Maps are brilliant. Ordnance Survey maps, digital maps, Open Street Map, they’re all brilliant. (Google maps not so much unless you’re driving). I could lose myself for hours looking at maps, finding new places to visit and new routes to cycle or run. Mike Parker also loves maps, although he is more old school preferring paper ones over digital. I read his other book, Map Addict (read about it here), and really enjoyed it, so it wasn’t a hard decision to pick up his latest book.
In this book Mike starts off by having a moan at the plethora of new footpath signs in the village where he lives, joking that he likes the fact that he rarely sees anyone else on ‘his’ paths. He highlights how quickly footpaths were closed during the foot and mouth outbreak many years ago, and how long it took for many of them to re-open. This is an ongoing theme, with court cases against land owners who have blocked off footpaths.
Mike also covers the history behind footpaths and open access to land, which wasn’t easily won. The most famous case is the mass trespass up Kinder Scout in 1932, where 500 locals wanted access to the moors above their smog and soot filled towns. Less famously is the mass trespass up Winter Hill near Bolton, which overlooks my place of work, and which I have run up a couple of times. In 1896 10,000 people illegally walked over Winter Hill, and many of the ‘ring leaders’ end up in jail. We’ve moved on, but I still feel that too much open moorland is reserved for grouse shooting, especially in light of recent floods, where mass tree planting on these fells would greatly help.
Mike also writes about many of the more famous Long Distance Paths which criss-cross England. He even walks one of them, the Ridgeway; a very pleasant amble of 140km from Ivinghoe Beacon to Overton Hill. I would quite like to do this one day, especially as Overton Hill is near to the famous Avebury Stone Circle which me and Helen visited 18 months ago with my parents.
Back to the book in question, and if you’ve read Map Addict then you’ll know what to expect; bits of history, bits of humour and a whole load of walking.