A few months back a friend asked me about my outdoor writing, along the lines of “But what do you DO?” I explained it something like this – “I go for a walk, I write about it, people throw money at me”. (Only in my dreams, that last bit!) In reality it’s nothing like as simple as that, and the walking part takes only a fraction of the total time.
You might think that walking the route is the most obvious first stage in the process, but it usually starts before then. Most of my writing at the moment is for Walking World (WW) or Discovery Walking Guides (DWG) and depending on what the project is I usually begin by sitting at a desk, doing the planning. Digital mapping is used to speed things up, sometimes assisted by Google Earth. When I have worked out a suitable route and printed a map, it’s time to get out.
You will be able to recognise me if we meet on the hills – I’m the bloke talking into a digital voice recorder with two GPS receivers and a camera strapped to my rucksack. I use a Garmin eTrex GPS receiver to record positions on the ground (MM call them ‘waymarks’ DWG call them ‘waypoints’) – the Garmin also records a ‘track’ of where I have been, an important requirement for DWG. It’s simple to operate, even with gloves, and I can change batteries on the hill if I need to.
I also use a Memory Map A2800 GPS receiver. This has a moving map display, which saves a lot of time working out exactly where I am when recording a waymark/point – like the Garmin, it also records a ‘track’, which can be a useful backup if I have a problem with the Garmin ‘track log’. I also record a voice description of the route, and take loads of photographs, using the camera as a notebook. I’m sometimes joined by photographer mate John Bamber, who adds even more pics.
All the recorded data goes back to ‘Mission Control’, where I download the GPS tracks, voice recordings and images onto the computer. The next stage will take several days – MM want their routes split into ‘legs’ with a description of less than 120 words of text plus a photo, and DWG want timings between waypoints taken from the ‘track log’, and fewer photos. ‘Spikes’ on the ‘track log’ have to be cleaned up, photos edited and the text written in the correct style, depending on who it is for.
Neither WW nor DWG want loads of ‘pretty photos’, which is where this blog comes in useful, giving me a chance to splash pics of great scenery on the internet, rather than letting them languish on a computer hard-drive. Once the route is finished the completed text, map and images are all emailed to the correct destination, and I get on with the next route.
At the last count, I had 68 routes on the WW database, covering all the major upland areas of the UK from Ben Nevis to Bodmin Moor. I’ve also had a Guide to the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge walk published by DWG, with a walking guide to Snowdonia currently in preparation for them. It all gives me a great excuse (if one were needed) to visit some fantastic mountain scenery – see you here next week for more of the same then!
Text and images © Paul Shorrock – Images tagged (JB) © John Bamber