In 2017, Sophie Pierce’s life changed forever when her twenty-year-old
son Felix died suddenly and unexpectedly. Thrown into an unimaginable
new reality, she had to find a way to survive. By writing letters to
Felix – composed during walks and swims taken close to his burial place
by the River Dart – Sophie gradually learned how to live in the
landscape of sudden loss, navigating the weather and tides of grief.
The Green Hill collects these letters alongside Sophie’s account
of the years following Felix’s death, into which she weaves poignant
memories of his life. What results is a deeply moving, beautifully
captured record of how – amid the rivers and rocks of Dartmoor, and in
the sea off the South Devon coast – Sophie was able to hold on to and
nurture her bond with Felix, both in her mind and through a physical
engagement with the landscape: actively mourning, rather than grieving.
This book is a celebration of the natural world and the role it plays in
our lives and relationships, as well as an examination of how beauty, a
sense of place and the passing seasons can help us contend with our own
mortality. Above all, The Green Hill is one woman’s story of
navigating through trauma and loss, and towards a fragile, complicated
kind of joy.
'In The Green Hill, Sophie Pierce writes about the sudden death of
her son Felix with an aching and gentle honesty. Struggling to come to
terms with the loss not only of the young man he was, but everything
that he would eventually become, she finds herself overwhelmed not only
by grief, but also by love. Her writing is illuminated by a remarkable
attention to the beauty and consolation of the natural world, and by the
wisdom and tenderness which has been so painfully acquired. This is a
book that will be a great comfort to those who need it' Sarah Perry,
author of The Essex Serpent and Melmoth
'Unforgettable, necessary. This beautiful book is a map, compass and
ration of courage for anyone arrived in the landscape of sudden loss.
Full of love and learning' Tanya Shadrick
'The Green Hill is an extraordinary book… I thought of the fairy
tale in which a captured princess must weave clothes from stinging
nettles: Sophie Pierce has wrought something beautiful and useful from
the darkest pain' Cressida Connolly, novelist and critic
Sophie Pierce is a writer and broadcaster who lives on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon, where she loves to swim in rivers, lakes and the sea. For many years she worked for the BBC as a radio and TV reporter. She is the co-author, with Matt Newbury, of Beyond the Beach: the secret wild swims of Torbay; Wild Swimming Walks Dartmoor and South Devon; and Wild Swimming Walks Cornwall (to be published in 2021). She wrote the introduction to the Wainwright Prize longlisted Wild Woman Swimming by Lynne Roper.
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6th March 2023Thank you!
Glen Nevis by Alex Murdin
Well, The Green Hill is now out in the world, and it couldn't have happened without you. I am so grateful, and wanted to say thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your support. It really means everything.
I'm now in that rather strange time when the book is going from being a private thing to a public one. I'm getting some lovely feedback…
29th June 2022Illustrations
I'm delighted to let you know that Alex, Felix's Dad (and my husband) is working on illustrations for the book.These, we hope, will enrich it greatly. Above is an old abandoned firing range near our home on Dartmoor, where I often go.
So much of the book is about place, about Devon, nature and the landscape which surrounds us. Below is a very strange boulder, also on Dartmoor…
22nd December 2021The Ghost of Christmas Past
For me, Christmas is about layer upon layer of memories - both good and bad. It is one of those rituals which throbs with emotion, and can be overwhelming, as well as full of joy. I clearly remember Christmases as a child, the excitement of putting out one of my father's big woolly socks, and waking up at about 3am (probably earlier), feeling around in the dark for the lumpy stocking…
15th June 2021THANK YOU!
Thank you so much for supporting The Green Hill. You'll have had an email to tell you it's reached its funding target, but I just wanted to say thank you again for your support. IIt really does mean so much.
I've completed 10 chapters of the book so there is still quite a lot of work to do, but it is incredibly exciting that I can now get on with finishing it without having to…
8th April 2021The old stones
I hope you are well and enjoying springtime.
Living on Dartmoor, I am fortunate to be in an area with one of the largest concentrations of Bronze Age remains in Western Europe. I've always been fascinated by the mysterious stone circles, stone rows and standing stones these people left behind. The picture above is of the stone row at Drizzlecombe, which has the highest terminal…
12th March 2021Into spring
Spring is nearly here, but in true British form, the weather is throwing a few curveballs as we enter the last lap of winter. Yesterday there were hail showers here in Devon and there have been some very hard frosts in the last week. Earlier today, by happy accident, I ended up on Wind Tor on Dartmoor - a place I haven't been before, despite it being only a few miles from home. …
26th February 2021A small, unusual world
Today has been so springlike, a day full of endless blue sky and bright, bright sun. I went with a friend to Teignmouth where the beach was full of people and there was a sense of hope in the air. We had a swim, and then decided to stop off on the way home to visit a little lost world.
This particular lost world is on the northern bank of the Teign estuary, between Teignmouth…
5th February 2021Revisiting the past
This week I walked out to a waterfall on the Glaze Brook on Dartmoor. It is the most enchanted place, where a cascade crashes down into an oval pool, surrounded by oak and beech trees. William Crossing, in his famous Guide to Dartmoor, writes: "This is the Wishing Pool, and it is said that those who leap across it, and while doing so loudly express a wish, will obtain what they…
28th January 2021Memory
Yesterday, quite by accident, I came across a scrap of video I'd forgotten about, of a family walk in horrendous conditions on Dartmoor. It shows Felix, who was then 13, his younger brother Lucian who was 10, and my husband Alex, as blurred blobs, braving the rain and wind to walk up Butterdon Hill near Ivybridge. They look like people from a silent film, anonymous and indistinct…
14th January 2021New extract to read
I hope you're all safe and well and coping ok with the latest lockdown. We're all in need of stuff to read, so I thought it might be nice to start publishing some extracts from the book. We've put an excerpt from chapter 1 on the website (click on PROJECT SYNOPSIS and scroll down, it's just underneath the cover image), I hope you enjoy it.
"Enjoy" might seem an inappropriate…
4th January 2021Swimming into another year
Thank you so much for supporting The Green Hill. Every pledge means a great deal as this project is so close to my heart.
A couple of days ago I walked along the South Devon coast from Wembury to Heybrook Bay and on to a little cove I call Felix's Lagoon. As we arrived in Wembury the little valley down to the sea was white with frost. The sea was like a millpond and the sun…