BOOK REVIEW

Cover - Roger Seedhouse Walks through History in the Heart of England
by Roger Seedhouse
pub. Meridian Books, 2001
Paperback 8.95, 151 pages
ISBN 1 869922 41 7

There's something about the writing style of the 24 walks here which betrays the disclipined mind of a chartered surveyor - which is precisely Seedhouse's background. The very detailed descriptions of walks through the West Midlands ('go through this gate then cross the next field' and 'bear left down a grassy track almost opposite a defunct garage', for example), are perhaps a little too detailed for this reviewer's taste. Some other guides lay more emphasis on map details and shorten the descriptive text, though this book has perfectly good maps accompanying each walk.

However, Seedhouse's walks provide a very personal and valid interpetation of the unfolding landscape... based around historical interests of the countryside roundabouts.

Each of the walks starts with a boxout which tells readers what OS maps to use, start point, distance, general profile of the terrain they will be passing through, and places where to stop for a cuppa or something more fortifying. En-route historical information is usually italicised but some times doesn't really stand out. Perhaps what is lacking is more physical separation of the different strands of information provided for the reader-walker. In other places the historical information is also in boxout form and includes entry prices, opening times, and such like.

The bulk of the 'history' within the walks is about the more well-known visitor sites and attractions along the way. It's tourist type history and, personally, I would like to have seen more of the smaller historical detail included... but that takes LOTS of research. A little more history and/or some historical 'interpretation' might have been nice.

There are some walking guides reviewed on this website which lack detail (other than topographical) about the historical side of the countryside. Other publications seem to focus too much on history. It's just that I wish Roger had made MORE of the history aspect, to set his book above the rest. Almost there, but not quite.

Bottom line...
This reviewer will niggle about the functionality of works which aim to 'guide' and don't deliver, and there's something about this book which, although it provides the necessary information, lacks a soul and passion for the landscape it describes; but that may not worry you. Still, it's a good enough guide to discovering the West Midlands and, without knowledge of other alternatives, give it your best shot.

The author has two other Meridian books available on walks in Shropshire and Staffordshire:
Walks to Wet Your Whistle ISBN 1 869922 41 7 / 6.95
and
More Walks to Wet Your Whistle ISBN 1 869922 36 0 / 6.95

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