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North Country Guides

Souls of Lonely Places: Some Sequestered Spots in Cumbria


About this book:

  • ISBN: 978 191 023 7007

  • Available February 2015

  • Price £25.00 + postage

  • 276 pages
  • Illustrated with 249 colour photographs and maps


About this book:

THE Lake District has been many things, real and imagined: the floor of a long-extinct ocean, a range of limestone mountains of colossal height, an ice-cap. Then came the hunter–gatherers, then the celts. The Romans came, then the Norsemen. The Dark Age kingdom of Rheged, and it was later part of Strathclyde. Comprising the historic counties of Westmorland, Cumberland and Lancashire-North-of-the-Sands, the Romantic landscape of the Lake Poets has also yielded iron, coins, slate for the roofs and millions of bobbins to drive the mills of the Industrial Revolution.
The Lake District National Park dates from 1951: the county of Cumbria from 1974. Yet the notion of the Lakes as a national nature refuge is much older. Wordsworth wrote, in his Guide to the Lakes (1835), of “persons of pure taste throughout the whole island, who, by their visits (often repeated) to the Lakes in the North of England, testify that they deem the district a sort of national property, in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy.”
But what is this “district”? Most people’s Lake District is not just the National Park: most people’s Cumbria is not quite the Lake District. As Norman Nicholson rightly said in Greater Lakeland (1969),
The English Lake District is one of the most famous tourist centres in the world, yet the part of it which is most often visited is quite small – only the inner circle of the higher fells and the upper reaches of the dales. Outsider that inner circle there is a far larger area, less known but containing a wide variety of countryside, much of it of great beauty, together with a wealth of social, historical and human interest greater, even, than that of the Lake District itself.
This book explores places – some large, some small – in and around today’s National Park, and suggests some new perspectives for viewing the region as a whole. 

A beautiful and thought-provoking book exploring places which, although more overlooked than visited, deserve fresh attention. Here are many insights which will give all lovers of Cumbria a look at the area as if through a new pair of eyes.
Sir Chris Bonington CBE

James Deboo likes to tackle Striding Edge on a sunny bank holiday weekend in the summer as he finds 'the most fun thing about it is the camaraderie involved in helping teenagers coax their grandmothers along the top of the ridge.'
Each to his own but it's the 'sequestered spots' which are James Deboo's focus in this book. Hidden valleys, deserted slate quarries, the beautiful countryside round the edges of the Lake District.
James has an infectious enthusiasm, describing how he was astonished by three things when he came across The Cockpit stone circles on Moor Divock: 'Firstly by the backdrop. Askham Fell is one of those places from which you can see everywhere but which is seen from nowhere… the stone circle acts as a frame for the landscape, like a prehistoric version of one of Thomas West's picturesque "stations".'
The book has four sections: Fell, Dale, Woods, Coast and is inspired by the four years James spent exploring Cumbria while he was living in Oxenholme… The book's title comes from Wordsworth and Cumbria's less-visited corners feel as if they have souls of their own, says James.
Cumbria Life, May 2015.

James Deboo has long been fascinated by the sequestered places in Cumbria which are so often bypassed and overlooked. He has divided his writing into four areas of study – Fell, Dale, Wood and Coast – which are introduced by a very clear Overview Map on which destinations are numbered and can easily be located.
Each destination is thoroughly described including: history, geological features, industries past and present, famous people who have chosen to live here, verses from poems written by well-known poets as well as one or two lesser-known writers – for example I had not heard of Isabella Lickbarrow whose lovely verse he quotes.
Dr Deboo chats to his reader as he/she joins him and together move through the book sharing his walks, climbs and personal observations. His style and tone are warm and engaging. His wife Thirza is his constant companion and his inspiration – the reader is quickly aware of the close bond between them.
Although not born in the Lakes, James and Thirza have a deep love and allegiance to this unique corner of the British Isles. This is a happy read. I enjoyed his poem – The Rime of the Mountain Thirza (with apologies to Samuel Taylor Coleridge). A delightful tribute!
James and Thirza have included 249 colour photos along with a number of clear maps. This is a very large county and they have explored simply everywhere. I thought that I knew our county well, but there are so many places left for me to discover with the help of this academic and well-researched appreciation.
A lovely book which is one to open and read many times and still find more unexpected sequestered corners to explore.

Joyce Wilson, Keswick Reminder, April 2015.

The Author:
BROUGHT up in Wiltshire, James Deboo discovered Wordsworth’s poetry at school. Following a degree in English and then a PhD on Wordsworth at Lancaster University, he moved to the Lake District, set up a business as a proofreader, editor and indexer, and at the same time set about exploring and writing about Cumbria. He and his family later moved back to Wiltshire: at the time of going to press, however, a return to the Fells, and to writing about Cumbria, looked imminent. This is his first book.



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