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Under the Rock: The Poetry of a Place

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‘A bone-tingling book’ – Richard Benson Carved from the land above Mytholmroyd in West Yorkshire, Scout Rock is a steep crag overlooking wooded slopes and weed-tangled plateaus. To many it is unremarkable; to others it is a doomed place where 18th-century thieves hid out, where the town tip once sat, and where suicides leapt to their deaths. Its brooding form presided over ‘A bone-tingling book’ – Richard Benson Carved from the land above Mytholmroyd in West Yorkshire, Scout Rock is a steep crag overlooking wooded slopes and weed-tangled plateaus. To many it is unremarkable; to others it is a doomed place where 18th-century thieves hid out, where the town tip once sat, and where suicides leapt to their deaths. Its brooding form presided over the early years of Ted Hughes, who called Scout Rock 'my spiritual midwife . . . both the curtain and backdrop to existence'. Into this beautiful, dark and complex landscape steps Benjamin Myers, asking: are unremarkable places made remarkable by the minds that map them? Seeking a new life and finding solace in nature's power of renewal, Myers excavates stories both human and elemental. The result is a lyrical and unflinching investigation into nature, literature, history, memory and the meaning of place in modern Britain. UNDER THE ROCK is about badgers, balsam, history, nettles, mythology, moorlands, mosses, poetry, bats, wild swimming, slugs, recession, floods, logging, peacocks, community, apples, asbestos, quarries, geology, industrial music, owls, stone walls, farming, anxiety, relocation, the North, woodpiles, folklore, landslides, ruins, terriers, woodlands, ravens, dales, valleys, walking, animal skulls, trespassing, crows, factories, maps, rain - lots of rain - and a great big rock. 'A bone-tingling book' -- Richard Benson, author of The Valley and The Farm “Extraordinary, elemental … never less than compelling: this is a wild, dark grimoire of a book” – The Times Literary Supplement 'The writing is perfectly poised and seductive, luminous, an earthy immersion into the granular dark of place. The prose has an intense, porous quality, inhabiting the reader right from the stunning start with the voices of rock, earth, wood and water. This is a truly elemental read from which I emerged subtly changed. The writing has a shamanic quality; Benjamin Myers is a writer of exceptional talent and originality ... it has all the makings of a classic' -- Miriam Darlington, author of Otter Country and Owl Sense “Compelling … admirable and engrossing. Myers writes of the rain with a poet’s eye worthy of Hughes” – Erica Wagner, New Statesman 'One of the many joys of Under the Rock - this absorbing, compelling, moving book - is its language; it trickles like a rivulet, thunders like a cataract, and sticks to you like mud. It is full of crannies and dips and peaks wherein wonders hide; explore it for a lifetime and you will not exhaust its mysteries. Unafraid of blood-drenched history and the darkest of despair, this is nonetheless a defiantly life-praising book; it accompanied me to bed and bar, train and plane, and each situation was enriched and brightened by its presence... . It is utterly vital' -- Niall Griffiths, author of Grits, Sheepshagger and Stump 'Richly layered, densely and elegantly structured, discursive, elegiac and beautiful. Under the Rock is a stunning exploration of place, mind and myth' -- Jenn Ashworth, author of Fell and The Friday Gospels “Prodigious, awe-incurring … few are as impressive as the formidable Benjamin Myers, who has developed a voice as pure and authentic as it is stark, honest and resolutely northern … creates an overall sense of dreamy, quiet beauty, born of love for the lie of the land.” – The Big Issue “Compelling … an atmospheric exploration of the landscape and its history” – Irish Times “A visionary work of immense power and subtlety which establishes Myers as one of Britain’s most consistently interesting and gifted writers” – Morning Star 'Place-writing at its most supple: both deeply considered, and deeply felt' -- Melissa Harrison, author of Rain: Four Walks in English Weather “Best known for his bleak and brilliant crime fiction Myers turns his focus to nature writing with absorbing results in this lyrical exploration of Scout Rock in Yorkshire’s Calder Valley” – i-news, Best Books to Take on Holiday 2018 “Exceptionally engaging … beguiling … this is a startling, unclassifiable book” – Stuart Kelly, The Scotsman “Thoughtful, engaging and beautifully crafted … the writing is lyrical yet muscular and elemental, transporting the reader to this plaece of rugged beauty and dark secrets” – The Yorkshire Post “[A] beautifully poetic, passionate and elegiac book … Myers’ writing left me with a heart-wrenching desire to be there” – Harry Gallon, Minor Literatures 'What distinguishes Under the Rock is Myers' unshakeable commitment. He writes at all times with rock-solid conviction, fashioning a book which is less a work of simple description than a new contribution to the mythology of Elmet' -- Will Ashon, author of Strange Labyrinth, Clear Water and The Heritage 'I have become a Benjamin Myers junkie in the last 12 months . . . Myers' place-writing is as good as anything being scrawled in Britain today' - Horatio Clare, author of Down to the Sea in Ships and Orison for a Curlew “Terrific… It’s a book which doesn’t just discuss or describe landscape, but immerses you within it… if this doesn’t put Ben Myers on everyone’s radar then I don’t know what will” – Daniel Carpenter, Bookmunch “An author to adopt as your own, a book to turn others on to ... boy does it rock” – Cally Callomon, Caught by the River “A daring new work … make[s] the unremarkable truly remarkable. It’s a work that is focused on landscape and place and is another step on this special writer cementing himself as more than just a cult favourite” – Narc Magazine “An extraordinary blend of power, poetry and grit … Benjamin Myers has made his rock sing” – Richard Littledale, The Preacher’s Blog “Myers’ prose is outstanding” – Marcel Krueger, Hong Kong Review of Books “Under the Rock is the most beautifully written non-fiction book… There is an extremely powerful sense of place. I was fully immersed in the landscape, the water, the woods, the rock. Lyrical, powerful, engaging, moving and fascinating. Highly recommended” – The Book Corner, Halifax


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‘A bone-tingling book’ – Richard Benson Carved from the land above Mytholmroyd in West Yorkshire, Scout Rock is a steep crag overlooking wooded slopes and weed-tangled plateaus. To many it is unremarkable; to others it is a doomed place where 18th-century thieves hid out, where the town tip once sat, and where suicides leapt to their deaths. Its brooding form presided over ‘A bone-tingling book’ – Richard Benson Carved from the land above Mytholmroyd in West Yorkshire, Scout Rock is a steep crag overlooking wooded slopes and weed-tangled plateaus. To many it is unremarkable; to others it is a doomed place where 18th-century thieves hid out, where the town tip once sat, and where suicides leapt to their deaths. Its brooding form presided over the early years of Ted Hughes, who called Scout Rock 'my spiritual midwife . . . both the curtain and backdrop to existence'. Into this beautiful, dark and complex landscape steps Benjamin Myers, asking: are unremarkable places made remarkable by the minds that map them? Seeking a new life and finding solace in nature's power of renewal, Myers excavates stories both human and elemental. The result is a lyrical and unflinching investigation into nature, literature, history, memory and the meaning of place in modern Britain. UNDER THE ROCK is about badgers, balsam, history, nettles, mythology, moorlands, mosses, poetry, bats, wild swimming, slugs, recession, floods, logging, peacocks, community, apples, asbestos, quarries, geology, industrial music, owls, stone walls, farming, anxiety, relocation, the North, woodpiles, folklore, landslides, ruins, terriers, woodlands, ravens, dales, valleys, walking, animal skulls, trespassing, crows, factories, maps, rain - lots of rain - and a great big rock. 'A bone-tingling book' -- Richard Benson, author of The Valley and The Farm “Extraordinary, elemental … never less than compelling: this is a wild, dark grimoire of a book” – The Times Literary Supplement 'The writing is perfectly poised and seductive, luminous, an earthy immersion into the granular dark of place. The prose has an intense, porous quality, inhabiting the reader right from the stunning start with the voices of rock, earth, wood and water. This is a truly elemental read from which I emerged subtly changed. The writing has a shamanic quality; Benjamin Myers is a writer of exceptional talent and originality ... it has all the makings of a classic' -- Miriam Darlington, author of Otter Country and Owl Sense “Compelling … admirable and engrossing. Myers writes of the rain with a poet’s eye worthy of Hughes” – Erica Wagner, New Statesman 'One of the many joys of Under the Rock - this absorbing, compelling, moving book - is its language; it trickles like a rivulet, thunders like a cataract, and sticks to you like mud. It is full of crannies and dips and peaks wherein wonders hide; explore it for a lifetime and you will not exhaust its mysteries. Unafraid of blood-drenched history and the darkest of despair, this is nonetheless a defiantly life-praising book; it accompanied me to bed and bar, train and plane, and each situation was enriched and brightened by its presence... . It is utterly vital' -- Niall Griffiths, author of Grits, Sheepshagger and Stump 'Richly layered, densely and elegantly structured, discursive, elegiac and beautiful. Under the Rock is a stunning exploration of place, mind and myth' -- Jenn Ashworth, author of Fell and The Friday Gospels “Prodigious, awe-incurring … few are as impressive as the formidable Benjamin Myers, who has developed a voice as pure and authentic as it is stark, honest and resolutely northern … creates an overall sense of dreamy, quiet beauty, born of love for the lie of the land.” – The Big Issue “Compelling … an atmospheric exploration of the landscape and its history” – Irish Times “A visionary work of immense power and subtlety which establishes Myers as one of Britain’s most consistently interesting and gifted writers” – Morning Star 'Place-writing at its most supple: both deeply considered, and deeply felt' -- Melissa Harrison, author of Rain: Four Walks in English Weather “Best known for his bleak and brilliant crime fiction Myers turns his focus to nature writing with absorbing results in this lyrical exploration of Scout Rock in Yorkshire’s Calder Valley” – i-news, Best Books to Take on Holiday 2018 “Exceptionally engaging … beguiling … this is a startling, unclassifiable book” – Stuart Kelly, The Scotsman “Thoughtful, engaging and beautifully crafted … the writing is lyrical yet muscular and elemental, transporting the reader to this plaece of rugged beauty and dark secrets” – The Yorkshire Post “[A] beautifully poetic, passionate and elegiac book … Myers’ writing left me with a heart-wrenching desire to be there” – Harry Gallon, Minor Literatures 'What distinguishes Under the Rock is Myers' unshakeable commitment. He writes at all times with rock-solid conviction, fashioning a book which is less a work of simple description than a new contribution to the mythology of Elmet' -- Will Ashon, author of Strange Labyrinth, Clear Water and The Heritage 'I have become a Benjamin Myers junkie in the last 12 months . . . Myers' place-writing is as good as anything being scrawled in Britain today' - Horatio Clare, author of Down to the Sea in Ships and Orison for a Curlew “Terrific… It’s a book which doesn’t just discuss or describe landscape, but immerses you within it… if this doesn’t put Ben Myers on everyone’s radar then I don’t know what will” – Daniel Carpenter, Bookmunch “An author to adopt as your own, a book to turn others on to ... boy does it rock” – Cally Callomon, Caught by the River “A daring new work … make[s] the unremarkable truly remarkable. It’s a work that is focused on landscape and place and is another step on this special writer cementing himself as more than just a cult favourite” – Narc Magazine “An extraordinary blend of power, poetry and grit … Benjamin Myers has made his rock sing” – Richard Littledale, The Preacher’s Blog “Myers’ prose is outstanding” – Marcel Krueger, Hong Kong Review of Books “Under the Rock is the most beautifully written non-fiction book… There is an extremely powerful sense of place. I was fully immersed in the landscape, the water, the woods, the rock. Lyrical, powerful, engaging, moving and fascinating. Highly recommended” – The Book Corner, Halifax

30 review for Under the Rock: The Poetry of a Place

  1. 4 out of 5

    Amalia Gkavea

    ‘’Let things settle. Let tress reach downwards, their curling roots grasping deep into the underworld. Let weeds wander, and life crawl and colonise and entangle. Let the seasons set the pace. Months, not minutes. Decades, not days. See a century that feels like a second. Let life breathe.’’ What is the first image that comes to your mind when you think of the word ‘’moors’’? Mine is the untamed scenery of a land that stretches from horizon to horizon, of rocks and fens and a wild dark-haired g ‘’Let things settle. Let tress reach downwards, their curling roots grasping deep into the underworld. Let weeds wander, and life crawl and colonise and entangle. Let the seasons set the pace. Months, not minutes. Decades, not days. See a century that feels like a second. Let life breathe.’’ What is the first image that comes to your mind when you think of the word ‘’moors’’? Mine is the untamed scenery of a land that stretches from horizon to horizon, of rocks and fens and a wild dark-haired girl running. Yes, my vision of the moors was born long ago, when I first read Wuthering Heights and discovered the wealth of British Literature. I imagine the crows and the ravens, abandoned abbeys, a dog howling in the night. The Hound of the Baskervilles, the works of Thomas Hardy, even the brilliant 2018 film Ghost Stories by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman. The moors are bound to the British culture and way of life. In Under the Rock, Benjamin Myers pays a tremendously beautiful homage to the North, the nature, the legends, the danger and the mysticism and shows how we destroy the very thing that nurtures us so freely. ‘’This way ghosts were born: in wooded dells, down dark lanes of hedgerow and holloway, across clouded fields, when drank men took fright of the unblinking brilliant xanthous eyes of an ice-white barn owl in flight [...] the nocturnal call of the owl runs the length of the woods and permeates the dreams of those of us who live close by, prone under duck dawn, the night world at our window.’’ Following the musings of Ted Hughes, Myers is our guide on a journey to Scout Rock, Mytholmroyd and the land of Yorkshire, mystical, untamed, rebellious. A shudderingly beautiful introduction by Benjamin Myers paves the way for our visit to the North where we witness an exciting and poignant cycle that starts again and again. Myers leaves London behind, the metropolis that has become practically hostile to its residents, and moves to a land full of striking omens and dark signs, a land where people disappear or kill themselves. A land made of dark November nights, a land that gave birth to a masterpiece and to a character as fascinating as he is controversial. Naturally, I am referring to Wuthering Heights and Heathcliff whose ‘’mother’’, Emily Brontë, is by definition the patron goddess of the moors. ‘’The moor, [...] where strange things happen, and have done so for centuries.’’ People go missing, stories of strange occurrences, otherworldly creatures, animals, fairies, ghosts, elements of a pagan era. And in Northumberland, the spectral Roman soldiers still guard Hadrian’s Wall, the witness of a violent supremacy that left its mark on our world forever, Can we image Heathcliff wandering those forests, determined and outraged? What could have gone through Emily’s mind during his ‘’conception’’? Can the mystery of the hero’s lost years be found close to the haunting moors? No, we will never come to know. This is one more secret buried in this wild place… ‘’Now imagine man coming here. Imagine man coming with pickaxes and chisels. Imagine man coming with jackhammers and flak jackets. Imagine man coming with dynamite and diggers and drills.’’ Industry is destroying a land where kings have walked, defining Britain’s past and course in History. The residents fight against the wrath of nature that punishes us for our disrespect and arrogance. Myers wisely stretches the excessively harmful presence of the Man that has violated a beautiful place. His chronicle of the floods that struck the area is powerful and frightening. What I found extremely interesting is his thoughts over a different aspect of the human presence in the North. The potential influence that nature exerts on the residents. He refers to brooding, rebellious literary figures and notorious real-life serial killers. Can a place acquire a tradition of giving birth to wild characters, even criminals? ‘’England is an idea in constant reinvention, A concept kept fluid, an abstract Albion. Of falling fences. Dying ideas. Arrogance, Deceit and grave delusion. Of mud flax.’’ Wood, Earth, Water, Rock...A journey elemental, luscious, dark, seductive, misty, haunting, captivating like the moors in the twilight, like the Northern nature after the rain. I travelled to a place of unique beauty, to a land that narrates a thousand stories within these marvelous pages. This is a book which Emily Brontë would have chosen to accompany her in one of her long walks in the moors. A book that would grace Dickens’ library, a book that would inspire Arthur Conan Doyle and Thomas Hardy. ‘’Because on a night like this the moon is intoxicating. It can make a person unsteady on their legs, and the blood fizz in the ears. It creates a thirst, a hunger, an appetite. A need. The hunter’s moon is so called because it was deemed the best time for hunting parties to pursue their quarry. In towns across the land nightclub bouncers and police always find their hands particularly full on such nights.’’ Many thanks to Benjamin Myers, Alison Menzies and Elliott & Thompson for the finished copy. My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.word...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Hugh

    An intensely personal, poetic and idiosyncratic book that defies categorisation, this tells the story of a decade spent living in the Calder Valley and Myers's explorations of his surroundings, where the wild and the industrial are juxtaposed. It mixes memoir with nature and landscape writing and local history. I had a map of the area to hand while reading and I will be tempted to return to the area myself. Myers is a relatively recent discovery for me - his novel The Gallows Pole was a highlight An intensely personal, poetic and idiosyncratic book that defies categorisation, this tells the story of a decade spent living in the Calder Valley and Myers's explorations of his surroundings, where the wild and the industrial are juxtaposed. It mixes memoir with nature and landscape writing and local history. I had a map of the area to hand while reading and I will be tempted to return to the area myself. Myers is a relatively recent discovery for me - his novel The Gallows Pole was a highlight of last year and this book offers further insights into its setting. The Rock of the title is known locally as Scout Rock - an outcrop that overshadows Mytholmroyd (birthplace of Ted Hughes, whose spirit pervades this book). Below it is a semi-wild overgrown slope that mixes woodland and the remains of a rubbish tip, home to wildlife (deer, foxes, rabbits and various birds) and alien plant species like giant hogweed and Himalayan balsam - a space which Myers explored almost undisturbed, accompanied by Cliff (short for Heathcliff), his Patterjack terrier. This is no romantic vision. As Myers explains: "Recent years have seen our book shops swell with works that consider the rural landscapes of Britain. Often their authors are people like me, blindly staggering around trying to make sense of the world and their place in it. I am acutely aware of the privilege of being able to do so, and forever grateful. But so many of these accounts veer towards the romantic. They are escapist representations, bucolic wood-cut renderings of a modern rural world one step removed from the reality. Beautifully written, but over-precious. Few seem prepared to tackle the more insidious side of the landscape - the blood and guts of it, and also the actions of those individuals whose negative influence can define a place for decades or centuries." The book is divided into four main sections, whose themes are wood, earth, water and rock. Each is followed by "field notes" which consist of poems, lists and pictures. For example: "The sky is an algorithm, a series of problems that are solved by rain." Myers is also something of a radical - he asserts his right to benign trespass, and stresses the positive role played by immigrant communities in the spontaneous responses to the flooding which devastated the Calder valley in 2015. His righteous anger with those who allowed local lives to be ruined by the asbestos industry is fierce - asbestos was also dumped at the Scout Rock tip, and some of it resurfaced after a landslip triggered by flooding. "Wasps aren't so bad. No wasps ever offered tax breaks to the wealthy or stirred up racial tension for their own ends. No wasps ever threatened to build a border wall between countries, only the beautiful paper lanterns they call home." Another passage I liked: "It is a Sunday as dank and dreary as a Morrissey B-side and rain falls softly for hours, the sodden ground bubbling. It is spring but the birds are silent and the snowdrops bow their crowns beneath the weight of the water." A wonderful book (quite literally) and an inspiring one too. I recommend Jackie Law's review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jackie Law

    The first thing a reader will notice on picking up Under the Rock is that it is beautifully produced: the vibrant detail and embossing on the cover; the purple end papers; the clear, well spaced print. Within a few pages it becomes clear that the writing is something special too. That subtitle, The Poetry of a Place, is deserved. This is not a book to be rushed. Over the course of the days I spent reading I kept setting it down to step outside and appreciate my surroundings – the small things it The first thing a reader will notice on picking up Under the Rock is that it is beautifully produced: the vibrant detail and embossing on the cover; the purple end papers; the clear, well spaced print. Within a few pages it becomes clear that the writing is something special too. That subtitle, The Poetry of a Place, is deserved. This is not a book to be rushed. Over the course of the days I spent reading I kept setting it down to step outside and appreciate my surroundings – the small things it is easy to pass by, unregarded, on my walks through local fields and woodland. The author is curious and unafraid of straying beyond marked paths. He views man as a part of nature, a shaper of landscape albeit for short term, selfish gain. There are no gushing superlatives about the beauty of our natural world – however that may be defined given man’s tinkering – but rather an exploration of a microcosm through the changing seasons and from a variety of perspectives. There is recognition and appreciation of the cycle of life, that death is not an end. “Nature does not stop. It never shies away from the task at hand: perpetual growth and death, growth and death. Survival – that is all. Of plant species and creature alike. Feeding, mating, birthing. Dying. On and on it goes.” “Only humans reach further, filling their time with false desires, delusion and distraction from the self. Turning away from news media, I find myself instead considering the wider environment, at a deeper level.” Ben moved out of London with his partner a decade ago. He left the noise and bustle of the city for a village in the Upper Calder Valley, West Yorkshire. Within Mytholmroyd is a fenced off area containing the looming mass of Scout Rock. The site has been quarried, was once the town dump in which asbestos from a nearby factory was buried. It is a place of: “toxic soil and bottomless mineshafts and cliff-diving suicides and unexpected landslides in the night” Having been abandoned by man, the flora and fauna thrived. This is the story of the place, its history and surrounds, the impact a sometimes desolate environment has had on the author. Ben and his wife purchased a property in the shadow of the rock. Each day he would take their dog and walk through the fenced off area, scrambling around the rock, making his way to the moorland above. He came to understand the personal changes wrought by the seasons, to endure the persistent rainfall, to accept the mud splatter, the minor injuries from slips and falls. He would swim in the nearby pools and at a reservoir, seeking to immerse himself physically in the place. Gradually he learned its history from libraries and conversations with locals, some of whose families had lived there for generations. Divided into four main sections – Wood, Earth, Water and Rock – each is completed by field notes, poetry, and photographs. The chapters in Water detail the devastating floods that affected the area at the close of 2015. There is acceptance that this was not a unique event in the valley’s long history. It did, however, bring change. “The Scout Rock I have known for the past decade is no more. It is something else now.” When the workmen, drafted in to supposedly make the area safer, finally leave, this fresh molestation will be recolonised, reclaimed. The author may then explore the place anew, recreate the paths he chooses to take. Ben’s walks and swims lift his mood but the dank darkness of winter, the heavy rainfall of the area, are oppressive. He mentions the financial difficulties of surviving as a writer. He acknowledges both the challenges and benefits of modern living. Woven into these deeply personal musings are the layers of discovery from his daily perambulations. He writes: “My goal in life is to walk the hills unheard.” Within these pages we hear his voice, and it sings.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Neil

    Over the last 4-5 years, I have learned the joy of exploring a place. In my case, it is the fields alongside the local brook where I have watched almost 90 species of bird, 19 species of butterfly, dozens of insects, foxes, deer (roe and fallow), hares and a weasel. Plus other things. I have discovered the benefits of concentrating on a single area as I have visited this relatively small patch 4-5 times every week and got to know where everything lives. In essence, this is what Ben Myers does in Over the last 4-5 years, I have learned the joy of exploring a place. In my case, it is the fields alongside the local brook where I have watched almost 90 species of bird, 19 species of butterfly, dozens of insects, foxes, deer (roe and fallow), hares and a weasel. Plus other things. I have discovered the benefits of concentrating on a single area as I have visited this relatively small patch 4-5 times every week and got to know where everything lives. In essence, this is what Ben Myers does in this book. When he leaves London to relocate to Yorkshire, he starts to explore Scout Rock with the company of his dog. As he covers the same ground again and again, he gets to know the layout of the land, the likely spots for seeing one creature or another. He comes to understand something of the rhythms of nature. As Richard Powers points out in The Overstory, nature moves at a slower pace than mankind: it is only when we take time to observe that we can see something of what is happening around us - repeatedly exploring the same area is one way of slowing down our clock to start to match it with the speed of nature. Myers begins to wonder if people are actually getting in the way: "The radical in me wonders if rewilding - true rewilding - requires complete removal of humans from the equation and that nature should, wherever possible, be left entirely alone, so that paradise can recreate itself in peace, and nature might assert itself as the only religion once more." The only thing that worries me about this statement is that I have lived about 45 years of my life as a Christian and I almost find myself agreeing with the statement about religion! There is more to Myers' book than just walking in the same place every day. There is the local community, for example. In fact, despite what I have written so far, I was actually finding this book less engaging than I expected to until a longish chapter on the devastating flooding in the area that showed not just the impact on the natural world, but also on the community and which demonstrated how that community could work together to help recover from a natural catastrophe. This chapter really won me over. I suppose I should explain why it wasn't all plain sailing up to that point. For some reason, I found the book hard to engage with in the first few chapters. It should have been easy: Myers writes about nature with passion and knowledge and that is a topic that is close to my heart. Several people know that I am more than a little pedantic about things like bird identification: one of the joys of reading Myers is that I can let down my guard and be confident I am in good hands. He knows his stuff! But I found myself getting a bit annoyed at the repeated appearances of Ted Hughes in the story. These seem to reduce in number as the book progresses and my pleasure in reading grew at the same time. I can’t explain that as there’s no reason for that to be off-putting, but I have to explain why I have not given 5 stars to a book that is, on the face of it, written for me. Overall, though, hats off to Ben Myers for a thoughtful, poetic meditation on nature and community (and a few other things along the way).

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    4.5 rounded up One to savour - a very personal and unsentimental account of life in a village in West Yorkshire, focusing on the years after the author ups sticks from London. A beautiful combination of poetry, psychogeography, local history and nature writing. I loved hearing about the idiosyncratic locals the author befriends too. I think a trip to Mytholmroyd is on the cards... who knew someone’s passion for a big lump of rock could be so contagious?!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    When Myers moved to the Calder Valley of West Yorkshire from London over a decade ago, he approached his new patch with admirable curiosity, and supplemented the observations he made from his study window with frequent long walks with his dog (“Walking is writing with your feet”) and research into the history of the area. The result is a divagating, lyrical book that ranges from literature and geology to true crime but has an underlying autobiographical vein. This isn’t old-style nature writing When Myers moved to the Calder Valley of West Yorkshire from London over a decade ago, he approached his new patch with admirable curiosity, and supplemented the observations he made from his study window with frequent long walks with his dog (“Walking is writing with your feet”) and research into the history of the area. The result is a divagating, lyrical book that ranges from literature and geology to true crime but has an underlying autobiographical vein. This isn’t old-style nature writing in search of unspoiled places. Instead, it’s part of a growing interest in the ‘edgelands’ where human impact is undeniable but nature is creeping back in. Interludes transcribe his field notes, which are stunning impromptu poems. I came away from this feeling that Myers could write anything – a thank-you note, a shopping list – and make it profound literature. Every sentence is well-crafted and memorable. “Writing is a form of alchemy,” he declares. “It’s a spell, and the writer is the magician.” I certainly fell under his spell here. See my full review at Shiny New Books.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Victoria (Eve's Alexandria)

    Benjamin Myers' fiction is powerfully evocative of place and heavily influenced by the brutal unforgiving landscapes of West Yorkshire. It's one of the things that draws me back to his writing again and again. I'm hypnotised by the familiarity and otherworldliness of the places he describes, barely 10 miles from the place that I was born. Which makes Under the Rock precisely the book for me: a memoir of Myers' ten year relationship with Scout Rock, an escarpment that looms over Mytholmroyd in th Benjamin Myers' fiction is powerfully evocative of place and heavily influenced by the brutal unforgiving landscapes of West Yorkshire. It's one of the things that draws me back to his writing again and again. I'm hypnotised by the familiarity and otherworldliness of the places he describes, barely 10 miles from the place that I was born. Which makes Under the Rock precisely the book for me: a memoir of Myers' ten year relationship with Scout Rock, an escarpment that looms over Mytholmroyd in the Calder Valley. Myers moved to the valley from London a decade ago and has never left, investing himself in knowing the place in spite of the rain, the lack of light and the ugly remnants of industry. Recounting the passing years and the passing seasons, in this latest book Myers refracts his writing and the events of the wider world through the lens of the Calder Valley, using the Rock as a kind of physical and mental touchstone. Exploring every inch of it with his dog Cliff he discovers both its natural beauty and its brutalised past. Although the Rock has been reclaimed by trees and wildlife it was formerly the town dump, where the local asbestos factory routinely buried its surplus product. Plastic toys, drinks cans and insulated wire poke out of the ground that deer, owls and foxes have returned to. Like the places and people of Myers' novels the Rock is both achingly lovely and thoroughly damaged. The writing is gorgeous; muscular and bold, journalistic even, at times (as when Myers' is writing about the Boxing Day 2015 floods that decimated the valley) but dreamy at others. The prose is interspersed with poetry - which I'm not the best judge of, but enjoyed - and photographs. Most definitely one of my favourite books of the year so far, confirming Myers as my favourite writer of 2018.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Penny

    I have a lovely friend (and fellow book lover) who, at the end of each year, asks me what my favourite books have been that year. This one is most definitely a front- runner, and has a rare 5 star rating from me. This is probably my favourite genre of book, often pigeon holed merely as 'landscape writing'. It's a mixture of personal memoir, social history, nature writing and so much more. Myers lives in Yorkshire, as do I, but it's a huge area of Northern England and we're separated by 70 miles an I have a lovely friend (and fellow book lover) who, at the end of each year, asks me what my favourite books have been that year. This one is most definitely a front- runner, and has a rare 5 star rating from me. This is probably my favourite genre of book, often pigeon holed merely as 'landscape writing'. It's a mixture of personal memoir, social history, nature writing and so much more. Myers lives in Yorkshire, as do I, but it's a huge area of Northern England and we're separated by 70 miles and very different countryside.. Myers is hugely influenced by his Calderdale surroundings and more specifically Scout Rock which looms over his home. His environment permeates every aspect of his life and every page of this wonderful book. The subtitle "The Poetry of a Place' is perfect, and Myers achieves this with great skill. I think he could write about a visit to the dentist and make me want to read it! Didn't want this book to end, and really hoping Myers writes more non-fiction.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    For a lot of people landscape is something they travel through or past, barely acknowledging it in the maelstrom of modern life, unless it is something spectacular. Hathershelf Scout above the Yorkshire town of Mytholmroyd is one of those places that most would consider unremarkable. It lacks some of the photogenic qualities of the dales, has been a place where criminals and coin clippers hid in the 18th Century, has a drawn for those with suicidal thoughts was once a tip and hides a lethal secr For a lot of people landscape is something they travel through or past, barely acknowledging it in the maelstrom of modern life, unless it is something spectacular. Hathershelf Scout above the Yorkshire town of Mytholmroyd is one of those places that most would consider unremarkable. It lacks some of the photogenic qualities of the dales, has been a place where criminals and coin clippers hid in the 18th Century, has a drawn for those with suicidal thoughts was once a tip and hides a lethal secret. However, Benjamin Myers would disagree. Not only is it his home patch of landscape, but he can walk through tangled woods that lead up onto a crag that has its own stark beauty, its brooding gritstone seeping into his psyche as he uncovers the geological and personal histories of the place that run deep into the bedrock. Entwined with the landscape that he walks every day he can, he starts to discover that the remarkable exists in the mundane and ordinary, the imperceptible daily changes that slowly build to make the seasons feel like they have arrived in a rush. His writing is split into the four elements that make up the view he can from his window, wood, water, earth and rock and he uses these to explore all manner of other subjects as he walks with his dog, Heathcliff. Nothing escapes his gaze or thought process, he considers the invasive species alongside the natural, acknowledges the life of the animals that cross his path as much as their deaths. History is as important to him as the modern political issues of the day. He swims regularly in the wild and shockingly cold waters in the local pools and plays a part in helping in the community with the floods in 2015 when Mytholmroyd partially disappeared beneath the brown waters of the River Calder after days of rain and watches as a landslide takes a sizable chunk of the hillside away. It doesn't stop him exploring though as he snags his coat on the keep out sign as he climbs over the fence. It is a difficult book to characterise as it encompasses so much within its pages. It is as much about the natural world and the landscape of that part of Yorkshire and Myers covers subjects as diverse as political discourse to folklore, industrial music to slugs, asbestos to ravens. Most of all it, this book is about place; that small part of our small country that he has grown to love since moving out of London. I have read two of his other books, Beastings and The Gallows Pole, just before I got to this one and I found his writing in those captivating. This is no different, his mastery of the language means that you feel you are alongside him as he looks out over the valley, or clambering up the same path behind him as the water runs down through the rock. I really liked the Field Notes at the end of each section, these are short and elemental poems as well as a small number of black and white photos that add so much to the rest of the book. If you have read Strange Labyrinth or 21st Century Yokel then this should be added to your reading list. Brilliant book and highly recommended.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mark Hebden

    I think it’s only fair I declare an interest here in that the subject of this book is a patch of land observable from my bedroom window, so I look at this with a local eye, or at least an "offcumden" one, the local word for people like me and the author; those who call the Calder Valley home, but are not “from” there, in a place but not of it. The specific area in question is known as Scout Rock. A three mile raised stretch of land which most people who pass by with only a minor acknowledgement I think it’s only fair I declare an interest here in that the subject of this book is a patch of land observable from my bedroom window, so I look at this with a local eye, or at least an "offcumden" one, the local word for people like me and the author; those who call the Calder Valley home, but are not “from” there, in a place but not of it. The specific area in question is known as Scout Rock. A three mile raised stretch of land which most people who pass by with only a minor acknowledgement at its girth. Myers instead takes us on a forensic tour of the flora and fauna of this escarpment, of its history and perhaps most importantly of all, its mythology and how the lore of a place can come to exist within and without the consciousness of the locals. But this is more than a book of the wild so prevalent in bookshops now; while it does sit naturally alongside the likes of Mabey, Macfarlane and Shepherd it also incorporates the humanity of the place; the diversity of people here as well as the romanticised beauty of our uninhabited spaces. This part of the Calder Valley is noted for its artistry and quirkiness and this shines through alongside the momentary wonders of deer grazing on the brow of a hill or a Kestrel about to strike. Myers tells us about how man and beast and ground have come to live together, at close quarters precariously and how man has been less than forgiving in his treatment of the land he shares; through rubbish tips, asbestos dumps and a variety of other mistakes we learn of our own failings as a species. Myers is a poet and this is written with a poetic hand, not to mention eye. The Rock, as he refers to it, influenced the likes of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath while they lived here, one willingly, the other less so. Other writers are referenced and a rich bibliography of local writing sits neatly at the back of the book; so heavily researched as well as beautifully crafted, Myers paints a rich tapestry of images for the reader when at his most poetic. At other times he is brutally honest about the impact The Rock can have on mood and health both mental and physical, how the almost ubiquitous rain and damp in this part of the world can moisten the psyche and make it vulnerable to a winter chill. As well he touches on the darker side of the valley, the likes of Jimmy Savile, Peter Sutcliffe and Myra Hindley all had connections with the area. He doesn’t mention the murder of Lindsay Rimer, out of respect I assume, an unsolved murder in the valley that is still raw over 20 years after the event for many locals. The book is at its most readable though in those parts where we gain an appreciation of the spectacular landscape here, the monuments both natural and man-made where life abounds, the waterways and the dense wooded paths to who knows where. It truly is a treasure of a book; a must for anyone who knows the area even vaguely but also interesting for anyone with a passing interest in the natural world.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    Beautifully written! I have recently moved to the edge of the Peaks from a city life and so the narrative of poking at rural life is something I can relate to. Unafraid of dirt and unwilling to romantise the occasional brutality of the (relatively) untamed parts of this country, Myers writes the way I think, and it's refreshing to know I'm not alone! An absolute joy from start to finish, this and Gallow's Pole are two of my favourite reads of the past few years, can't wait to see what's next

  12. 4 out of 5

    Fran Cormack

    Ben Myers is simply that good a writer that I would read anything he put down in paper. But even I was sceptical about a book about a rock. A few pages in and I was hooked. This is magical. So evocative. Brilliant. I maybe be thousands of miles away in Australia, but reading this I was right back in Yorkshire. Passing through Mytholmroyd. Read this.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Peter Ashworth

    Really enjoyed this.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Pete

    Absolutely loved this. Ben Myers is a master craftsman, and his prose is just a joy to read. Beautifully written and beautiful looking, Under The Rock is musings about the author's explorations of the Calder Valley and Scout Rock and the nature and poetry of the place. Ben talks about pipistrelle bats, asbestos poisoning, cold water swimming, seasonal inertia, the Yorkshire Ripper and a myriad other things. I've read everything he's written and he never disappoints. This one will stay on the she Absolutely loved this. Ben Myers is a master craftsman, and his prose is just a joy to read. Beautifully written and beautiful looking, Under The Rock is musings about the author's explorations of the Calder Valley and Scout Rock and the nature and poetry of the place. Ben talks about pipistrelle bats, asbestos poisoning, cold water swimming, seasonal inertia, the Yorkshire Ripper and a myriad other things. I've read everything he's written and he never disappoints. This one will stay on the shelf to be re-read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Runningrara

    A meandering memoir of the Calder Valley and surrounding moorlands. Beautifully written.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Ryles

    I love dipping into non-fiction now and again to broaden my horizons and increase my knowledge pool, so Under the Rock, encompassing a myriad subjects, sounded so unusual that I had to add it to my reading list. I usually have a much slower reading pace when I read non-fiction but the writing in Under the Rock is so poetic, mesmerising and compelling that I read it almost as quickly as I would have read a book in the fiction genre. Funnily enough, if you ask me what the book is about, I'd be hard I love dipping into non-fiction now and again to broaden my horizons and increase my knowledge pool, so Under the Rock, encompassing a myriad subjects, sounded so unusual that I had to add it to my reading list. I usually have a much slower reading pace when I read non-fiction but the writing in Under the Rock is so poetic, mesmerising and compelling that I read it almost as quickly as I would have read a book in the fiction genre. Funnily enough, if you ask me what the book is about, I'd be hard pushed to tell you. It's about so many things as Benjamin Myers leaves no stone unturned (no pun intended) in his writing about Yorkshire's Scout Rock. I admit, when reading the first couple of chapters, that I wasn't really sure that this book would hold my attention but stick in the word 'claggy' which is one of my favourite words and BAM! confirm attention locked in indefinitely. I'm a huge tea drinker so I loved the many references to tea; the book is set in Yorkshire after all, which has as many lovers of tea as we have in the North East. Not to be outdone, Yorkshire have created their very own tea style beverage, the Yorkshire Espresso or Yespresso, that I think even I would find difficult to imbibe. It's made by twice brewing tea and leaving the teabag in for a couple of hours; it's drunk without milk or sugar and sounds unbelievably bitter. I'd definitely try one though! So many parts of the book stood out for me and it's one of those books that is so varied in subject that individual readers will find different parts that resonate with them. One part that really stood out for me (and this may sound a bit odd) was a story about an old style dustbin. It takes a very talented writer indeed to turn something so ordinary and mundane into prose so beautiful and engaging that it took my breath away. I found it so memorable that I actually recounted this story to some friends who asked me what I was reading. Written in four parts: Wood, Earth, Water and Rock it has field notes containing poems at the end of each part. I'm not usually a fan of poetry but I found myself looking forward to Benjamin Myers' field notes at the end of each section. This is another testament to the quality of Benjamin Myers' writing as I never thought I would see the day when I enjoyed reading poetry. I also have to give a special mention to the amazing cover which looks like a piece of art and it's so eye-catching that it constantly invited me to pick up the book for just one more chapter, thereby smashing my non-fiction reading time record. With the inimitable Yorkshire spirit woven throughout, coupled with a dash of humour, Under the Rock is as mesmerising as it is informative. It is a book that is beautiful both inside and out. I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

  17. 5 out of 5

    June Louise

    On opening chapter 7, Myers says that, to him, ‘[W]alking is writing with your feet. When we walk our footprints mark the soil like the crudest of hieroglyphics, and our minds take fanciful turns. Over long, solitary miles abstract or disconnected thoughts can often find purpose in words which then link to form cogent sentences. Writing and walking are co-dependent’. Myers’s experiences gained while walking in the scenic countryside surrounding his home in Mytholmroyd, Yorkshire, form the focus o On opening chapter 7, Myers says that, to him, ‘[W]alking is writing with your feet. When we walk our footprints mark the soil like the crudest of hieroglyphics, and our minds take fanciful turns. Over long, solitary miles abstract or disconnected thoughts can often find purpose in words which then link to form cogent sentences. Writing and walking are co-dependent’. Myers’s experiences gained while walking in the scenic countryside surrounding his home in Mytholmroyd, Yorkshire, form the focus of this very enjoyable book. In linking different factors of the scenery with his own history, as well as that of the geographical location and local populace, Myers writes a very different form of memoir. Structured in five parts – Wood, Earth, Water, Rock, and Beyond – Myers draws attention to the beautiful, yet fearsome aspects of nature and how these aspects have shaped him not only as a man, but as an author. He talks of his very cold but rejuvenating dips in the Calder at Midgehole (112), the looming shape of Scout Rock – a ‘threat, an enigma, an inscrutable and evasive geological landmark’ (29), the disastrous effects of landslides and floods (following Storm Eva), and the sorrowful sight of destruction that humanity has left on the landscape (from asbestos dumping, to plastic litter). As Mytholmroyd is the birthplace of Ted Hughes, Myers often refers to lines of Hughes’s poetry – or indeed other authors whose works are relevant to the location he is in. Furthermore, at the close of each part of the book – in segments headed ‘Field Notes’ – Myers provides us with photographs and several short poems, demonstrating the influence his surroundings have had on his thoughts. This is a book about humanity and the natural world and the beauty and revitalisation that can be achieved through a symbiotic relationship between people and their environment. However, this viewpoint cannot be portrayed without reference to the damaging effects that humanity has – directly or indirectly – on wildlife and the landscape. Myers closes by saying, ‘[w]ith each passing day the world appears more amazing, yet ever more in need of our protection. Or perhaps it is in need of nothing but our complete removal. I have been thinking about the finality of extinction a lot’ (352). Myers leaves us wondering what a future biography of the natural landscape will feature as he sits with his wife (and a lurking robin) looking out to sea; the world requires humans – small, insignificant beings in relation to the expanse of the globe – to work together to maintain it at its ‘amazing’ best for future generations to benefit from, just as Myers has done, and continues to do. I absolutely loved this book. I loved Myers’s poetic prose, often peppered with humour, and his descriptions of the people he encounters. I also enjoyed this ‘different’ form of memoir – no pun intended but its approach and structure was like a ‘breath of fresh air’. This memoir’s focus on space and place (and their influences on people, in this case the author) encompasses my current research area, which made it even more enjoyable. The book is extremely engaging and is very easy to get absorbed into; indeed, on finishing it I felt that not only had I learned a lot about Benjamin Myers and the landscape/wildlife he experienced (in fact, I want to go and visit the place), but also that I had gained much food for thought regarding the marks that humans leave in the natural world and the consequences they have both locally and globally.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Marks

    I'm so lucky to live so close to a wealth of brilliant creatives. This did not disappoint - beautifully written and jam packed full of local information. Ben has a special connection with the natural world and I really enjoy his writing. The chapter on the Boxing day floods was particularly poignant for me.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Trevor Kenning

    Absolutely brilliant book. Highly recommended. A nature book/geography/history/ social study as well as the story of his return to Yorkshire from London. Benjamin Myers is now established as one of my favourite writers. This book also gives further insight into the novels. Fabulous

  20. 5 out of 5

    Louella Ramsden

    My home town. My landscape. A love letter that I wish I had been able to write.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Carr

    A wondrous, wonderful read. The Gallows Pole was my favourite novel of the year a couple of years back (and still one of my very favourite books) and this is right up there on the non-fiction side. Chapeau Mr Myers.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jo Cameron-Symes

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This has been on my TBR pile for a while and I found Benjamin Myers' account of his life and walks in the vicinity of Scout Rock in Mytholmroyd really interesting. His book contains an account of the dreadful Boxing Day floods of 2015 and their impact on the local community. What was surprising to me,was to read for the first time about the help from community groups outside the area. The first groups to respond were Muslim and Sikh groups who rallied round to provide cleaning materials, bedding This has been on my TBR pile for a while and I found Benjamin Myers' account of his life and walks in the vicinity of Scout Rock in Mytholmroyd really interesting. His book contains an account of the dreadful Boxing Day floods of 2015 and their impact on the local community. What was surprising to me,was to read for the first time about the help from community groups outside the area. The first groups to respond were Muslim and Sikh groups who rallied round to provide cleaning materials, bedding and food in the form of hot meals. I don't remember reading anything in the media about these helpful groups, so it made me realise once again how much of the stories we're told by the mainstream media are edited and only show one side of the story. A great read for those who like nature writing or those who are interested in West Yorkshire rural life and the impact of climate change.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    If you're familiar with Ben Myers fiction (and you should be, because it's consistently brilliant) then you'll already know how well Myers writes about landscape, and if you follow him on social media (and you should do, because he's engaging, friendly and funny) then you'll be aware that Myers also likes to share something of his personal life. And in "Under the Rock" we get more magnificent landscape writing and lots more about the writer himself. And that all adds up to pretty enjoyable read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Phil Rogers

    Terrific writing and the addition of poetry ..take me to Hebden Bridge and The Calder Valley

  25. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Curran

    Seeking a word to describe this book, I have settled on ‘dishonest’. Presenting itself as place-writing, it in fact uses place as a means of sly self-mythologising. The author grew up in the suburbs, lived in London, then moved north, to Mytholmroyd in the Upper Calder Valley, where he spends his days walking, writing, wild swimming and contemplating Scout Rock, the 130m cliff which rises above Hathershelf Forest. His relationship with The Rock, he implies, is symbiotic and mystical. Early in hi Seeking a word to describe this book, I have settled on ‘dishonest’. Presenting itself as place-writing, it in fact uses place as a means of sly self-mythologising. The author grew up in the suburbs, lived in London, then moved north, to Mytholmroyd in the Upper Calder Valley, where he spends his days walking, writing, wild swimming and contemplating Scout Rock, the 130m cliff which rises above Hathershelf Forest. His relationship with The Rock, he implies, is symbiotic and mystical. Early in his life in the valley, he complains that the cliff began to haunt his dreams, “as if it wanted to explain to me its beginnings, again and again ... until all all I could do was rise in the lonely blue pre-dawn stillness and write it down, an exorcism necessary to silence this goading beast.” Everything is a poem for this writer - sunlight is a poem, a salmon is a poem, walking is “a kind of poetry” - a meaningless comparison meant to resemble profundity. Much of the prose is like this, packed with imprecise metaphors, revealing nothing: a pantomime of insight. The intention is for us to understand Benjamin Myers as a kind of seer: a rebel, a trespasser, a wilderness man, a poet. He communes with wasps and foxes, he presses his face against old stones and magically is gifted with a verse. He wears tweed and a flat cap. Much of what he reports does not ring true. He says that when he tells “the elders” of Mytholmroyd that he likes to go walking they reply in “dark utterances” using “voices as deep as ancient wells. Stay away from The Rock, lad. Nothing good ever happened up there.” But this is Yorkshire in the 21st century, not Westeros. When reporting the 2015 Boxing Day floods that did so much damage to the area, he first claims that the town was completely cut off from the outside world, only to then say that three national newspapers contacted him to ask for on-the-ground reportage. A few pages later he again writes that there was no phone signal and no internet. Did they contact him via carrier pigeon? There is far too much exaggeration and self-serving fantasy. All that said: I absolutely love the Calder Valley (where I now live) and it was fun to read about places that I hold in great affection.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ruth Estevez

    4 1/2 Stars Under The Rock by Benjamin Myers. Deservedly short-listed for The Portico Prize 2020. Set in Mytholmroyd, in the brooding, rain sodden Calder Valley, Yorkshire, the book draws you into the peat, myth and mulch. It is the land of writers, poets, law breakers, rebels and addicts. The Rock watches over it all. It is dark, constantly changing, ominous and reassuring. Around it exists wildlife, indiginous and immigrant plants that threaten to take over. Myers, obsessed, explores on a daily ba 4 1/2 Stars Under The Rock by Benjamin Myers. Deservedly short-listed for The Portico Prize 2020. Set in Mytholmroyd, in the brooding, rain sodden Calder Valley, Yorkshire, the book draws you into the peat, myth and mulch. It is the land of writers, poets, law breakers, rebels and addicts. The Rock watches over it all. It is dark, constantly changing, ominous and reassuring. Around it exists wildlife, indiginous and immigrant plants that threaten to take over. Myers, obsessed, explores on a daily basis. The Rock is Life. Finishing the book is a feat in itself. A mix of fact, myth, flood accounts, character portrayals, geological, historical descriptions, flora and fauna, alongside thoughts, observations and musings, this book is not for the faint-hearted. But it is worth the read because for the duration, you feel you have lived in another country. I was glad to clamber out of this dark valley but it lingers with me. Did we need the photos? They could have been more interesting and better quality. The notebook poetry punctuated the sections and I enjoyed some of the imagery. I liked the section headings. Did we need the trip to Spurn Head? It felt odd to describe life away from The Rock. Would I read again? My all-time question to gauge a classic...not yet, I'm gulping in the wild, fresh air of the tops, but I will wander down again...just not yet. 4 1/2 ****s.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

    I didn't know what to expect of this, and in many ways it didn't really sound like my sort of book, since I do not avidly immerse myself in 'nature'. However, set in Calderdale where my paternal ancestors lived, it was of considerable interest, and although I don't know Mytholmroyd, I am familiar with the place-names from family photographs, postcards and notebook, and from the censuses and histories I have read. This book is more than that: it is a biography, a historical account of a place det I didn't know what to expect of this, and in many ways it didn't really sound like my sort of book, since I do not avidly immerse myself in 'nature'. However, set in Calderdale where my paternal ancestors lived, it was of considerable interest, and although I don't know Mytholmroyd, I am familiar with the place-names from family photographs, postcards and notebook, and from the censuses and histories I have read. This book is more than that: it is a biography, a historical account of a place detailing how and when and why tragedies struck, their impact both on Benjamin Myers - the destruction of the place wherein he immersed himself - and on the surrounding area, and told in a manner which entirely gripped me.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Colin

    Benjamin Myers’ intimate portrait of living in the upper Calder valley, in the shadow of the vast brooding outcrop of Scout Rock, is a vivid and visceral description of a small but characterful corner of Yorkshire. Under the Rock is hard to classify - part memoir, part nature writing, part history, with field notes in the form of short poems - but with a strong and distinctive sense of place throughout. The ghost of Ted Hughes who was born and grew up in Mytholmroyd beneath Scout Rock is a const Benjamin Myers’ intimate portrait of living in the upper Calder valley, in the shadow of the vast brooding outcrop of Scout Rock, is a vivid and visceral description of a small but characterful corner of Yorkshire. Under the Rock is hard to classify - part memoir, part nature writing, part history, with field notes in the form of short poems - but with a strong and distinctive sense of place throughout. The ghost of Ted Hughes who was born and grew up in Mytholmroyd beneath Scout Rock is a constant presence in these pages, and Myers’ approach to nature owes much to Hughes’s influence. Particularly powerful is the long passage dealing with the Boxing Day floods of 2015 and their aftermath.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Helen Firminger

    New favourite author! Top: nature writing ode to a place landscape history adventure story romance poetry list maker And so down to earth and friendly with it. Thanks Becky for buying it me, and respect to Ben Myers for putting pen to paper.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    This was a great lockdown read. The writing is breathtakingly beautiful.

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