Front Cover
Exploring the Lakes & Low Fells [2 Volumes]
by Bill Birkett
pub.David & Charles, 2001
Hardback 12.50 each, 96 pages
Vol. 1 - ISBN 0 7153 1077-1
Vol. 2 - ISBN 0 7153 1078-X

Bill Birkett's two volumes are practical guidebooks of his favourite low-level walks through the Lake District, there being details of 40 walks in each volume. The walks are of various difficulties and range from a 30 minute stroll to a five hour duration marathon. Mostly they are about 2 1/2 hours. However, the author reminds his readers that walking in the countryside and over the fells is potentially dangerous, and in his intoduction Bill says that: 'An eye should always be kept on safety and children supervised at all times,' especially since the fells may contain old mineshafts, fast-flowing water and unfenced drops. There is also a disclaimer at the head of the book.

The author [who is a well-known writer and photographer with a number of books to his name, and also a member of the OWG, British Travel Writers' Guild, and Climber's Club among others], has aimed to produce a book which provides enough comprehensive information for each walk but is carryable. So each route features a 'Fact File' detailing start and end points, distance, watering holes (from ice cream vans to pubs), and so on.

Each of the walk pages lists the key locations on the route, small-scale picture-postcard photographs of views to be seen, and a 'step by step' description of the route and particular points of interest. For example, in Walk 4 there's mention of an old converted cottage that was once 'the workman's reading room', and in Walk 10 a 'fascinating stone sundial affixed above the entrance' of a church.

What the text desciptions do lack is any real 'interpretation' of the landscape or natural history that the walker will traverse. The comments are scant and the route descriptions feel technical rather than drawing the walker into the beauty or history of the scenery that surrounds his footsteps. That said, there seemed to be slightly more general information in Volume 2.

Bottom line... To be honest these two volumes are a bit disappointing in terms of inspiring one to take a walk in the Lake District. They lack in-depth information [although it must be said that that would increase book size and weight], which would make the walks more interesting. As practical guides they will suit people seeking no-nonsense recreational walks in the Lakes.

Copyright © 2001