Monday, 14 September 2009


There's nothing more fundamental than the ground we tread on, and its different forms in the North have done much to create the region's image - dark sandstone, or the evocatively named 'millstone grit', or the crumbling cliffs of the North Sea coast where stone gives way to what is little more than mud. True North makes a point of the way that other geologies have had less of a look-in historically: the shining white limestone of the scarp which runs through Yorkshire, taking in places such as Doncaster and Conisbrough as well as York; or the lovely warm red stone of Cumbria's Eden Valley. I love reading about stone. especially when the writers' are fellow-enthusiasts, which applies in all these books. The Building Stone Heritage of Leeds is another of my top titles: two academics potter round the city, discovering where McDonald's marble fascia comes from (down to the exact quarry in Italy) and the like. It's by Francis G Dimes and Murray Mitchell, published by Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society 1996, reprinted 2008. The Phil & Lit, incidentally, are a doughty crew who organise descents down Gaping Ghyll. I wouldn't dare go but my wife, a Phil & Lit council member, has - and she got a glass of champagne at the bottom.
Talking of caves, I enjoy curling up with caving guides such as this one: Northern Caves 1: Wharfedale and the North-East, by D.Brook, G.M.Davies, M.H.Long and P.F.Ryder, Dalesman Books 1988. The text is technical but exciting for all that, (I've illustrated the back of the book jacket here to add to that sense of potential drama) and some colourful historical references inch in, much as the potholers themselves do, underground. Anything by published by the Dalesman is to be recommended, Another short but fascinating potholing book is Yorkshire's Hollow Mountains by the former editor of the Dalesman, Bill Mitchell, Castleberg 1989. Again, anything by him is worth getting hold of. Like most visitors to the mountains, I also much enjoy watching the human flies on places such as Dow Crag above Coniston or the overhanging, Neanderthal brow of Kilnsey Crag in Wharfedale. Like the cave literature, a volume such as Yorkshire Limestone, edited by Graham Destroy and published by the Yorkshire Mountaineering Club. A final piece of fascinating erudition, combining geology with archaeology, is Prehistoric Habitation Sites on the Limestone Uplands of Eastern Cumbria by J and P J Cherry; a race to check stuff in advance of a British Gas pipeline. Cumberland & Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society 1987. I bought this after doing the Coast to Coast Walk for my guide to that matchless path The Coast to Coast Walk, Aurum, 2006 & 2009. Cherry & Cherry illuminate the often bafflingly modest remains on this eerie plateau. Another walk-related book, more of a booklet really but a great little guide by an expert geologist is Geology, Scenery and History; a walk in Yewdale by Murray Mitchell (he of the Leeds building stone), Cumbria RIGS 2004.

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