Book Review by Steve Matthews of Bookends.
Lake District: High Level and Fell Walks by Vivienne Crow. Cicerone. £9.99
Vivienne Crow promises "the best Skiddaw walk - ever!" Not for her the dreary haul up the constructed path on Jenkin Hill pushing past the straggling kids and the sweating tourists.
She has a far more exciting and dramatic - and challenging route to offer. Admittedly, you begin at Booth's supermarket in Keswick and catch the bus as far as Ravenstone Manor hotel. Then you're off on a 10 ¾ mile trek - it takes Vivienne well over six hours to follow her track: "rocky ascent, steep loose material on one section, grassy fell damp in places, valley tracks and paths, short section through town".
When you reach the ridge, you get "your first view of Skiddaw's intimidating western slopes". Vivienne knows her route, knows that it is "a relentless climb on the Ullock Pike" and that the final part is the steepest. And she knows why she labours up the pike to its knobbly top, for beyond "you are rewarded with a lovely, albeit brief section of high ridge walking ascending at a much gentler gradient . . . you'll positively float along, delighting in the sparkling vision of Derwentwater to the south".
It's so easy for walking guides to concentrate on the left and right turns and the stiles and the gates and the walls and forget why you walk in the first place for the sheer pleasure of walking and the exhilaration of the views that come as a deserved reward for the hard work you've put in.
With Vivienne's guides you know you are in good company. You are with someone who has been there many times, knows the ground under her feet and who wants to share the enthusiasm she has for the fells.
Neither is she afraid of a challenge. As she pushes up Skiddaw's very steep, very loose scree slopes she find the best way is to charge at full pelt. "With your calf muscles screaming for a rest" you eventually reach the summit platform where you can stop and savour the view.
The route then crosses Sale Fell and skirts Skiddaw House before joining the Cumbria Way walking along an exciting path above the steep, plummeting sides of the Glendereterra Beck. Finally she guides you past the Moot Hall and through the streets of Keswick and back to Booth's supermarket.
It has been a well described walk, with considerate guidance, a relish for detail and sufficient enthusiasm to suggest the pleasures of the route and why it was chosen. The descriptions are well supported by the appropriate detail from the OS map and some beautifully clear photographs that have a feel for the terrain and the character of the walk.
The Ullock Pike-Skiddaw walk is only one of thirty walks in this neat, practical guide. Others in the Keswick area include Blencathra, the Coledale Horseshoe, the Newlands Round, Causey Pike and Robinson, and a challenging fifteen miles along the Helvellyn range "end to end".
There is a similar range of mountain challenges in the other areas centred on Borrowdale and Buttermere, on the Western Valleys, on Coniston and Langdale, on the Ambleside, Grasmere and Windermere area, and on Ullswater.
In all, Vivienne offers a carefully considered selection from the best walks in the Lakes. You feel that these are her favourites. They're challenging, but they offer their own rewards.
The next time you see the novice fell walker slogging, complaining, sweating up Jenkin's Hill, you'll be able to thank Vivienne Crow for showing you a better way to take the high fells in your stride.