A New Angle on the Munrosby Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com May/2012
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If you heaped together all the printed matter concerning Munros the resultant mound might be large enough to qualify for inclusion on the 3000-ers list in its own right. But genuinely novel angles are thin on the ground. Though Munro maps have been produced before, none are quite as unusual as MunrOverground.
Modelled on schematic maps of railway networks this new map gives a unique stylised perspective on the 283 Munros, plus many smaller hills such as Quinag and Suilven, and key landmarks from Cape Wrath to the Clachaig Inn. Peter Burgess crafted the map following the success of his first creation Tubular Fells, a topological map of the Lakeland Fells which was inspired by Harry Beck's iconic interpretation of the London Underground (see UKH news here).
We asked Peter, a former geography teacher from London and founder of the Online Fellwalking Club, to explain the thinking behind his new map.
'I've thoroughly enjoyed mapping Scotland' Peter said. 'It's a place with a great heritage and landscape to boot. Looking at a large Ordnance Survey map of Scotland could be quite overwhelming, but with all the detail stripped away to reveal the basic information you can see the Munros and their relationship with one another more clearly.'
'Like Tubular Fells it's certainly a little out of the ordinary, but I hope it shows the relationships within the Scottish landscape in an enlightening and eccentric way.'
'Tubular Fells has been received well despite my own and others' initial misgivings' Peter tells us.
'Before my father passed away he saw the map, but didn't think it was a viable product to sell. He was the first person to mention Harry Beck to me, the draughtsman who designed the London Underground map, and although he could see the merit of my design my Dad really didn't think that the map would sell. He thought the design would remind people too much of London's urban landscape and that those who love Lakeland wouldn't like that. Others thought the same, (a fellrunner mentioned the very thing on a blog) but after selling nearly 7500 copies I can see that people do appreciate it. What's really great is the £6000 that was given to Fix the Fells last November, a figure that keeps on rising. It will be great to help raise money for the John Muir Trust and Scottish Mountain Rescue through sales of the new map.'
'After Tubular Fells I'd initially been thinking about the Himalayas or the Rocky Mountains for my next project, and hadn't planned to produce a map for Scotland at all. But almost immediately people started asking if I had plans to produce one for the Scottish Munros too.'
Inevitably MunrOverground was a much larger and more complex project than Tubular Fells, taking about four months to complete.
'I knew even before starting to plan it that the it would look much more like a national rail network than one belonging in one city. It was much more difficult to design and I immediately took the decision to use the Great Glen as the main axis of the map. In this way, the map increases its eccentric approach as north is not to the top of the map. I printed a base map onto A4 papers, taped them all together, plotted the Munros with the map on the floor of my study and went from there. The biggest problems with the map were its larger coverage and of course the gaelic names. Luckily I have a good friend liz Lemal, once landlady of Britain's remotest pub The Old Forge at Inverie, who proof read MunrOverground for me. Hopefully I haven't made too many errors!'
So how many of the Munros has Peter done himself?
'In total, about 40. My most recent Munro was actually the biggest. After putting it off for years I climbed Ben Nevis after the MunrOverground map launch last week. I climbed it via Coire Leis in full winter conditions. It was an astonishing experience and with it being out of season there were very few people on the mountain. I saw no-one until the summit.'
'I've climbed lots of the lesser hills too, with Suilven being one of my favourites. Hills aside one of my favourite areas is around the Ratagan Pass near the village of Glenelg, which has the last remaining ferry to Skye, a valley with some fantastic brochs and Sandaig, the isolated spot where Gavin Maxwell lived when he wrote Ring of Bright Water. This area received special attention on the map! In creating this map I've not only learned a lot about Scotland and its fantastic mountains, but like the tube map itself, it begins to make sense.'
If MunrOverground proves a success Peter may consider extending his coverage to other upland areas of the UK.
'People have already mentioned Snowdonia to me and even The Yorkshire Dales and some other areas of the UK. Perhaps it's too predictable to continue to Wales, so I guess people will have to keep their ears to the ground.'
Both MunrOverground and Tubular Fells are available here.