Strange Labyrinth

Outlaws, Poets, Mystics, Murderers and a Coward in London's Great Forest

Will Ashon

Published: 6 April 2017
Hardback, Demy HB
138x216mm, 416 pages
ISBN: 9781783783434


In litter-strewn Epping Forest on the edge of London, might a writer find that magical moment of transcendence? He will certainly discover filthy graffiti and frightening dogs, as well as world-renowned artists and fading celebrities, robbers, lovers, ghosts and poets. But will he find himself? Or a version of himself he might learn something from?

Strange Labyrinth is a quest narrative arguing that we shouldn't get lost in order to find ourselves, but solely to accept that we are lost in the first place. It is a singular blend of landscape writing, political indignation, cultural history and wit from a startling new voice in non-fiction.

About the author


Strange Labyrinth is a wonderful exploration of the tangled undergrowth of the psyche. Ashon is an anarchic Green Man; a puckish punk of the forests and here he has invented a new genre: Gonzo Romanticism’ Jon Day



Strange Labyrinth treads its own path. It is a literary provocation, a defence of the disorderly narrative, and a call to get more lost’ Nina Lyon

Strange Labyrinth, a reckoning with the "outlaws, poets, mystics, murderers" of Epping Forest [...] is interwoven with other elements in an account that soon shifts from documentation - a cultural guidebook [...] - to a delirious fiction of doctored memory and free association... [A] timely survey that honours some of those [characters of Epping Forest]’ Iain Sinclair, Book of the Week

‘An anarchic hymn to the scruffy edgeland of Epping Forest, the ancient wood that sits on the boundary between London and Essex... Fascinating... [A] glorious book you'll enjoy getting lost in’ Jon Day

‘Ashon [writes] with verve and a winning candour about his own fearful nature, as he makes his meandering way between the trees’

‘From John Clare to Crass, Will Ashon unearths magic in a forest that is more than mere harbour and hide-out for dissidents, poets and outlaws, but which represents an entire narrative strand of an ever-changing England. Here is deep questing into both person and place, masterfully delivered’ Benjamin Myers

‘I can't begin to tell you how intrigued I am by this book... Ashon's strange brew of nature writing, memoir, psychogeography and punk history has a very exciting anarchic feel to it’

‘I found it mercilessly lucid, wildly expansive yet down-to-earth, and misanthropic as only books with real heart can be. There's tendency to treat psychogeography as a form of archaeology but he bypasses anything resembling fossils for a more intriguing, irreverent and animated approach. These are fragments of the past brought to life in the present, and a fascinating, cynical yet wide-eyed and inspiring, despite itself, present set in the greater scheme of things. A journey into the dark and terrible maze that is England with a guide as much Minotaur as Theseus’ Darran Anderson

‘This book made me so happy. A mind-expanding journey, fiercely researched, expertly constructed and ultimately life-affirming. I was underlining every singly line’ Luke Kennard

‘Wilder than Macfarlane, funnier than Deakin and more emotionally engaged than Sebald, Will Ashon turns getting lost in the forest into high art, and great entertainment. By the end you'll probably be looking for a berth up a tree alongside him’ Matt Thorne

‘Will Ashon, like most of us, is frightened of many things. But unlike us, he confronts his fears in a deep, dark forest. Strange Labyrinth explores the many layers of Epping Forest, revealing a world of magic, a secret hiding place, and a home to outcasts, fugitives and misfits. Combining expert research with wonderful self-deprecation, it is a brave and very funny account of modern anxieties, confronting the things that leap out at us, as if from behind a tree, in a forest’ Paul Ewen

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