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Good Reads  Natural History  Regional Natural History  Natural History of Europe

Sarn Helen A Journey Through Wales, Past, Present and Future

Nature Writing New
By: Tom Bullough(Author), Jackie Morris(Illustrator)
269 pages, b/w illustrations, 1 b/w map
Publisher: Granta
Sarn Helen
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  • Sarn Helen ISBN: 9781783788118 Paperback Feb 2024 In stock
  • Sarn Helen ISBN: 9781783788095 Hardback Feb 2023 Out of Print #261984
Selected version: £10.99
About this book Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

From the author of Addlands, and featuring illustrations by Jackie Morris, an immersive and evocative non-fictional journey through Wales and a revelatory meditation on the nation's past, present and future.

Sarn Helen – Helen's Causeway – is the old Roman Road that runs from the south of Wales to the north. As Tom walks the route, sometimes alone, sometimes in company, he describes the changing landscape around him and explores the political, cultural and mythical history of this country that has been so divided, by language and by geography. Running alongside this journey is the story of Tom's engagement with the issue of the climate crisis and its likely impact on the Welsh coastline. From one of Wales' most celebrated younger writers, Sarn Helen is at once a vivid and immersive portrait of a nation, and a resonant meditation upon the way in which we are shaped by place and in turn shape the places – potentially irrevocably.


2024 winner of "Wales Book of the year"

Customer Reviews


Tom Bullough grew up on a hill farm in Radnorshire, Wales, and lives in the Brecon Beacons with his children. He is the author of four novels – A, The Claude Glass, Konstantin, and Addlands – and, now, Sarn Helen, his first work of non-fiction. Tom is a climate activist and a freelance tutor in creative writing, and runs regular courses on climate and writing for Black Mountains College and the Arvon Foundation.

Jackie Morris is an award-winning illustrator, artist and author of over forty books, including, with Robert Macfarlane, The Lost Words.

Nature Writing New
By: Tom Bullough(Author), Jackie Morris(Illustrator)
269 pages, b/w illustrations, 1 b/w map
Publisher: Granta
Media reviews

"A delight. [Bullough] writes elegantly on nature and his chapters are beautifully illustrated by Jackie Morris"
– Simon Jenkins, TLS

"Deeply moving [...] If nature writers want to draw more people to the environmental cause, this book makes clear that love works much better than fear"

"The poetry of Bullough's writing is ever present, mirroring rivers, rolling farmland and high, rocky ridges [...] despite the many times I have wept inconsolably whilst reading, this book is an absolute must. It has left an imprint upon my soul"
Nation, Cymru

"Vital, and urgent with concern. You cannot leave this book without its message thundering in your head. It is not enough to walk old routes. This was. Now what?"
– Cynan Jones

"A profound and beautiful portrait of Wales. With great charm and learning, Tom Bullough walks us through the country's leafy backways, its deep pasts, the sparkling shards of its identity, its vanishing rural traditions and its fragile ecology"
– Philip Marsden

"A crucial book for now [...] Bullough has produced a multilayered and compelling account of his home's imperilled future [...] Stunning"
– Gwyneth Lewis

"Thrilling. I was bewitched by the experience of seeing as Tom Bullough does, with such insight, such deep learning, such humour and such urgency. This is the finest kind of travel writing: a book that makes you see what is really there, and fills you with the author's passion to defend it"
– Horatio Clare

"Sarn Helen is accomplished and stunning in every one of its many personalities: as history, as memoir, as eco-parable, as impassioned call to arms. The world of this book is one of awe and joy and one which we need to protect from human predation until our last collective breath"
– Niall Griffiths

"A wondrous and arresting journey teeming with wisdom, insights and humanity. Walking through Wales with Bullough is to see the nation – and the UK – with new eyes"
– Ben Rawlence

"A rapturous lamentation, and a winding tale with an unswerving message. One of the best books I've read on the climate emergency"
– Chloe Aridjis

"Part love-letter, part lament, part call-to-action, Sarn Helen is one man's passionate attempt – in prose that's at once lyrical and forensic – to put into words what's at stake for us all in our present moment"
– Carys Davies

"Tom Bullough meets centurions, saints and climate scientists alike, and has them all help him weave an urgent and powerful narrative of past, present and future [...] A joyous voyage of discovery, of Wales itself, of Tom's place within it, and the nuggets buried deep in its bedrock that might just help point us towards some hope"
– Mike Parker, author of On the Red Hill

"A deeply engaging, and deeply engaged, travelogue by one of our finest and (old-fashioned word that I can find no modish synonym for) noblest writers"
– Gregory Norminton

"Sarn Helen is a beautifully downbeat travelogue that's full of love, rage and humour. A brilliant, pivotal book by one of the most engaged and engaging writers around, it will change you"
– Toby Litt

"This is a book that needs to be read [...] At its gentle, beautiful (and beautifully illustrated) heart is a dark voice of warning and petition. Tom is part of a generation fighting for the world and Sarn Helen also movingly and frighteningly holds the shocking realities and hypocrisies of inaction and indifference powerfully up to the lens" – Rob Cowen

"An impassioned book that rings with beauty, grief and urgency. As he journeys through Wales' past, present and future, Bullough sounds a clarion call for us all to play our part in averting global catastrophe"
– Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent

"Sarn Helen is an extraordinary combination of journey, climate change reflection, and history. Beautifully written by the GENIUS that is Tom Bullough and exquisitely illustrated"
– Nicola Davies

– Patrick Barkham, Oldie

"A book of our time which spoke to me because it provides a local, relatable, perspective on the climate crisis"

"The joy of the book is in its attention to smaller things, from the flight patterns of birds to the gleaming Subaru Imprezas on housing estates [...] Bullough is a master craftsman"

Simple Things

"A state-of-the-nation portrait of Wales [...] His account of the disasters that threaten his country also stands as a wider warning to the rest of us"
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