A special place, a place of your own, a secret garden where life is somehow more alive than it is outside. The place is wilder and yet kinder, the creatures that live here are less tame but somehow more confiding. It's both magical and holy. Call it Eden, Narnia, the secret garden: the need for such a place is part of the human condition.
I've sought it all my life, as Alice sought the locked-up garden after she had fallen down the rabbit hole. But I did better than she: I found the key, I opened the door and walked through it. I entered the Luangwa Valley in Zambia, and nothing was ever the same again.
Simon Barnes is, without question, one of our finest natural history writers. The Sacred Combe is the story of his relationship with the great imagined place, and with the real valley, where he awoke on his first night in camp to find elephants eating the roof of his hut. It is about our abiding longing for a wilder, less civilized life, and about finding, and living, it. It is about every person's relationship with the wild world. Intensely personal in places, there are flashbacks to his childhood, reflections on a book or a painting, some meetings with exceptional people, and above all the sense of being in the bush, being both at peace and frightened prey. The Sacred Combe is where we understand the species we share the planet with, and where we also begin to understand the species we happen to be.