I have a slightly ambivalent relationship with guidebooks. After all, any walker worth their salt should surely be able to devise perfectly acceptable walks from an OS map – all the information you need is there. Indeed, by choosing a route off the shelf, it could be argued that you’re missing part of the pleasure of planning a walk. But, despite my slightly begrudging feeling towards them, my collection of walking guidebooks continues to inexorably grow.
So, I was wondering – do you have a favourite guidebook?
I suppose that lots of fell-walkers would plump for Wainwright. Or maybe one of the guides to the Munros – perhaps Irvine Butterfield’s book? Or the SMC guides? I suppose which is your favourite might, in part at least, be not just a function of your location but also of your age, after all these are all quite old books, and whilst the hills maybe haven’t changed much, new guidebooks seem to appear all the time.
When I started to think about this question, I didn’t have to consider for too long before I knew what would be my clear choice. I’m very fond of the books of Aileen and R. Brian Evans, the scramble guides…
..and the ‘Short Walks in Lakeland’ series, but ultimately I would have to choose ‘High Peak Walks’ by my namesake Mark Richards…
…and not only because I used to try to impress people by letting them think that I had written it myself. (It didn’t work for long: there’s a photo of the actual author on the front endpiece.)
The first guidebook I bought, it is handwritten with hand-drawn maps and heavily illustrated with hatched line drawings. In other words, it’s very much in the style of Wainwright’s guides, although I’m not sure that I realised that when I bought it. My copy has slightly wavy pages having been dampened a few times when carried in a rucksack on the hill. Unlike any other guidebook I’ve bought since, with the notable exception, for obvious reasons, of the Evans’ guide to the Arnside and SIlverdale area , I think that I’ve done just about every walk in it. And Walk 6 – ‘Bleaklow Head and Higher Shelf Stones from Old Glossop’, I walked again and again, in the days when a number 53 bus from Manchester was my favoured transport to the hills. Usually, we took the alternative route across Shelf Benches and into Dowstone Clough, where I don’t remember ever meeting any other walkers. Peering into the book again now, I see that the section of path between Shelf Stones and Bleaklow Head is labelled ‘unremitting hell!’.
In fact, flicking through the book, and finding another favourite walk – a short route exploring Near, Far and Middle Black Cloughs near Woodhead, I realise that it was in following pathless routes like these, up Dowstone Clough, or Far Black Clough, that I gained the confidence to ask: why not follow Wildboar Clough instead ? or Shining Clough? And then began to branch out onto routes not covered in the guidebook.
Anyway, what prompted these musings when I already have several recent, and not so recent, walks to write up? Well – another question: when Grace Jones assaulted Russell Harty mid-chatshow, who was the other guest?
I heard a radio programme about him, and thought that maybe readers of this blog, or the older, hill-walking readers at least, might be interested. Turns out that he was quite an odd ball. As well as being the preeminent mountain photographer of his day, he was also a parfumier for Yardley’s, and would often take to the hills heavily made-up. The Radio 4 programme about him, ‘The Perfumed Mountaineer’ is here.
So – favourite guide books anyone?