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back to Book Reviews

Scafell – Portrait of a Mountain
by Bill Birkett
Published by Frances Lincoln
ISBN: 978-0-7112-2724-8

ScafellAfter his books about three of the Lake District valleys (Langdale, Borrowdale (the one west of Keswick) and The Duddon Valley), Bill Birkett has turned his gaze (and camera lens) to England’s highest range of mountains, the Scafell group.

The book’s title is something of a misnomer, in that it is not just about the single summit of Scafell but the whole of the Scafell Massif across to Great End.

After an introduction that includes details of the geology, climate, flora and fauna of the area, there is a section about the history including, particularly, the growth of tourism and walking activities on this group of fells.

The next five chapters contain details and photographs of the approaches from five different valleys, Wasdale, Borrowdale, Langdale, the Duddon and Eskdale. In these chapters, Bill Birkett uses photographs rather than words to portray this area to the reader and there are some stunning panoramas especially on the double-page spreads, which measure 18 x 12 inches. The picture on pages 62–3 is particularly striking; it was taken looking from the summit of Scafell Pike down Borrowdale to Derwent Water and stretching to Skiddaw and Blencathra beyond.

After the approaches, the next 50 or so pages of photographs concentrate on the Scafell Massif itself, after which there is a section giving details of the history of climbing on Scafell.

Bill Birkett’s A Year in the Life of the Duddon Valley won the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild ‘Best Outdoor Book’ in 2007. I rate this new book as an even better publication and would be surprised if it doesn’t pick up a similar accolade in 2008.

reviewed by John Burland - Member No. 2