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Jeni Bell’s Wild Britain

The continued adventures Of Jeni , Bill and Millie……..

I have a confession to make. Whilst it might not be a big deal to some, it will be absolute sacrilege to others. So, it sort of took me the best part of 29 years to read Ring of Bright Water. There I said it, my conscience is clear. It’s not that I didn’t want to read the book, it’s always been on my list, but I would always shuffle it to the bottom of the pile, making excuses as to why I couldn’t read it: extra homework, other books to read, too tired from long hours at work or whatever. The real reasons were simple – I knew what happened (the same reason I haven’t read Tarka). I also knew that I would get irrevocably attached to the main animals and would struggle to follow their plights in literary form. I always knew the story of Ring and was constantly reminded of the plot when I read plenty of other books about Gavin Maxwell, Camusfearna and Eilean Ban; Dan Boothby’s Island of Dreams and John Lister-Kaye’s recent Dun Cow Rib, were the stand out stories that made me finally face my literary fears and read Gavin’s tale of a life lived with otters.

Well I’ve read it now, I say read, more like devoured. And it is every bit as good as people say it is, not just the wonderfully detailed descriptions of otters, but the way he sets the scene of Camusfearna. An idyllic refuge guarded by a waterfall, hidden in a bay looking out at the shimmering Sound of Sleat. It’s described as everything you would want from a truly free existence. When he first portrays his first descent down to the ramshackle cottage, it only serves to highlight the complete remoteness of the setting. To fall asleep at night to the lullaby of a tumbling waterfall whilst waves run over silver sands, with an otter tucked up in the crook of your knee is the epitome of living in the dream in my opinion. Even before I had read the books I knew I wanted to make the pilgrimage, even though the house isn’t there anymore, that so many other book nerds had made to Sandaig, the true name of the house of otters. I wanted to witness the magic that a love of animals and all things wild can imprint on a place. Now that I’d read it I was more than ready to get the walking boots on and follow in so many other’s footsteps.

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