The most perfect map is the most useless. Imagine a map that showed you everything, not only each road and each house and each tree, but each bush and each flower, a map that was the most complete representation of the country beneath your feet. The map would be the country itself, inch for inch, and would be no more a guide to the landscape in front of you than the landscape itself.
Maps abstract. They select, eliminate, reduce. They make the infinite multiplicity of the real world manageable. They show us what we want and need to see.
When that brilliantly imaginative man, Harry Beck, produced the map of the London Underground in the 1930s he didnít just create a beautiful image. His map of the Tube was like a Mondrian painting that you could do something with.
Those lines and dots in bright primary colours were loaded with just the information you needed. The map told you how the stations were connected and the one that came before the one where you had to stop. It showed you where you had to change lines and which train you had to choose. It told you nothing about distance and very little about direction. You could trust it completely because it told you everything you wanted to know and nothing you didnít.
It was a model of abstraction, simplicity and comprehension, beautiful in its perfect utility.
However, the Tube went underground, along tunnels that bored through the London clay. The narrow lines were like lights in the dark earth.
Now Peter Burgess has given us the same bright lines to shining from airy fell to airy fell.
Wainwright, as so often, was the forerunner and inspiration. His enthusiastic boots marked and mapped the fells, linked one to one in routes and paths. Peter has taken those seven pioneering pictorial guides where the obsessive AW in the solitude of his wintry study would have drawn every blade of grass if he could, and he has grouped the seven areas of fells just as his master grouped them and with the same bright colours that he used on the covers of his guides.
The result is an abstract of the fells which will be an inspiration to every walker. The brown of the Northern fells will take you from your station right on the top of Blencathra to a hurried stop on Souther Fell and an empty platform on Bannerdale Crags and then through Carrock Fell and High Pike, Great Calva, Knott, Great Cockup, Brae, Great Sca and Longlands Fells until you reach journeyís end at Binsey Terminus and those wonderful views across the Solway Plain with the hills of Scotland beyond.
Take the other line at Blencathra Ė thereís no reference to Saddleback. Wainwright much preferred the ancient name. Take that other line and before you know it, you can step out on the crowded Euston of Skiddaw and see all the lesser stations spread out before you.
That old and visionary Jesuit monk, Father Thomas West imagined the Lake District crowded with stations, but he didnít build his railways in the sky, stretching from peak to successive peak. His stations required the picturesque tourist to station himself and frame his view of the mountains and the lakes in all their pictorial glory.
Pete Burgessís punningly Tubular Fells, another model of imaginative design, thanks to Alfred Wainwright, offers us 214 more stations, with interchanges and connections to roads and ferries and pale blue rectangles that serve as lakes.
It is a map that will be on every hikerís wall awaiting the coloured marker pens as stations are reached and duly logged. And that ardent hiker can comfort himself that as his boots demolish the hills, proceeds from the sale of Tubular Fells will go to Fix the Fells.
Tubular Fells is, according to a government health warning, not a map to use for navigation on the open fells.