/ CC South West Climbs volume 1
Are area guides going downhill, trying to cover too much ground and covering it inadequately? Bad choices by both Rockfax and the Climber's Club blight Rockfax' West Country Climbs and the CC's South West Climbs volume 1.
This review looks at the CC's 2012 publication, South West Climbs volume 1, which claims the mantle of Littlejohn' s ground-breaking 1979 South-West Climbs but delivers a partial dud. First of all it can't complete with Rockfax' West Country Climbs directly, so the CC team decided to try to remedy one of the biggest problems of that guide, complete sections of missed out climbs in Cheddar Gorge, Lundy, and short selections at Portland and Swanage, by making their version of a south-west area guide into two volumes and so be able to cover more ground in detail. Only it's cocked it up, at least on a reading of volume 1.
The CC's volume 1 guide covers the Wye Valley, Avon and Cheddar, Dorset and the Isle of Wight. But, like the West Country guide from Rockfax you spend your twenty five quid and feel you've been short-changed.
Trivial locations like Shakemantle Quarry in the Forest of Dean get a fulsome coverage, six routes, pretty much most of the good stuff there, whilst diamond locations like Portland are less than fulsomely covered. Fallen Block at Portland has five routes covered. Blacknor North has just six. Six! Battleship Edge seven. Why bother with minor stuff like the Fallen Block at all? It just takes space away from more important crags. If Fallen Block must be covered because it provides some easier climbs then junk the nine pages covering the Forest of Dean quarries and the three pages of Cleeve Hill in the Cotswolds.
Then there the guide's nasty habit of sometimes starting a new crag section partway down a page, see Battleship Edge, Wallsend Central, Winspit and Cormorant Ledge, in the Portland and Swanage section, and helping it to be harder to find still by printing ing the heading in grey instead of a bold black. This is graphical design idiocy.
There are vertically-oriented side text panels on the outside left and right edges of pages but these indicate the overall area, like Portland and Swanage, and not the crag that that page deals with. Also top-of-page headings are used mostly to designate the main sub-area such as Dorset and the Isle of Wight, although they are sometimes more specific, as in Wyndcliff Quarry.
Where a picture runs up to the top edge of a page the top text panels don't appear at all. To top it off the top heading text is a black font with a white shadow effect against a darkish coloured background. It's hard to read quickly and a lighter.pastel-coloured background would enable the irritating white shadow effect to be dispensed with. Graphic design should help the reader not get in the way and this just gets in the way.
Altogether such headings and their inconsistency make it virtually impossible to leaf through the book quickly, looking for a particular crag; more design idiocy.
The top-of-page headings should cover the crag area, like Portland, with the side text panels used for the individual crags, or vice versa.
Other gripes; you need a magnifying glass to make out the details on the crag selector pages at the front of the book; there is no explanation of what a climb description like F6a + 15m [6B] means. We think it means six bolts.
At least this guide doesn't do the really disappointing thing that Rockfax did in providing introductions-only in its West Country volume to places like Lundy. That made me plain angry. A climbing guide lists climbs. End of. Introductions to cliffs without the climbs being included doesn't cut it. At least the CC sidestepped that heinous sin.
The pictures are, good the climb lines on the photo-diagrams are good. The maps are good, and yet we have space wasted on places like the Shakemantle Quarry and dreadful font and panel background colour choices. All-in-all it suffers from poor readability. It's better than the CC's landscape format Portland guide, which was expressly designed I fear not to fit in the top pocket of a rucksack, but it needs a graphic design with more sympathy for the reader.
Cheddar wasn't included in West Country Climbs because we were refused permission from the land owners to include it and had we done so then it would have jeopardised access. We actually have the complete chapter here in a folder that was pretty much written but had to be dropped before publication. We were aware though that in leaving it out we may well contribute to it dropping off the venue-list for climbers so we gave it as much of a mention as we were allowed in order to keep the place on the radar.
We didn't include Lundy since people almost always spend a week there and hence a selected climbs guide will never be enough.
The selections on Portland and Swanage are exactly what I would expect for a selected climbs guide.
As for leaving out Lundy I found that disappointing. The point you make is good but, even so, I'd have put favourites in there anyway.
It is difficult to publish and be dammed when good people who you work with in many areas on access issues ask you not to include a crag.
I don't know what the CC did to get the place included.
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