NUMEROUS writers over the last three hundred years have celebrated the beauty of the natural world, the hills and the wild.

Their desire to protect these landscapes from the ever-encroaching industrialised world is one of the inspirations for today’s environmental movement.

‘Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilised people’, wrote John Muir, ‘are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity’. He founded the Sierra Club, the largest environmental organisation in the United States, to ‘do something for wildness and make the mountains glad’.

Gerald Manley Hopkins expressed the spirit of the Romantic movement: ‘What would the world be, once bereft / Of wet and wildness? Let them be left, / O let them be left, wildness and wet; / Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.’

Lines by Geoffrey Winthrop Young can be seen inscribed in stone on a Somerset hillside: ‘Only a hill, but all of life to me, / up there, between the sunset and the sea.’ Do you know where?

Local Somerset author Derek Cockell, in his immensely readable book with the enigmatic title, ‘A Newt in Hard Tarn’, shows how the Lake District writer Alfred Wainwright embodied the spirit of the Romantic poets Wordsworth and Coleridge. Wainwright certainly had an infectious enthusiasm for the fells: ‘In Lakeland, beauty is all around, everything is in harmony. There is magic in the air and I have been under its spell.’

Norman MacCaig, writing about north-west Scotland, asked: ‘Who owns this landscape? The man who bought it, or I, who am possessed by it?’ Wainwright was in no doubt: the beauty of the Lakeland fells ‘is wealth, real wealth; it is free of tax, and it is mine for ever’.

‘The mountains are calling’, wrote John Muir, ‘and I must go.’

Henry Haslam is the author of ‘The Earth and Us’.