Macfarlane returns to one of his interests, the Chideock Martyrs. He has spoken of these Catholics executed in the Reformation period in other books, and it is heartening to see that to this scholarly writer their bravery is neither forgotten nor dismissed, and he recounts something of their story, which is worth remembering. He tells again of his visit to the Catholic chapel in Chideock and how he spent some time there. We can feel his sympathy for forgotten heroes of a cruel age.
The sense of walking through time is powerful in Macfarlane's works. He speaks of holloways being places where you can slip back out of this world, and their being places within which ghosts softly flock. The supernatural is a constant background in this book. He speaks of walkers on ancient ways sensing the sounds and voices of an earlier age, and he tells how he sometimes thought he saw Roger Deakin at places on the path. He is convinced that places retain memories of the people who walk along them, even from distant times. This author is one who is open to the sense or presence of what Celtic folk call The Other, and this liberates him and the reader from the rigid constraints of materialism and its denial of anything other than the merely material.
Macfarlane's command of literature shines through in his writings. He regularly speaks of the poet, Edward Thomas, on whom he is a specialist, and whose thoughts and experiences he values. Holloway also was inspired by the book Rogue Male, by Geoffrey Household, who sets the adventures of his hero, who is escaping from killers by hiding out in the holloway that Macfarlane is exploring. He draws comparisons with Kipling's The Road Through the Woods, and the comparison with this slightly spectral poem fits well with Macfarlane's thinking and sensitivity to The Other.
You get the sense of living in an anomaly. These holloways are sometimes impassable, because they are overgrown, too narrow for modern vehicles and yet at eighteen feet deep in some cases, too deep to be economically filled in by farmers. Thus they remain, the lingering echoes of an ancient past. Macfarlane allows us to peek into one.