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Pompous and prolix....
on 4 January 2012
Once more I find a Cicerone guide that manages to be heavy in weight but light on detail. There's an obvious reason in this case. It is the fault of the author's clunky and cumbersome writing style. Here you will find a "variably apparent path" and a fell summit described as "a loose affiliation surmounted with a more concerted cairn". You are invited "to regain the wooded environs..." after passing "the tumultuous permanently shady hydro-sanctuary" Read that again. Does it mean anything?
The author is excessively fond of explaining placenames but these interpretations often appear speculative and some are so far-fetched, you wonder if the author put them in for a bet, or to see if anyone is still awake. Ravenfold Crag - the elevated peak where the black-clad bird of prey gloats over his sacrificial carrion besides the enclosure for gathering sheep - is my invention in the style of the author.
He never misses the chance to point out a tautological toponym, although most adults realise that these are fairly common in England and therefore not especially noteworthy. His zeal does not however, prevent a reference to "Gatesgarthdale valley", which is, since dale means valley, of course, a tautology. Equally schoolboy-ish are his cack-handed forays into alliterative prose - on Scafell Pike, it seems, "resident ravens take their pick of residual refreshment". Elsewhere, watch out for "mischievous mist" and classically, Roman remains are alluded to as a "Celt-calming communication network". Did roads really have a calming effect on the Celts, or was it only the amateurish author's awful addiction to assonance?
"Climb the ensuing paddock to a gate and stile beside the open Thirlmere supplementary water channel, which appears to slip beneath a giant roche moutonnée - a French term describing ice-sculpted rock." Tortuous prose like this typically verbose comment seem much harder to negotiate and surmount than any Lakeland fell or rock-face. Or how about "As the ridge steepens, a grooved path works down the outcropped nose, with pitching in its latter stages serving the inevitable increased attention from visitors provided by the hause-top car park."?
Trying to be positive, the photographs are excellent and the suggested walks are an interesting and varied introduction to the different regions and landscapes of the Lake District but to summarise this book, I can only quote the author and say "excitement... must be tempered by the severity of the fall and attention given to its nuances." whatever that means!