Vertebrate Graphics, the Sheffield-based graphic design company, continue to expand their umbrella. Their high quality design work is apparent in many of the better looking volumes on any climber's bookshelves these days, the recent Lakes Select and BMC Staffordshire guidebooks being prime examples. Then came Peak Bouldering which was followed in double quick fashion by a couple of mountain biking guides (well received by all accounts) and now a walking guide, again to the ever-popular Peak District.
Now, if you visit any outdoor shop from Bakewell to Hathersage, you will be confronted by shelves groaning under the weight of walking books; you name a category and it will probably be there - historical, pubs, circular, with kids, with dogs, from cars, long, short, etc.!
So does the new guide offer anything new and manage to carve a niche out for itself? Well for starters the venues are a little predictable - Kinder, Chatsworth, Derwent Edge, Dove Dale, Chrome Hill, Lathkill Dale - but I guess this is hardly surprising, considering the diminutive size of the Peak District. As an aid to the walker, the book is split into three main sections 1) The High Moors, 2) Hills, Tors and Edges, and 3) Limestone Country so you can easily choose your walk depending on weather, season, etc. All the walks are between 8 and 12 miles in length, which is a reasonable distance without being too much of a route march.
The maps are a new set drawn especially for the book, they are nice and clear - though personally I think the double-page-spread portrait-format ones are the wrong way round. The photography is fresh and interesting, and the overall look is bright and cheerful, I am sure plenty of folks will pick a copy off the bookshelf and think “That'll do nicely” - and doubtless it will. Descriptions are terse but accurate, and with the associated maps the odds of getting lost are minimal.
Despite this, for me what the book lacks is any real depth, there is plenty of “turn left at the stile” but very little actual information. As an example, I was attracted by the photo of the ruined building on top of Stanage and the caption Ruins of the Sighting Tower and Observatory. I had always wondered about these and so eagerly scanned the text of the walk - not a whisper! Whilst on about captions, I need to make two points; some of the photo-captions are the smallest print I have ever seen in any book (even smaller than the Rockfax route indexes). More annoying is the habit of printing the captions straight onto the photographs which has resulted in several of them being impossible to read - a very basic error and not one you would expect from a Graphic Design business. Then there are the pictures with no captions at all. It could be argued that they are not needed for general illustrations, but I always like to know what I am looking at! Whilst on with the moaning, the main maps number the walks from 1 to 20 but these numbers are not used anywhere else in the book, neither in the main index at the front, nor on the walks themselves - a little work would have produced a useful cross referencing system.
In summary this is a nice little book that I am sure will find favour with walkers new to the area, though more experienced ramblers looking for something a little out of the ordinary might be disappointed. This book could easily be seen as an opportunity missed, but I have little doubt Vertebrate are already on with “Less Popular Walks in the Peak District” - if they sort out the photo-captioning, they might have a winner.
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