At the very end of the road is a seven-bar metal gate. It is chained and padlocked and marks the exact line where the tarmac stops. Beyond that is a track, twelve pasture and hay fields, and an area of saltmarsh, bounded on one side by a river and on the other by vast tidal mudflats. Deep in the west of England, this is a place sculpted by the wind and painted by the tides. It is a place full of wildlife. This immersive and carefully crafted book of place explores the impact of season and tides and weather upon this land at the edge through a series of literary pictures crafted through lyrical imaginative language. The author attempts what few, if any, have tried to do, namely to render meticulous observations of the intimate details of wildlife and landscape to depict a place as faithfully and transparently as possible.
This is a bold book, one that tries to capture the elusive soul of a place; a daring examination of both what makes a place and how it is remade daily through the interactions between landscape and observer. It is also radical for its approach challenges the current orthodoxy of nature writing that in order to supply a connection between author, subject, and reader, some sort of narrative framework of human emotion is required to provide it with a rationale. So, although the prose is subjective, At the Very End of the Road is framed in such a way as to remove the author's presence almost completely. There is no story save that of the eternal change of the seasons, no narrative connection, no focus on a single species, no discussion or allusion to the environmental issues of our age, no characters. Indeed, there is barely any mention of people at all. Although it rarely tries to explain or educate, it simply places observations at centre stage. Yet in trying to unearth what it is precisely that constructs our relationship with place, the author has, paradoxically, produced one of the most deeply personal and unusual nature books.
"A glorious reassertion of the importance of place and one of the purest nature books I have ever read."
"He turns simple observations into something timeless and beautiful."
– Stephen Moss
"Only a writer with the closest ties to a landscape and its ecology can observe as he does; this is a hugely admirable piece of work, intelligent, sharp-eyed, individual and honest."
– Richard Smyth
"Extremely beautiful writing; up there with the best. [...] brilliant descriptions of nature."
– Geoff Hill