Little Toller Books
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For three years, Carol Donaldson lived in a caravan on the North Kent Marshes while working for the RSPB. Despite the hardship of frozen pipes, electricity which blew out in every storm and a porta-loo, what started as a short term financial decision turned into a way of life she came to love. It was a simple life, under a willow tree, close to nature in a home that let the outside in.

Unfortunately, her partner Connor – with his love of Saturday afternoon football on TV and high-tech gadgets –  did not share her vision. But the longer Carol lived there, the more she realised she was not alone. She became fascinated with other people who were living unconventional lives dotted around the estuary and began to feel that maybe the two were intertwined, the landscape with its unlikely beauty and rough edges and the people who came to live there.

After three years, Carol was told her caravan needed planning permission and she was evicted from her home, a devastating event which also signalled the end of her fourteen year relationship. Living in a town with a mortgage provided stability, but she could never quite escape the pull of the estuary landscape and its lifestyle.

So in 2014, she set out on a walk across the marshes of North Kent, travelling from Gravesend to Whitstable. Both an act of pilgrimage for a landscape she loves and a journey of discovery into why people are drawn there, Carol met and stayed with houseboat owners, chalet dwellers, friends of hermits who lived in the woods and men who were choosing to die in remote places.

On The Marshes beautifully evokes the landscape and atmosphere of this corner of England as Carol weaves her own story with those who live and have lived on the marshes, while delving into many of the big questions encompassing land ownership and conservation which are so pertinent today.