On’t Moor

Richard Carter lives in the picturesque, Yorkshire, market town of Hebden Bridge, which nestles in the Upper Calder Valley surrounded by large expanses of millstone grit moorland.


Calder Valley around Hebden Bridge Scott L. Cockroft – Own work taken with a Canon Ixus 700 View of the Calder Valley looking South West from Heptonstall (above Hebden Bridge). Source: Wikimedia Commons

Richard likes walking on those moors and he has written a book about it[1].

On't Moor001

He doesn’t so much write about walking, as ramble about his ramblings. The chapters are really essays or vignettes, each of which has a simple term as title or heading, many of them single words such as Grouse, Snow, Skull and so on. Each of these signals something that Richard stumbles upon, observes or contemplates on one of his walks and serves as the starting point for several excurses extrapolating on the term into science, history, natural history, engineering or personal history. These excurses cover a bewildering range of topics but often somehow end up with Charles Darwin; Richard makes no secret of the fact that he is a devoted and very knowledgeable fan of England’s nineteenth century natural historian extraordinaire. Two topics that seem to creep in from every direction into these highly entertaining and informative digressions are evolution and entropy.

The narrative is very assertively first person singular and veers along a random zigzag path between stroppy but interesting guy in the pub and highly erudite polymath. It is by turns provocative, humorous, entertaining, fascinating and informative but never dull. Occasionally the narrative takes a hefty sideswipe at some aspect or other of pseudoscience or so-called alternative medicine. Richard is not afraid to let his readers know where he stands on such topics.

The essays are relatively short and compact and although, as indicated, there are some themes that weave their way through the whole book each essay can be read alone. This makes it an ideal bedside book. The essays are short enough that they can be read in one go before one falls asleep and not so long that they keep you awake beyond that point. If, when reading, you like to be enlightened and educated in an enjoyable and entertaining manner then buy Richard’s book; I promise you won’t regret it.

As a true denizen of the Internet age Richard has posted an extensive list of the sources for the information that the book contains on the Internet and the link is included at the back of the book.

Disclosure: Richard has long been one of my Internet friends and is a loyal fan of the Renaissance Mathematicus, who turns up fairly regularly in the comments columns. I even once spent a very enjoyable afternoon with him in his nice house in Hebden Bridge drinking Yorkshire TeaTM. If you do read his book you will also find my name amongst the acknowledgements, as I acted as expert advisor (it’s amazing what you can blag your way into with enough chutzpah) on one of the chapters; I’m not going to tell you which one, you’ll have to work it out for yourselves. For my efforts I got a free copy of the book, the one I’ve just read and reviewed here. All of this of course means that I am anything but a neutral reviewer. However, as I said when reviewing Chris Graney’s books it is not my style to do friends a favour with good reviews of their books or to pull punches just because they are friends. The above very positive review is my honest, unbiased opinion of the book that Richard has written and you are just going to have to take my word for it. If not, then read somebody else’s review.

[1] Richard Carter, On The Moor: Science, History and Nature on a County Walk, Gruts Media, Hebden Bridge, 2017

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