LFTOer Book Review: The Backbone of England

Title The Backbone of England
Author Andrew Bibby
Publisher Frances Lincoln Ltd
ISBN 978-0-7112-2825-2
Price �20
Reviewed by Peter Royle (pjroyle)
This is a great book. But don't go to it looking for a walking guide book, or a detailed diary of Bibby's walk, because that's not what it is.

As the subtitle says, it is a book about "landscape and life on the Pennine watershed".
This is a very well-written book, as you would expect from a journalist and editor of a number of "freedom to roam" walking guides celebrating the Countryside and Rights Of Way act.

It is also a very well researched, informative book, but Bibby presents his information well, in a very readable style.

He never falls into the trap, as some "informative" books do, of simply throwing a list of names, places and dates at the reader.

Rather, the whole thing is based upon a walk he actually undertook, with the facts inserted subtly, where necessary and relevant.
He takes as the basis for the book the rather original concept of a walk along the actual watershed of the Pennines.

He manages to follow it almost exactly, except where to do so would be to trespass, or is physically impossible, and makes the whole journey sound much more interesting than a geography lesson.

Throughout the journey, he constantly gives us a picture of the influence of Man on the land - for good or bad.
Bibby obviously has a great love of the countryside, which comes across clearly in his writing.

He writes with clarity and passion on such varied subjects as moorland conservation, the history of communist activism as it relates to access rights, archaeology, sheep farming - even astronomy.

I got the impression he knows the Dark Peak area better than most others, but that might just be my own bias showing.

His descriptions of the conservation and reclamation work being carried out in the Bleaklow and Black Hill areas are particularly well-researched and interesting.
Over all, this is a very readable, very enjoyable book which manages the difficult task of being interesting and informative without the slightest hint of being over-academic.

I would recommend it to anyone who loves the outdoors - whether for walking or work.