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A Fellwalker's Notes
A Fellwalker's Notes
The Lake District is famous the world over for its beauty and cultural history. Author and illustrator John Swanson has spent many years exploring its fells and valleys, and in this book he presents a personal view of what it is to be a fellwalker, experiencing the hills with boots and cagoule.
Filled with tales about walks, local history and famous local personalities, illustrated with nearly 200 drawings and hand-drawn maps, it is a book that will appeal to all who love the Lake District, whether they be hardened walkers or visitors of a more leisurely disposition.
Green Path Publishing
Paperback; 229 x 152mm
Black and white illustrations throughout
Book Review by Steve Matthews of Bookends.
Fellwalker's Notes: Walking in the English Lake District by John Swanson. Green Earth. £12.99
John Swanson calls it "Poor old Skiddaw". Its got an "ancient and resonant" name, a glorious position and an almost perfectly symmetrical profile. Its "a giant figure crouched down to look benignly over the lake". "On bad days, it sulks." Skiddaw, close-up, however, "is just a tiny bit dull". It lacks the cragginess of Sca Fell and Bow Fell and there are no dramatic waterfalls, but there is that long grind of an ascent from the car park.
It's far better to start from the Ravenstone Hotel and climb over Ullock Pike. As you walk, you can see further and further across the Solway Firth and over into Scotland and see "the wind turbines lined up in rows . . . their blades swishing round in a calm, rhythmic, elegant motion as they suck up energy from the air around them".
Blencathra is "huge, rugged and even a little intimidating". It "is a long curving dome whose nearside has been gouged out with a series of great gullies separated by buttresses". John's meticulous shaded drawing shows the mountain with its assured presence. Scales Tarn is "a perfectly circular and cupped by sheer-faced crags". John climbed Sharp Edge, or Razor Edge, once many years ago. He recalls: "you are completely exposed, with precipitous drops on either side . . . and rocks polished smooth by the passage of thousands of previous walkers". He opts for a walk back to the pub. There is a beautifully observed drawing of the folds in the slopes above the Glenderamackin, but John isn't tempted to go north across "the rolling grass and heather stretching off for miles with almost nothing calling for further exploration".
On the path from Grange to Castle Crag he notes a point where "the River Derwent suddenly widens in a huge bend with trees all around and wooded slopes rising in the background. It seems Amazonian rather than Cumbrian."
On the top of Castle Crag he finds a bizarre landscape. "Visitors have taken to standing the long flat slabs of quarry waste up on end, so the impression is of being in a fantastical graveyard. In the valley below after a descent over "a rough path over loose boulders and rubble, twisting and turning steeply down the slope", he arrived in the valley where "there were swallows and house martins and swifts, all three species together, swooping through the air and calling out".
John's drawings complement his descriptions. The cramped rustic stones of Stockley Bridge stand above the broad, incised slabs of rock through which the river has cut a deep groove. A splendid picture looking northwards from the summit of Glaramara shows the spread of Derwentwater and the encompassing arms of Skiddaw. It is a picture that in its small form captures something of the magnificence and scale of that exhilarating view.
And there is also a drawing of John's boots. Solid, stout, crinkled and worn with their loose bootlaces open and ready and waiting to step out yet again across the fells.
John was born in the North-east, but brought up in St Bees where he remembers playing on "the tumbled rocks", and later in Cockermouth where he was shown a waterfall with the salmon struggling upstream to spawn.
It was years after, on holidays from London and under the tutelage of Wainwright's Guides, that he came to know the fells. And he does know them, in a companionable sort of way. These are the fells he's enjoyed, the walks he's taken and the things he has noticed. Those old boots have carried him over many miles and this personal set of fellwalker's notes hold out the promise of many more miles to come through the lakes and fells.
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