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Review by Geoff Cox

For me the best journeys are the ones that don't come easy. The ones where it takes a bit more of your effort to arrive, but ones that result in me being well entertained and better informed by the end. I feel the same about books. I like it when, as a reader, I'm made to work a little bit harder to get where the writer wants to take me.

In Boundary Songs David Banning wanted to take me on a circuit of the Lake District National Park. Not an easy journey, 160 miles in 15 excursions. I'd see different parts of the Lake District to those frequented by other guides and commentaries. I needn’t have worried, the way was made shorter as it rapidly became clear that I was travelling with a companion who could fill the miles with an engaged, informed and often sceptical narrative. Even his greeting promises a wry and discerning voice:

"Welcome to a different 'place to be', where the pastoral and sublime rub shoulders with nuclear and second home syndrome - on the edges of Brexit"

I was familiar with some of this journey, and could envisage the fields, lanes and footpaths it followed. But much of it was new and I needed to consult a map to follow the unfolding journey. This gave me a visual reference, a thread that saved me from getting lost on what is often a contrived route, but this thread also gave me a place to hang the accumulation of new insights and information the author offered me along the way.

Long walks take on their own rhythm, but a very long walk offers an opportunity to vary the pace and cadence. I found that, at the start of each chapter I had to find the right pace and tune into the narrative voice. Once that was established and we're moving again it was fine fine, I could relax and enjoy what the next part of our route had in store.

This is a much needed counter-commentary to the mainstream of Lake District place and culture writing. It's got a thoughtfulness and perspicacity that moves it far beyond the ‘Peter Rabbit's cosy burrow’ view of the Lake District and into a wider and wilder Cumbria. Once we’ve committed to crossing that boundary we can peer back to see what the Lake District is becoming, a wilderness of empty hill-farms, terraces of Airbnbs and towns full of mix-and-match outdoor gear shops. We can study this prospect while sipping cold coffee from the broken flask of Covid and Brexit: the cup's half-empty, time to get back to our walk.

My Lakeland Book of the Year 2021.