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Great Walks of the National Parks - Frank Duerden

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Genre: Travel / Author: Frank Duerden / Edition: New edition / Hardcover / 320 Pages / Book is published 2001-05 by Caxton Editions

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      17.10.2010 18:33
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      Walking fans will find lots to interest them here.

      Britain's national parks contain a high proportion of the best scenery, wildlife, and cultural heritage that these islands have to offer. Protected for future generations by the National Park Authorities, these are havens of peace and tranquillity, for humans and animals alike. There are fifteen national parks, spread throughout England, Scotland and Wales, with the most recent, the South Downs, designated only this year.

      Naturally, the national parks act as magnets for keen walkers; many millions of people visit them every year to pit themselves against the most challenging walks, to follow in the footsteps of famous walkers of years gone by, or simply to enjoy the scenery as countless numbers of people have previously. That the national parks exist, so that we can do so should be celebrated.

      This book, Great Walks of the National Parks was written for just this reason, to celebrate the accessible beauty and wonder that the national parks enable. The fifty two walks in the book have been carefully chosen by the author to lead the walker through some of the most beautiful areas in Britain and to show some of their most interesting features. First impressions are extremely good as this large hardback is professionally bound and printed and has a stunning image of Sweetworthy Combe in Exmoor gracing its cover.

      As the parks vary in nature, so do the walks in the book. Covering coast, rivers, lakes, moorland, and high mountains tops, there are journeys here for people of all ages and abilities. The author has been considerate to peoples' needs in writing this volume: this is not just for hardened walkers who can cope with 20 mile slogs over the mountains (although there are walks this strenuous described within its pages). Many of the walks are gentle and relatively flat so anyone with any interest in visiting the national parks will find something to suit them here.

      Routes in the ten oldest national parks are described here (the South Downs, New Forest, Cairngorms, Loch Lomond, and The Broads are not covered), with each park having four or five of its most special walks showcased. Some of the most iconic walks in Britain are contained within the book's 320 pages.

      A book like this deserves and requires good photographs of the walks it describes. The photos here are thankfully, simply stunning. Anyone who knows anything about photography understands the difficulty in taking the best images (the photographer must await the right time, weather conditions, be in exactly the right place, then compose the photo, and take the perfect exposure).

      It is obvious that a huge amount of effort went into taking the photos for this book. The layout of the book makes the most of them, too. Many are full page or half page and allow the reader to immerse him or herself in the place being described. The photographers have captured the nature of each walk: autumn colours, dynamic weather, breathtaking compositions, and ephemeral watery and misty panoramas, make the most of already beautiful locations. The photos in this volume would make a superb photography book.

      The walks themselves are each split into two sections. First is a description of the route to be followed with extremely precise directions given. All of the expected information is here, such as parking, length, ascent height, difficulty, and any special precautions that should be taken (such as use of a compass). A reference to the appropriate Ordnance Survey Landranger Map is given, too.

      In this section, the only two weaknesses of the book are to be found. In an attempt to save space, the author uses 'L' and 'R' instead of 'left' and 'right'. This may save a few characters but interrupts the flow of the writing, making it slower to read. Not ideal, in my opinion. Despite this, the routes are easy to follow and it is hard to get lost when every stile, path, and (it seems) even every rock are highlighted as identifying features.

      Helping with the route are the hand drawn maps: these are also extremely detailed with the route clearly identified. Here, however, is a second problem. Each walk has at least two maps showing the route. I find this confusing as one has to refer to two diagrams when working out how the route is structured, again not ideal.

      The second part of the text is much more readable. Here, the author takes us on a journey through the landscape and discusses its history, natural history, geology, and beauty. Numbered on the maps, the special features of the walk are fully described: whether the history of an old castle, the recent history of a human conflict, or the ancient geological processes that gave rise to a cliff or promontory, all are wonderfully elucidated for the reader.

      Some may find this information superfluous, but for me, it makes the book. I find that knowing about each feature of a walk makes it more real for me: knowing about, say, the geology and mythology of the 'Devil's Kitchen' at Cwm Idwal, or reading about the struggles ramblers endured during the 'Kinder Trespass' adds interest to the walk and I find myself enjoying it more because I understand more about where I am.

      This book succeeds on two levels. The readable text and stunning photographs successfully celebrate the national parks' inherent beauty and very existence, whilst the detailed route descriptions enable walkers to safely undertake even challenging walks in these special areas.

      This is a wonderful book to simply browse through. On the long winter evenings, next year's walks can be followed through in the mind's eye, the route can be imagined and planned, in preparation and anticipation of the real thing to come. I can highly recommend this book to anyone planning a trip to any of the ten national parks covered in this volume.

      The book is available from Amazon from only £4.50. A bargain.

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