The Angry Corrie 37: Jun-Jul 98

TAC 37 Index

Brief spans, and the Ribblehead Viaduct

Macc and the Art of Long Distance Walking
Graham Wilson, illustrated by Gerry Dale
Millrace (2a Leafield Rd, Disley, Cheshire, SK12 2JF)
ISBN 1 902173 01 5, May 1998, #12.95, 152pp

Reviewed by Val Hamilton

"You can't judge a book by its cover." But why not? The cover of this one is made of heavy cream paper with a line drawing featuring, full centre, Shutlingsloe. Therefore this book is a winner. Many years ago, when I first looked at The Relative Hills of Britain, I dismissed it as having no relevance to me, because Shutlingsloe, the Matterhorn of the Peak and the regular objective of our family mountaineering expeditions, for some inexplicable reason is not a Marilyn. Graham Wilson does not let this deter him. It's interesting to note that other Matterhorns aren't Marilyns either: Roseberry Topping and Cnicht for example - I suspect there are more. (Yes: The Matterhorn - Ed.)

Lovely, delightful, a wee gem: these instinctive initial reactions to the book may seem precious and off-putting. Perhaps these diminutives of praise are due to its Wainwright-type size and old-fashioned hand-crafted appearance. But its external delicacy conceals robust contents.

The book is divided into two parts: nominally at least, the first describes five walks in the Macclesfield area; the second has chapters entitled "The Derwent Watershed", "The Welsh Threethousanders" and "The Bob Graham Round". But this is far more than a guidebook of the "turn left at the third sheep on the right" type. (Dark Peak regulars, of course, are quite accustomed to taking bearings on sheep in the absence of other distinguishing features in the landscape.) Less than half the book is taken up with route description, so if you have no intention of walking in the areas mentioned and maybe aren't even too sure where Macclesfield is, there is still plenty of opinion, history, literature, sardine-eating, and cricket too.

An alternative title for this book could have been The Joy of Maps. I knew that the cover was not deceptive when I found, in the first few pages, that the reader is encouraged to look at OS map 33 to examine routes between Kinloch Hourn and Arnisdale. Wilson then writes, "I chose this example to tempt you to look at the relevant map that covers the finest area of Britain". Later he talks of long distance walks as "an excuse to buy certain OS maps that otherwise you might regard as an indulgence".

As you read on, you become aware that the route descriptions are largely there to provide a structure for Wilson's views. In Chapter Two, "The Macclesfield Marilyns and the Making of Lists", his categories of Munrobaggers include "the cuckoo who loftily dismisses the notion as puerile, yet seems to have a pretty precise idea of how many he has done." He passes Kath's Cattery and congratulates it "on resisting the obvious temptation with regard to alliterative spelling" although this is balanced on a later walk by encountering a "catotel". He ponders on the defenders of the Ribblehead Viaduct who "return to their travels to and from Carlisle by roaring up and down the M6 in their BMWs", on why the inhabitants of Buxworth bothered changing its name from Bugsworth, given the vagaries of local pronunciation, and on the fact that "we all want access for ourselves but are not happy to have the place flooded with others."

And if this weren't enough, Wilson discusses the magna opera of both TAC's editor and Alan Blanco within his brief span. Definitely worth seeking out.

TAC 37 Index