Book Review by Paddy Dillon
december 09, 2013 06:33pm
OUTDOOR FOCUS: Journal of the Outdoor Writers’ and Photographers’ Guild
LAKELAND FELLRANGER :The Far Eastern Fells
Mark had a chat with me at the end of the previous millennium, when he was hatching plans for an eight-volume series covering the Lake District in unprecedented detail. He couldn’t choose between Cicerone and Collins as publisher, so he asked my opinion. I favoured Cicerone, but Mark went for Collins. However, after four books were published, Mark negotiated a switchover to Cicerone, who republished the earlier volumes and saw the series to completion. A brave and unusual move, but one that seems to have benefited all concerned.
I joined Mark on a couple of research walks in the summer of 2001, dodging foot-and-mouth restrictions in the Central Fells. No detail in the landscape escapes his notice. Three years later, Mark stayed overnight while checking routes in the Southern Fells. I’ll draw a veil over my attempt to scupper his plans, but Hoad Hill above Ulverston and Piel Island in Walney Channel didn’t make it into the book!
I can’t fault Mark’s knowledge of the Lakeland Fells, and I don’t know of anyone who has walked and described so many routes on the fells. In fact, I’m amazed at how many times Mark comes up with routes I’ve never spotted, as well as place-names I’ve never heard before. I know Mark tackled the fells in fair weather and foul, but he clearly found time to return again and again to get the pictorial coverage necessary to inspire readers. In this final volume, Mark has explored all the quiet and unfrequented parts and found routes in some very curious places. The book is full of detail and passion, as well as typical light-heartedness.
I can’t help comparing one of the early Collins books with the equivalent Cicerone volume. Although largely similar, Cicerone saw fit to use the full detail from Harvey maps, instead of just the outline. The overall design is crisper and clearer, and just a little additional editing has improved the text. Mark’s summit panoramas have been improved in the Cicerone editions and are full of incredible detail. I used to wonder what the Wainwright guides would have like if they were typeset, with colour pictures and Harvey map. Well, now I know!
For Mark, no doubt it’s the end of an era. The Far Eastern Fells is the completion of his Magnus opus (or should that be Magnus opera?). In a fit of generosity, Mark diverts a percentage of his royalties from the series to ‘Fix the Fells’, benefitting all who walk in the Lake District.
Author's note: I chose HarperCollins because I needed an advance to contemplate even beginning this monumental project. Something that Cicerone, my natural publishing home, has never entertained. Cicerone have been tremendous bringing editorial rigour and superb design in support of my own work. All the maps, diagrams and panoramas were my own lineart, but the way they have been integrated is testimony to a top notch team. The series is set for many years inspiring new generations to the thrill and rewards of being up on the fells. Since 2008 the sales of all British outdoor titles have shrunk some 40%, this being the case I have no latitude to give further from my royalties to Fix the Fells. However I applaud Cicerone who continue to give an annual proportion of overall sales to this important cause. There is always scope for fellwalkers' to follow suit, modestly supporting the welfare of the hard-pressed fell path structure.
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