Thursday 5 December 2019
Riding Route 94 by David McKie
This is the type of book like those the author himself describes as that 'a good second hand bookshop can furnish: a book which you start to thumb through,sense that you will like, acquire and will one day treasure'.
The concept behind this book is delightful, the author travelled across the UK by only travelling bus routes with the number 9 (plus a couple with a prefix, so we have for example the 594 from, Edinburgh to London). It's not primarily an environmental book, except for the fact that the bus is an environmentally friendly way to travel. McKie points out that rural bus routes are often under threat of having their funding cut and 'the continuing decline of the rural bus seems to me to be very much a part of any picture of Britain in the early years of the twenty-first century.'
This book is packed with interesting observations about areas of the UK that aren't often written about and notable people and events that happened in these areas. McKie's musings on one route uncover an ingenious plan to prevent a motorway being built through an area of moorland important for butterflies, while others show the attitiudes of developers in the late 1960s that lead to the loss of much greenbelt land across the UK. One trip highlights the campaign of one small town to prevent the building of another bigger supermarket which would have threatened the vibrancy of its high street while others show how in general, across the UK, many high streets are fading, their once well used shops declining and disappearing.
He visits a tortoise sanctuary and in another trip, the place where a cellist once used to play her instrument at night with the accompaniment of nightingales.
On the 694 route at Leigh in the north west of England, he points out 'a country park called Pennington Flash, with a lake round which you can sit watching the waterbirds, a fortuitous consequence of the subsidence which the mines created'. A country park which in fact I have visited several times, as it is close to where I grew up. Writing about the 494 route on the Isle of Mull, he highlights the island's wildlife and reminds me that this is an island that I need to explore more.
This is an excellent alternative travelogue of the UK
Riding Route 94 by David McKie published by Pimpernel Press.