Outdoor Focus Summer 2018 - Page 8

Book reviews Roly Smith There’s Always the Hills Cameron McNeish Sandstone Press, £19.99 (hb) H eard the one about the Scotsman, the Welshman and the Englishman? Well if you haven’t you don’t know much about the history of The Great Outdoors (the magazine, that is). They – Cameron McNeish, Peter Evans and Roger Smith – worked together on the title for several years after McNeish became editor in 1990. The strange story of how that came about is related in McNeish’s revealing autobiography. McNeish was a keen rock climber at the time and editor of Climber, but was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the way the sport was going. “Climbing walls were being built all over the country and many climbers were treating them like gymnasia,” he writes. “Others had virtually given up climbing outside and, along with the explosion of climbing walls, inevitably came competition climbing.” So after he and Evans had enjoyed a glorious autumn afternoon’s climbing on the Etive Slabs on Beinn Trilleachean in 1989, Evans, then editor of The Great 8 Outdoor focus | summer 2018 Outdoors and admittedly a better climber than McNeish, jokingly suggested that maybe they should swap jobs. The rest, as they say, is history. McNeish became the campaigning editor of The Great Outdoors in 1990 and transformed it into the serious hillwalking and backpacking magazine it is today. McNeish’s honest and sincere autobiography is filled with the names of the people who have influenced his life – from John Muir and Henry Thoreau to Chris Brasher (who gave him the title), Tom Weir and Bill Murray. But the interesting personal narrative of how McNeish graduated from a promising junior athlete and later youth hostel warden into one of Scotland’s most respected outdoor voices is interrupted by detailed route descriptions of some of the long walks he has completed. These range from expeditions through the great inselberg mountains of Torridon and the ‘Rough Bounds’ of Knoydart, to a proposed Scottish National Trail from the Borders to Cape Wrath and treks through the Alps, Jordan and the Himalayas. McNeish’s transformation from magazine editor to TV personality is thoroughly explored but in the final analysis, it is his enduring love of and respect for the Scottish mountains which shines through on every page. His final advice, particularly apposite after an acute foot arch problem was eventually diagnosed: “Go and enjoy (the hills) while you can, before age and infirmity rob you. Love and respect them and they will be kind to you, offering far more than you can give.” Walking in Northumberland Vivienne Crow Cicerone Press, £12.95 (pb) N orthumberland has been described as England’s Empty Quarter, but there can be few other counties with as much history crammed into every corner. From its glorious castle-crowned coast to Hadrian’s Wall snaking across the neck of England, the past is close to the surface wherever you may wander. Add to that the wild, rugged landscapes of The Cheviots, the Simonside Hills and the desolate north Pennines, Northumberland surely has something for everyone. So this thorough and comprehensive updating and revision of Alan Hall’s previous Northumberland title for Cicerone, first published in 1998, is especially welcome. And with such a prolific and knowledgeable guide as Vivienne Crow, you know you can’t go far wrong. The new guide is up to the usual high standard we expect of her and of her publishers. Clear, Ordnance Survey mapping is matched by the author’s crisp and informative prose, making this the ideal companion to