Becoming a writer


Image courtesy of Mark Richards. By permission

I am moving to the point of becoming a full-time writer, currently I have a small part-time job which pays for a few things, but it isn’t a job that is satisfying. Having just delivered my first manuscript to the publisher, the sense of fulfilment this has given me has pointed the way forward. Walden said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation”, very true.

The book was commissioned by Cicerone November 2015 and had to be delivered by 30th June 2017 so quite a long project. I got the commission by one of those acts of fate. Sometime back I thought it would be good to take people out on a walk and then have an evening meal and a guest speaker. It didn’t come off, but in approaching a speaker I struck up a friendship with guide-book author Mark Richards.

It was Marks wonderful book of the High Peak that I had picked up in 1988. I loved the hand drawn pictures and the hand written text. So Mark was a natural choice to ask as guest speaker. As I say the event didn’t take place, but Mark wanted to explore the Peak District again and asked if I would like to accompany him. We had a few days out, a memorable one on Bamford Moor where I dragged Mark through chest high bracken to have lunch on a stone, whilst all the time hoping he didn’t realise that I had lost the path.

One day Mark broached the subject of me doing the new book. I couldn’t believe it but grabbed the chance. A walk and a meeting with the publisher and then a contract landed on the doorstep and I was off a running.

Lots had changed since Mark wrote High Peak. CROW for one had opened up many new areas, including Bamford Moor. Environmentally the moors were changing too. Now it wasn’t about draining them and denuding the land. Today it is about regeneration, seeding, natural species, wildlife. So lots to do.

I deliberately did not read Marks High Peak book or any other on the subject. I wanted this to be a personal view. Hopefully that is what I have achieved.

The image above is from Marks book and shows a volunteer Ranger stood by the Ashway Cross above Dove Stones. I remembered the image and thought it would be nice to recreate it as I am a Ranger too. So I hung around until three old boys came along and agreed to take the photo.

Me by the Ashway Cross. It didn’t look safe enough to lean on!

Weirdly, one of the old boys said, “There is an image in my guide-book like that”, and out he got Marks book, the only guide he needed. The image in the book is the one at the top of this page. The photo below shows the man holding his treasured possession, Marks High Peak Walks.


So there you have it. The whole thing comes full circle. I cannot thank Mark enough for launching my writing career, having faith in me and most importantly penning those beautiful books that started it all off.

If you want to view Marks work, visit his website here

A small step of excitement

Nelsons Monument on Birchen Edge from "Victory"
Nelsons Monument on Birchen Edge from “Victory”

I have been commissioned to write my first book, which is as exciting to me as it was for Neil stepping off that ladder for the first time. Life just doesn’t get better.

It’s about walks in the Dark Peak. I am currently in the research phase, going out on walks, taking photos, dictating routes, making GoPro vids.

Seeing the area I love through the eyes of other people has given me pause for thought on where to go. I envisage a man and women visiting the area for the first time. They have a whole year to spend discovering the area, but know nothing about it to start with. I have carved the Dark Peak, it’s my version of the Dark Peak as none officially exists, up into sections each with a taster walk, a couple of reasonable days out and a few epics to grind the grit and peat well and truly in to the soul.

There are the usual hot spots, Mam Tor, Kinder Downfall, Stanage Edge, Salt Cellar, icons of grit. I also think we need to act on CROW and get away from the defined footpaths and head out across featureless moorland and on down into those secluded cloughs, real excitement and a real problem describing a route without resorting to grid references, bearings, pacing and timing. It’s a challenge.

Going off path brings in logistical problems that simply didn’t exist when I started walking in the area back in 1974. Getting around was simple, you joined the queues at Sheffield Pond Street Bus Station for wherever it was you wanted to go that Sunday morning and hopped on with everyone else. The bus dropped you at the allotted time somewhere remote from where you set off. You can’t do that today. No buses and no bus stops. And if there are buses its not guaranteed it will run. So it’s the car. Which means circular walks and parking in remote, tight little lay-bys. I should point out here that I am of the wainwright school of walking, one walker is sufficient, two is tolerable, any bigger groups are just a nuisance.

Then there is walking across moorland. Most of the upper moorland is grouse moor. Managed to produce a crop of stupid birds who fly in a low, very straight line towards a fat stupid human, generally a male, with a gun. A lot now falls under the open access agreements of The CROW Act. Which means you can wander at will and should, for exploring new areas is all part of walking. It also means that the moors can be and often are closed to the public, either for shooting or management. You can be asked to leave and technically you are probably trespassing, so it’s best to check on the CROW website which moors are closed and when. Meaning access to the moors is now dependent on access to the internet. Back in the old days, it used to be a few chosen words with a gamekeeper followed by a game of cat and mouse as you tried to evade them whilst still crossing the moor you had just been instructed to leave, such is progress.

A guide book may seem a bit outdated, old technology of no real relevance to today. After all you can download any number of walks in a flash onto a smartphone and have that take you along without any effort from yourself. I don’t suppose there is anything wrong in that, it gives Mountain Rescue plenty to do when the phone has died and the person is lost, late and trembling. I like the feel of paper though and to sit flicking through routes and interesting facts whilst my finger traces a line on a map. There is something comforting about that.