Be honest, now, you were beginning to wonder why I’ve been so quiet…

158 years ago today saw the publication of my hero Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Darwin was staying on the edge of Ilkley Moor at the time, just 13 miles as the curlew flies from where I type these words.

What better excuse could I possibly need for choosing today to launch my own medium opus inspired by another Yorkshire moor…

I’m delighted to announce that my book On the Moor: Science, History and Nature on a Country Walk is now available as both a paperback and Kindle ebook on,, and other international Amazon websites.

On the Moor
Buy from Amazon uk | .com

On the Moor shows how a routine walk in the countryside is enhanced by an appreciation of science, history, and natural history. It covers an eclectic mix of topics, with each chapter being inspired by something I encountered or was thinking about during one of my regular walks over the last 25 years on the Moor above my home. These topics include:

  • Charles Darwin’s weird experiments and ailments;
  • the 17th-century skeptic Sir Thomas Browne;
  • Celtic languages;
  • Bronze Age burials;
  • evolution’s kludgy compromises;
  • bird migration;
  • DNA barcoding;
  • skull anatomy;
  • where Earth got its water;
  • the mapping of Great Britain;
  • grouse disease;
  • Scott of the Antarctic;
  • how to define a species;
  • Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath;
  • the Brontës;
  • the Laws of Thermodynamics;
  • why the sky is blue (and sunsets red);
  • the Greenhouse Effect;
  • the songs of skylarks;
  • snipe courtship;
  • vapour trails;
  • rooks’ faces;
  • the best way to cook a wheatear.
  • …Oh, and there’s even a plane crash!

I appreciate I’m a bit biased, but I think you’ll like it.

But don’t feel you have to take my word for it. Here’s what nature writer Neil Ansell had to say about On the Moor:

Richard Carter’s fascinating exploration of his local grouse-moor in West Yorkshire digs deep into natural history, human history, prehistory, and the history of science. His writing is grounded, insightful, and frequently hilarious, and he shows how falling in love with your own local patch can be a gateway to the whole world.

Well, exactly, Neil! (The cheque’s in the post.)

…Are you still here? What are you waiting for? GO AND BUY MY BOOK, DAMMIT!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and order an Aston Martin.

Richard Carter

A fat, bearded chap with a Charles Darwin fixation.


  1. Dear Sir,

    I was, today, disturbed by a second email in over two decades of following your good self as the originator of the Friends of Charles Darwin.

    I consider this a gross imposition on my time and as such I shall have to buy your book to shut you up.

    I'll probably enjoy it too. So there.

  2. Are you not worried that you will wipe CD off the literary calendar by releasing your Jeroboam Opus on the same day?

    When are we expecting the film to come out?

    Looking forward to them re-creating Hebden Bridge on a set in Turkmenistan.

    (I went for the Kindle version so I can use it to escape my commute. Since we are already laying into alternative therapists on the first page, it's probably going to work!)

  3. I've just finished reading this. It was queued up behind the last of the Patrick O'brien novels that we have discussed in the past.

    Having read the two in close succession I can't help thinking that you would enjoy the Aubrey/Maturin series and, more than anything, that you would have found O'brien fascinating if you had met him (as I'm sure would I). I am sure you would see many parallels between the Obrien books and the topics that you are obviously interested in.

    The parallel between Aubrey / Maturin and Fitzroy / Darwin as captain and naturalist is striking and Aubrey often muses on the isolation of command when they are separated. I did not realise that CD was invited as Fitzroy's guest but I do wonder whether that pair was O'brien's inspiration for his literary pair of friends. As well as Fitzroy, Aubrey is also very much the surveyor and enthusiast for the mathematics of navigation (although he manages to make do with slightly fewer clocks!). It does all seem to similar to be coincidence.

    Later in the series, Aubrey is also a land-owner and MP for a pocket borough with issues such as enclosure of common land running through the stories.

    I know that you don't really read fiction but I suspect you would find O'brien fascinating. Not only are the books great stories but they describe life during that period in a way that I think you would enjoy from a historical point of view.

    You have probably gathered that I enjoyed your walks and musings very much. Many of your comments on issues from GPS to evolution are points that I often make myself - one only has to look at the structure of the human eye, for example, for it to be abundantly clear that this cannot be a structure that was designed by a half-competent being, far less an omnipotent one!

    Here's one question for you, however, which I have seen a few answers to but none of them really satisfactory: Why isn't the sky violet?!

    1. You're not the first to recommend the O'Brien novels to me. Master & Commander is one of my top-ten films (and, quite possibly, one of my top-two): I think it's an overlooked masterpiece. But the people who recommended the novels to me really didn't like the way Maturin was portrayed in the film. I think Paul Bettany did a great job, which set him up nicely for playing Charles Darwin a few years later. (I once heard him remark, in an interview plugging the Darwin film, that he had effectively already played Darwin in Master and Commander.) The only thing putting me off reading the books (other than the fact that they're fiction) is that I've been warned they're a hell of a commitment—and I'm currently only 7 volumes into the Darwin Correspondence.

      Glad you enjoyed the book. I'm currently faffing about with ideas for the next one, but it is likely to be about Nature's ‘inelegant design’—a subject that interests me greatly. (I grabbed the domain name and Twitter handle years ago, just in case.)

      As to why the sky isn't violet: I suspect it just happens to be the case that the amount of stuff scattering light in our atmosphere happens to yield a blue sky. But violet is also at the extreme of our colour-vision range, so we are likely to be better at perceiving blue than violet, so maybe the violet is there, but it gets swamped out by the blue.

  4. I have read that the sky should actually be violet but your eyes aren't so sensitive at that frequency. However, it's just not true - the peak wavelength of light from a blue sky is at about
    475nm, which is pretty much the centre of the blue band.

    The intensity of the incident light from the sun (black bodies and all that) drops off dramatically at 350nm where violet ends (no coincidence I'm sure) but for most of violet it's 60-80% of the maximum intensity and with scattering dependent upon the square of the wavelength, stronger scattering should easily counter that dropoff. From the arguments that I have met, the sky should be somewhere between idigo and violet - it's just too blue for any model I have yet met.

    Oddly, sky blue is also the colour of liquid oxygen so if I had to make a guess, I would say that the blue component is boosted because oxygen is blue. But that's only my speculation. If it's not that then perhaps there is something about particle sizes that's relevant. I'm yet to be convinced by an explanation yet, however.

    Inelegant design! I like it! I did some genetics for a couple of years and it's incredible how many body structures are co-opted and corrupted from other structures. Antennae are corrupted legs, flower sex organs are corrupted petals (or vice versa I don't remember) and so forth. Nothing is ever invented from scratch because the leap is too great. Nature simply copies an existing structure and corrupts it for a new purpose. And "Good enough" is the only test!

    I always find arguments that a partial-eye is useless, for example, highly unconvincing. "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king" as the saying goes: If you live in a world where no other organism has any sense of light perception then the very slightest ability to follow the light, perhaps to to warmer or more oxygenated water, might well give you an edge.

    Anyhow, enough ranting. Nice work Mr C' - keep it up!

  5. PS - I can't help noticing that one of the "Sponsored Items" below your book on Amazon is "Essential Oils for Dogs"!

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