The Angry Corrie 25: Nov 1995-Jan 1996

Sort-of software review: Viewfinder Panoramas

There are few things our esteemed Editor likes better, when sitting on top of some mighty summit with his mouth full of sardines and a well-worn map on his knees, than to indicate a tiny blue bump on the horizon and say, "Oh, that'll be Mickle Thumpin Dod: nice wee Marilyn, been up it thirty-eight times." I, however, am possessed by a certain vagueness concerning the blue yonder: I reckon that if it's a pointy hill, it's probably Schiehallion, and if it's lumpy, then it's most likely Beinn a'Ghlo. (This method works surprisingly well in the Grampians, but seems less successful in Skye, for some reason.)

However, help for the vista-blind is now most definitely at hand, in the form of the Viewfinder, available from Viewfinder Panoramas Ltd, Lochmill Farm,Newburgh, Fife KY14 6EX (Tel. 01337-840551). Here's the idea: take computerised Ordnance Survey contour data for the whole of the British Isles; tell the computer about global curvature and atmospheric refraction, then give it a grid reference and elevation and ask it to draw the scenery visible from that viewpoint. The result is a Viewfinder panorama. Well over a hundred of these panoramas are now available, for hill-tops throughout Britain and Eire. They come on plastic-laminated cards suitable for sliding down the side of your rucksack, and cost the princely sum of 1 (occasionally 1.50). The nice people at Viewfinder are also doing a pre-Christmas promotion on folding cardboard versions for Snowdon, Helvellyn, Nevis, Cairn Gorm and Ben Lomond, which incorporate a reference map of the area around each mountain. They'll send you any three of these for 1, or all five for 1.50. But you'll need to add 1 for p&p to orders under 16. Although this may seem a bit steep for a product that only costs a pound, you'll find that Viewfinders are like fruit pastilles; the chances of you wanting just one are vanishingly small.

Each panorama divides the view into forty-five-degree sectors, with four sectors on each side of the card. The landscape is colour-coded by distance, prominent hills are named, and bearings are printed along the top. Hills near the horizon have their vertical scale slightly exaggerated to show detail (making them reminiscent of Anthony Cain's Liathach painting), and little enlarged windows are added to show any particularly small features. Clearly, a lot of thought has been put into the design, and there can't be many other such useful, pretty products of high technology that you can get for a quid.

The present selection covers a fine egalitarian variety of hills: Ben Hope, Ladhar Bheinn, and Askival feature alongside such staples as Cruachan, Lawers and Schiehallion. Lowlanders can choose from the likes of Ben Cleuch, Earl's Seat and the middle Eildon, and townies are offered Dundee Law, Edinburgh Castle and (oddly enough) Blackpool Tower. Cumbria and the Welsh hills are accompanied by such other Albion highlights as The Wrekin, Titterstone Clee and Kinder Scout. Thirteen Irish hills are also on offer: sadly, their names mean nothing to me, but I am sure that they are fine summits, every one, and dear to the hearts of many. And if nothing from the present stock suits, then just fork out 16, mention a grid reference, and have your own custom Viewfinder created. Go on. Give your granny an annotated view from her front room for Christmas!

Grant Hutchison

TAC 25 Index