I’ve never before had such serendipity on an impulse buy. Browsing the shelves of London’s palatial Waterstones bookstore I pick up at random The Shepherd’s Life. This 2015 book by unheard-of Lake District shepherd James Rebanks became an unlikely literary hit. Its themes of cultural connection, tourism, romanticism and how the stories of locals often get crushed under the weight of mass tourism provides the perfect context to a tour through Britain’s two oldest national parks.

The book is so engrossing I barely notice the passing scenery on my train journey north to Lake District National Park, in the county of Cumbria. This seriously efficient rail system whisks me painlessly from London’s Euston Station to Penrith in Cumbria on the other side of the country in only three hours, roughly – I think – the same time it takes Sydney’s Illawarra Line to clear the outskirts of Sutherland.

It was the Lake District Romantic poet William Wordsworth who first proposed in 1810 that the area should become “a sort of national property, in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy.” And it sort of did become just that.

Rebanks rates Wordsworth’s words as prophetic, something that has shaped conservation all over the world, but as a young man he was put out by outsiders appropriating his homeland as a cure for their disconnection from nature. “How come,” he asks, “the story of our landscape wasn’t about us?”

I discuss the book with the taxi driver who drives me from Penrith Station to the tranquil Leeming House Hotel, on the shore of Ullswater. “We can call in and see if James is home now, if you like,” he says, “he lives just up this valley.”

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