Annie Worsley traded a life in academia for that of a crofter. Here, she tells us about her new life, the art of slow walking and the travel that changed her
It’s fair to say that Annie Worsley has not followed a conventional career path. She began life as a physical geographer focusing on the relationships between people, landscapes and the natural world. Her work took her to the New Guinea Highlands in 1979 where she examined the environmental history of montane rainforests and human impacts on the landscape.
After a career break to raise her children, Annie returned to academia in 1999, this time closer to home. She investigated long-term environmental change in the peat bogs, hills and coasts of northwest England along with the effects of pollution on human health in urban areas.
But, in 2011, she and her husband moved to Scotland to take on Red River Croft, an agricultural smallholding on the western coast of Ross-shire in the northwest Highlands of Scotland. Between working the land, writing essays for journals and blogging, Annie recently penned her first book, Windswept.
Here, she tells us more about the book, her unique way of life and the travels that led her there.
1. You used to work in academia and now you’re a crofter. How did that come about?
For 45 years, I had been coming to the Scottish Highlands, firstly with my husband to climb the hills and explore some of Scotland’s wilder places. We then brought our four children on holidays here, so my love of Scotland has occupied two-thirds of my life.
Returning to academic life – something I didn’t think was possible after so long away having my family – I taught physical geography and environmental science with mountains, peat bogs and coastal landscapes at the heart of student learning. Fieldwork in Scotland and Cumbria were important parts of my courses. And during that time, we continued to holiday up here.
But there comes a point in one’s life where there’s a deep and resonating sense that change is coming. We both felt it; we were years away from retirement. Scotland was calling.
Originally, we didn’t intend to buy a croft but the more we learned about crofting, the more it seemed like the right thing to do. We would need to earn an income – somehow – and, perhaps recklessly, we had no firm plans. Then my husband got a job as a local…