long winter hours in his study, when the swifts have flown south and it is too treacherous to exercise his huge horse Barney through the hills and glens behind Aigas.
Although well aware of the cruelty and unfairness of nature and the death and suffering it brings, MR Lister-Kaye laments the way Man has treated his habitat and offers an alternative. Through this book and his field centre, he gives readers and visitors an different perspective on nature. Listen to the chaffinch or wren bursting with song, he tells us. Think a little on the ash tree as you sit beneath its shade.
Song of the Rolling Earthi s a masterful piece of storytelling and the completion of a journey well made.
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