The Book of Trespass

by Nick Hayes

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LoveReading Expert Review of The Book of Trespass

The Book of Trespass reads like a call to arms - a bold challenge to the embedded rule that land ownership underpins everything.

Author Nick Hayes argues that "If ... power is sourced in property, then the fences that divide England are not just symbols of the partition of people, but the very cause of it.” And so off he goes, trespassing through the estates of England, checking out what we are all denied access to and along the way unpicking bigger stitch-ups.

This book is not simply a diary of naughty incursions - amongst other things it’s a meticulous deconstruction of the legal history which has led to a situation where owners will often intimidate walkers with arguments that do not stand up in court, or at best are open to interpretation. Hayes begins the book with an amusing account of a celebrated incidence of civil disobedience - the mass trespass of Kinder Scout in the Peak District in 1932 - and from there he unravels decades of frustration.

The Book of Trespass is also notably a collection of intriguing and beautiful pen and ink illustrations by the author which unveil and frame these forbidden landscapes as quite mysterious and dream-like. The book is radical and persuasive, and I’m not sure I will ever treat a fence or a private land sign with the same respect again.

Greg Hackett

The Book of Trespass Synopsis


The vast majority of our country is entirely unknown to us because we are banned from setting foot on it. By law of trespass, we are excluded from 92 per cent of the land and 97 per cent of its waterways, blocked by walls whose legitimacy is rarely questioned. But behind them lies a story of enclosure, exploitation and dispossession of public rights whose effects last to this day.

The Book of Trespass takes us on a journey over the walls of England, into the thousands of square miles of rivers, woodland, lakes and meadows that are blocked from public access. By trespassing the land of the media magnates, Lords, politicians and private corporations that own England, Nick Hayes argues that the root of social inequality is the uneven distribution of land. Weaving together the stories of poachers, vagabonds, gypsies, witches, hippies, ravers, ramblers, migrants and protestors, and charting acts of civil disobedience that challenge orthodox power at its heart, The Book of Trespass will transform the way you see the land.

About This Edition

ISBN: 9781526604729
Publication date: 8th July 2021
Author: Nick Hayes
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 464 pages
Primary Genre Nature
Other Genres:

Nick Hayes Press Reviews

What a brilliant, passionate and political book this is, by a young writer-walker-activist who is also a dazzlingly gifted artist. It tells - through story, exploration, evocation - the history of trespass (and therefore of freedom) in Britain and beyond, while also making a powerful case for future change. It is bold and brave, as well as beautiful; Hayes's voice is warm, funny, smart and inspiring. The Book of Trespass will make you see landscapes differently -- Robert Macfarlane

Seeks to challenge and expose the mesmerising power that landownership exerts on this country, and to show how we can challenge its presumptions . . . The Book of Trespass is massively researched but lightly delivered, a remarkable and truly radical work, loaded with resonant truths and stunningly illustrated by the author -- George Monbiot - Guardian

A powerful new narrative about the vexed issue of land rights . . . Hayes [is] practically a professional trespasser these days, no sign too forbidding to be ignored, no fence too high to be climed . . . The Book of Trespass is [Hayes's] first non-graphic book - though the text is punctuated by his marvellous illustations, linocuts that bring to mind the Erics, Gill and Ravilious - and in it, he weaves several centuries of English history together with the stories of gypsies, witches, ramblers, migrants and campaigners, as well as his own adventures. Its sweep is vast - Observer

Brilliantly argued, The Book of Trespass explores with clarity and courage an ancient problem in radically new ways . . . Hayes unearths the psychological preconditions that empower and legitimise these monumental inequalities -- Mark Cocker - New Statesman

Exhilarating . . . A gorgeously written, deeply researched and merrily provocative tour of English landscape, history and culture -- Boyd Tonkin - Arts Desk

Hayes is an alert, inquisitive observer . . . He works also in the tradition of nature writers like Robert Macfarlane ... This sensibility gives him a poetic sense of the different ways that we might use and share the land to the benefit of all . . . Beyond its demand for specific, concrete changes to the law on what land we may step onto and for what purposes, this book is a call for a re-enchantment of the culture of nature - Tribune Magazine

Hayes is practised at pushing through overgrown thickets of law to uncover hidden structures of power and privilege. His book's historical range stretches across centuries . . . The Book of Trespass is incisive, impassioned and beautifully written - Times Literary Supplement

A trespasser's radical manifesto . . . A book dedicated to demolishing boundaries of all kinds . . . Each chapter includes a double-page black-and-white landscape, rendered with a thrilling air of motion and immediacy . . . Hayes has picked apart the meaning of trespass and brilliantly redefined it as an act of solidarity - Guardian

A stirring appeal for us to freely access the land closed off to the public . . . By trespassing on the land, Hayes takes us on a roller-coaster ride through history . . . His book is an example of nature writing at its best but it has real political bite ... [A book] to relish and learn from - Morning Star

Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9781526604729
Publication date: 08/07/2021
Format: Paperback

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About Nick Hayes

Nick Hayes is an author, illustrator, print-maker and political cartoonist. He has published four graphic novels with Jonathan Cape and has worked for, among others, the Literary Review, Time Out, the British Council, the New Statesman and the Guardian. He has exhibited across the country, including at the Hayward Gallery. He lives in on a canal boat with no fixed address.

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