The 1st Edition of Boulder Britain was for many years a permanent fixture in my car. You never quite knew when it would come in handy, but it did, and did so frequently. Over the years it's been a great resource for the opportunistic and obsessive climber who enjoys visiting new and random places. So given the glowing intro to the first edition, how did its second edition fare?
Randomness is one of Boulder Britain's greatest assets. Not only does it contain the classics, but it also celebrates some of Britain's lesser loved areas, with obscure gems across the length and breadth of the country. As a result, it doesn't matter whether you're a jewel in the mountains, a coastal gem, a turd in the woods, or a used contraceptive discarded in an urban sprawl - Boulder Britain champions it all. The second edition has dialled up each of these elements, with the inclusion of some neo-classics that have become popular since the publication of the first edition. It also includes a whole host of new inclusions on the esoteric side of things.
Niall Grimes (aka Grimer) has a unique way with words, capturing the heart and soul of each place for what it is, be that good, bad, ugly or really ugly. His turn of phrase has not only inspired me to visit an assortment of utterly random places (The Breck being a personal highlight), but has also kept me coming back to the guide time and time again. The second edition has extended this as a result of its increased coverage and even having read through it several times over, I can still flick to almost any page and have a genuine laugh out loud moment.
The photography is fantastic, and there's plenty of it. On the action photo side Boulder Britain is one of the most diverse guidebooks I have ever seen too. On the topo side, several of the featured crags have never had topos published in print, so Boulder Britain offers something unique by shining a light on less documented areas and crags. That said, whilst the vast majority of crags have their own topos, there are some that don't. This is most noticable in Scotland, where you'll realistically need a copy of Boulder Scotland to go alongside it. Is this a good thing or bad thing? Good question. On the one hand it's a bit of a shame to include it without full coverage; on the other, it's amazing what a shiny image does to inspire you to go somewhere and given how large (and amazing) Scotland is, you're realistically going to want a copy of the definitive guide if you're going up that way. The same could be said for each area, but given the breadth (and selective nature) of the coverage Boulder Britain it's impossible for it to provide full coverage for each area without outstripping the Encylopedia Britannica in terms of its size/scale.
Were there to be one drawback to this otherwise glowing review it would be the quality of the print and paper. This is most noticeable on the internal pages, where the paper feels thinner, and the action shots/topos are a little washed out in terms of their colour. Were there ever to be a reprint it'd be great to see this updated.
To end on a positive, here's a list of a few of my favourite inclusions in the second edition:
- Bovey Woods - Until recently Devon's best kept secret (and more recently its worst)
- Biblin's Cave - Far too hard for me, but interesting to see a topo given how much it's been in the news
- Crafnant - I've only ever trad climbed in this beautiful valley, but would love to return for the boulders
- Mynedd Dinas - Looks distinctly mediocre, but worth the trip just to say I've been bouldering in Pembrokeshire
- Christianbury - Who doesn't like hour long walk-ins and Font 8B+ highballs?!
- The Stell - The County that keeps on giving. Yet another excuse to go back to Northumberland...
- Ash Head - Should have gone years ago but haven't (and this reminded me).
- The Crack Den - It's a man made bridge with a load of roof cracks under it... say no more...
A guidebook should be a source of inspiration, encouraging you to go places you might never have gone otherwise. The first edition of Boulder Britain did this, and the second achieves it with flying colours. However, a guidebook has also got to get you to the crag and show you were the problems are, and it does that too (and does so for a whole bunch of places across Britain). The photography is fantastic and the way that the crags are described makes this a guide I could delve into time and time again. It's a guidebook that's fun, through and through. And that's what bouldering is all about (aside from the grades).