caeldon_loop_lattesSummer has finally arrived and many of us will be thinking of ditching the winter blahs with a healthy dose of sunshine for that vitamin D deficiency. It is also the time we think about getting our bodies in shape and improving our fitness. A fun way to get started and spur your enthusiasm would be to take a look at local author, Nicola Ross’ new book, “Caledon Hikes: Loops & Lattes”.

I thoroughly recommend this illustrated, detailed and informative account of hiking and the wonderful diversity of trails we have in our own Caledon backyard. These include portions of the Bruce Trail, the Oak Ridges (Moraine) Trail, the Humber Valley Heritage Trail, the Grand Valley Trail and the Trans Canada Trail plus The Caledon Trailway and the Elora Cateract Trailway which are two converted railway lines. In this book are 37 loop routes meticulously described in detail; the length of the routes is included and the individual degree of ease or difficulty explained.

The maps are clear and colourful with an adjacent overview which includes little anecdotes about places to fish and the flora and fauna in these areas. In addition is ‘Insider Info’, with a list of venues to eat, or just have a cooling drink or good cup of tea or coffee. The colour plates are an added attraction to this beautifully collated book.

While on the subject of the great outdoors I would like to make mention of another intriguing summer read. “H is for Hawk” by Helen Macdonald was winner of the 2014 Samuel Johnson prize and named the Costa Book of the year.

H is for HawkH is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald, is the unusual account of a woman who decides to purchase a young goshawk and train the difficult, aggressive raptor. This rather impulsive decision was prompted by the sudden death of her beloved father, the noted photographer Alisdair Macdonald. To try and cope with the enormous vacuum in her life created by this loss, Macdonald decides to move out to the countryside of Cambridge with her newly acquired acquisition. She feels in this seclusion and solitary existence with the hawk she will be able to grapple with her omnipresent grief and desolation.

Macdonald calls the Northern Goshawk ‘Mabel’, and so begins her long and arduous training of Mabel. Macdonald is no newcomer to the world of falconry being well versed in the handling of raptors from time spent with her father, an ardent falconer and environmentalist. Coinciding with the story of Mabel is frequent reference to a favourite author T.H. White who also attempted to train a goshawk without much success as he was an amateur and never reconciled with the fact that hawks only learn by reward never by punishment. Parts of this narrative were not pleasant although it did give insight to an affiliation Macdonald developed with White who was a gay man, also lonely and isolated in life; and of course his writings and command of the English language are an inspiration to her.

Mabel however is the star interest in this book. Her antics amuse, she likes a game with some crumpled paper in a ball. Even the gruesome hunting scenes are filled with the knowledge of the necessity for survival and one is in awe of the bird’s speed and accuracy. It all reads like a thriller as your trepidation increases with her first free flight, will she return or will she disappear and traumatize us further?

Macdonald’s descriptive prose abounds with the lyricism of the poetic, the woodland described as “washed pewter with frost”. The whole philosophy of life meanders through these pages, taking us on a journey through grief, love and loss, heightening our senses as to how aligned we are with all that we call nature and the natural course of life’s events.

For those of you with further birding interests do refer to Erin’s informative blog through this link