Book research – four interviews

20180915_112736I have always said that I really like the research phase so much more than the writing task when working on a book. Over the weekend I did four great interviews around the latest subject I am trying to write about.

The interviews were with: a successful sports business man; a former miner turned cyclist; a former National Park Ranger who now works for the John Muir Trust; and a policy officer at the Friends of the Lake District. Anyone who knows me well may be able to work out the common thread between these four, and may even be able to identify some of the individuals. I am being a bit coy about the subject of the manuscript I am working on just now, but I have told enough people and given enough clues (above) that it will filter out soon enough.

I now have several hours of audio files to transcribe, and then filter the resulting text for the interesting/relevant material (and quotes), and then try to make it into a readable storyline. Although I do see the research and writing as separate activities they do merge, in that once I have researched one particular strand I do try write that part of the story soon after, whilst it is fresh. So, I will be doing that in the weeks to come, whilst also working out which sub-plot to investigate next, and to start the process of finding sources and people to speak to on that topic.

Although this was a ‘working’ weekend, I also had time for some relaxing. So I took in a less-frequented Wainwright in my continuing quest to complete the 214. Sale Fell is the most northerly of the North Western Fells (by Wainwright’s seven book division). It is an easy stroll from the Pheasant Inn and makes a fine circular walk if you head up the slopes to the east and come off on the lovely grassy western ridge to finish past the lovely St Margaret’s Church. You see some familiar peaks from unusual angles from the summit (see image at the top of this blog post).

20180915_152317I also went to the Keswick Museum to see the Man and Mountain: Chris Bonington exhibition. The best of it for me was the short film that is shown on a loop, where he talks emotionally about the loss of friends in the high mountains. It is on till January. I was also fascinated by the Musical Stones of Skiddaw – a lithophone that is on display, that you can play if you have a mind to, and the skills not to be embarrassed.

You can’t fail to eat well in the Lake District, and I have some favourites that I always try to squeeze in. I had no problem in making my way to Wilfs (twice!), the Fellpack, and the Old Keswickian at various times in the trip.

Dale Head fell raceAlways keen to see a fell race where possible, I went down Borrowdale on the Sunday to watch the wonderfully low-key Dale Head Fell Race. It used to be the women’s alternative to the Borrowdale race when they ‘weren’t allowed’ to run long fell races. It is now organised by Keswick AC, and is run as part of the Borrowdale Shepherd’s Meet. I walked out to the field where the runners strike up the fells, and then back to the show field in time to see Ted Ferguson (an under 23 from Borrowdale Fellrunners) come striding home. I bumped into, and had a chat with, Billy Bland and Carl Bell as they watched the runners coming down the lane to the finish. Also took some time to take in the fascinating sheep and dog judging at the Shepherd’s Meet.

Borrowdale Shepherds MeetThe last interview of the trip was on site at the High Borrowdale location where research on stabilising land, slowing down stream flows and re-creating upland hay meadows is taking place. It was fascinating to hear about the Friends of the Lake District and their campaigning and project work. The interview was nearly a washout (literally) as I approached the site on the wrong side of the river Borrow and had to make an slightly risky river crossing, whereby I slipped and went in to bumbag depth. My Sony Dictaphone was damp and refused to play at first, but by a bit of warming, drying, praying and battery changing eventually was OK.

20180917_120500I may ask for permission to put up the transcript of the interview as I think it is a fascinating story, especially of the re-creation of upland hay meadows, which has been a great success. For now here is the description from the Friends’ website:

High Borrowdale is situated in a locality described by Wainwright as “the most beautiful valley outside the Lake District”, however the valley is now part of the Lake District thanks to the national park extension in 2016. Through the extensive work of our volunteers this land has been transformed into a stunning landscape haven for wildlife and people. We have re-created two upland hay meadows, restored two barns, stabilised a derelict farm house, re-built 5km of dry stone wall and planted 10,000 native trees – ash, oak, rowan, holly, hawthorn, alder and willow – to enhance the habitats and landscape and help stabilise erosion.

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One response to “Book research – four interviews”

  1. Meanwood Rambler says :

    Hi Steve – I also enjoyed the Dale Head race on Sunday (as a runner), and if I’d known Billy Bland was watching I might have tried a bit harder! Just re-reading your blog, it occurred to me – as, like you, I enjoy writing about this fellrunning lark as well as doing it, and because I’ve enjoyed all your previous books, that if you wanted any help with some of the more laborious aspects of preparing the next one – eg transcribing interviews, proofreading etc – then I’d be happy to lend a hand. Let me know if so. Best of luck with the writing either way – must be good to be cracking on with the next book shortly after the previous one’s come out…. Regards. Dave Middlemas

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