Review: Patterdale and Mardale & The Far East. Two guidebooks by Mark Richards, Published by Cicerone. £14.95 each.

The third and fourth books in this eight-part series of guidebooks to the Lake District fells have just been published with two more due out in the autumn and the final two next spring.

Of course, at the moment due to social distancing it is impossible to go out and walk these particular fells in the Lake District but one can sit at home and read about them and plan routes and walks for when this is possible once more.

These two books cover the areas to the east of Windermere, Grasmere and Thirlmere and are situated either side of Ullswater. They are similar to the areas of the first two of Wainwright’s Pictorial Guides – The Eastern Fells and The Far Eastern Fells. In fact, the Patterdale book covers exactly the same 35 fells as in Wainwright’s Eastern Fells book. Mardale & The Far East book contains 36 fells, the same as Wainwright’s Far Eastern Fells, but three of Wainwright’s summits have been dropped and replaced by alternative summits in this new guide. The omitted fells are The Nab, The Knott and Sour Howes, but mention of each of these can be found in the chapters for Rest Dodd, Rampsgill Head and Sallows so they have not disappeared entirely. The three fells replacing them are Grayrigg Forest, Whinfell Beacon and Winterscleugh, the first two of which were featured in Wainwright’s Walks on the Howgill Fells” book.

One thing that is very obvious in these new books are the large number of additional ascents onto the fells that Mark has included. The Patterdale book contains a total of 208 routes of ascent compared with 107 in Wainwright’s Eastern Fells guide whilst Mardale & The Far East has 178 routes of ascent compared with 124 in Wainwright’s Far Eastern guide. Mark’s aim has been to try and protect these fells by presenting a diversity of route options for each and every fell and he has taken the opportunity in these books to recommend “fell friendly” routes to each summit which are less susceptible to erosion.

At the beginning of each book there is a list of starting points and which fells can be climbed from each of these. There are 38 different starting points in the Patterdale book and 41 different starting points in the Mardale & Far East book. Also there is an introduction about the area that each of the books cover, details of facilities including accommodation and getting around the area either by public transport (of which Mark is a great advocate) or private cars. There is also a section about “Fix the Fells” who do sterling work in repairing the most seriously damaged fell paths. As well as the fell ascents description each chapter has a full coloured map and ascent diagrams, details of ridge routes to neighbouring fells and in some of the chapters a drawing of the panorama from the summit. For those chapters not having a panorama, there is an on-line facility to download these from Cicerone’s website.

Finally, at the end of the book there is an alphabetical list of all 229 fells that will appear in the 8 guides with those on the book being looked at highlighted in bold. This list also contains the height of each fell and in which of the books it can be found. After the descriptions of the fells there are a number of suggested ridge or horseshoe walks, four in each of the books that link a number of fell tops together making a good day’s expedition.

These two books are the most up to date guides to these two areas of the Lakes. The Patterdale book includes Helvellyn, the most ascended fell in the Lake District but if you want to stay away from the crowds, there are many fells in the Mardale book where you are unlikely to see many, if any, people all day.

by John Burland