I bought this book having recently walked the ridgeway national trail and thought that undertaking other sections of the greater ridgeway might be fun. But i have to say that having dipped into this book quite extensively to research another long distance trek i am left very disappointed: it really does seem to miss some of the most important fundamental points that any long distance walker requires.
For myself i undertake walks with the idea that i will be as self-sufficient as i can, camping along the way and predominantly self-catering. In planning such a trek one of the first things i base my daily itineries upon is the availability of water points upon the trail without having to wander off several miles to the nearest town/village/pub to find one. This book makes no systematic attempt to highlight water points which i find utterly exasperating: how can any guide book proposing the undertaking of a long distance trail fail to recognise the importance of water availability. It really makes me wonder what the author, Ray Qunlan, is thinking of; how does he go about planning a walk? I can only imagine he is a walker who sticks to pub, b&b, hotel accomodation and does not consider the need of walkers who are more interested in doing things on a budget and who do not intend detouring into pubs or other facilities just to top up on water. Compare this book to the Trailblazer guides,including their Ridgeway guide, and you will see what i mean. The latter guides clearly cater for all types of walker and clearly mark out all available water taps upon these national trails.
This is not the only problem i have with this book. Again compared to the Trailblazer guides this book is very poor on listing available accomodation, particularly campsites. I could find no reference to three campsites i stayed on the main ridgeway, campsites which were no further than 500 yards from the trail! Again I have to confess i am totally exasperated by this oversight. The author claims that making recommendations about the availability of accomodation (or transport links for that matter) is impossible due to changes in availability. But again compare this attitude to that of the Trailblazer guides and it begins to strike you as an excuse for poor research and lack of thoroughness. The Trailblazer guides list comprehensive details of accomodation and full contact details, likewise for transport links: the contact details mean that you can check on the current availability of these services. Ray Quinlan in this guide meanwhile simply suggests you research such information on the internet without giving any contact information or relevant internet sites: all very well, but if i wanted to research every last detail on the internet i would not have bothered purchasing this book.
Any positive points? Well the route descriptions are quite thorough, very detailed infact. Personally i find them too detailed and ponderous but at least they are thorough. However the mapping is poor i feel: the book uses os landranger mapping rather than more detailed explorer maps. Moreover the mapping is limited to just an incredibly small area around the actual trail so that getting a feel for what is around you is impossible.
Finally, the author does offer some decent insight into the history of the trail and locations upon it. These anecdotal stories and factual insights, surrounding the locations on the trail would certainly make interesting reading whilst indulging in relaxing moments along the walk.
But overall, i find this a very flawed guide which i cannot recommend to the serious trail walker, and one which i would not have purchased if i had the oppurtunity to examine it more carefully before buying. A pity, a real missed oppurtunity.