There is a curious sense of déjà vu in the African bush, a feeling that somewhere, or at some time in the primeval past, one belongs here. The fragrance of sage or the catch of animal musk, the waterfalls of birdsong or the constant perambulations of wild beasts, kindle a flame of knowledge that one cannot fully understand; a stripping away of artifice, an epic portal into some ancient desire of the heart. After all, it was from this crucible of fiery sands deep in the Rift Valley that humankind probably began. 

The dusty shale hills of Olduvai Gorge were unremarkable, scattered with ragged acacias broken by elephants and grazed to death by throngs of passing animals. But as I walked down expectantly into the stony hollows where the Leakey’s had dedicated their lives to archaeology, there was an overwhelming sense of the long and quiet passage of time. The spirits of ancestors had clearly left this place, it was dust and stone now… just dust and stone. I crouched down and placed my palm on the ground as if divining for a sense of meaning. 

The rock I picked up was strangely weighty. Upon close inspection it was like a fossil of some kind, stippled and pitted like bone. One side was smoothly curved and cupped, the other sheared off into minute, splintered spears of stone. What fragment was this? Was it of hominid origins, or ossified remnants of a lion kill five thousand years ago? The layered mounds amongst which I walked had yielded secrets of the universe to Louis and Mary Leakey; had altered the voices of science, and revealed our connection to the tree of evolution. On a nearby knoll a stand of fever trees afforded respite from the desiccating afternoon heat. I searched the shimmering horizon. Far out there to the north, Serengeti glowed yellow in the dying sun, an ocean of waving grasslands, and home to the most astonishing wildlife spectacle on earth.

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New book: KINDER SCOUT – The People's Mountain

Words by Ed Douglas | Photography by John Beatty Read More →

Fungi Hunting in Winter Woods

Woodlands in Britain are quiet in winter. In the Peak District where I live we are surrounded by mixed woods. Sycamore, beech, larch and birch flank many of our valley sides. After prolonged rain when the dank trees are dripping on to soggy leaf mould it is a great time to go hunting for a few common fungi species.  Read More →