Friday, 1 February 2013

Scottish Watershed


Chris Townsend in TGO wrote recently about his intention to walk the Scottish watershed. Chris  was inspired by Peter Wright’s Ribbon of Wilderness, after being dismissive about Dave Hewitt’s earlier Walking the Watershed. I found some critical reviews of Wright’s book, but I have not read it, so can’t comment, but I was bowled over with Hewitt’s book and can’t understand why Townsend was not enthusiastic.


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Walking the Watershed - David Hewitt (ISBN - 0 9522680 1 9)

What is it really like, to experience a serious long distance backpack?

Read Dave Hewitt’s book and you will absorb the whole atmosphere.

This is an honest and comprehensive journal of Dave’s 80 day, 850 mile walk of the Scottish watershed, which included over 100,000 metres of ascent and 45 Munros. The walk was done in 1987.

Writing a daily account without endless repetition is not easy, but my interest never wavered due to an identifiable and pleasing style, with avoidance of clichés, and frequent use of original and often amusing similie and metaphor. 

Dave fearlessly records his low points, and the doubts he had from time to time as well as giving us uplifting word pictures of the best of Scotland’s landscape.

It is interesting to learn that a long trip like this takes on a different dimension which only becomes apparent after a couple of weeks or so, as you begin to see it as a way of life, with a relevant adjustment to the mental approach.

Dave describes the rambling thoughts and motivations and uncertainties drifting through the mind as he plods along, and much of this will, I am sure, be familiar to fellow backpackers.

Although walked in 1987 the book was not published until 1994, and I do wonder about the amount of detail. Either Dave kept an unusually comprehensive journal, or he has a phenomenal memory.  

If you have climbed a good number of Munros, or completed the lot, you will have the added attraction of visiting familiar venues and comparing notes, and sparking off many memories, but its best attribute is in conveying palpably what it is like, in all respects, to trek through wild landscape for an extended period with the sometimes pressure of achieving a goal you have set for yourself.

9 comments:

afootinthehills said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
afootinthehills said...

Try again. I've not read Dave's book but he's a fine writer as I recall. He reviewed 'Hamish's Mountain Walk' in the SMC Journal when the second edition was published, and it's one of the best crafted and thoughtful reviews I've read.

The Lancaster will be delayed. I have no No 163 green paint left!

bowlandclimber said...

Thanks for the info on a book I had not heard of. When I used to subscribe to the TGO mag I always enjoyed Dave Hewitt's pieces. Often a bit irreverent from what I remember.
Maybe I should start getting a walking magazine again to keep me up to date.
Anyhow a copy of the said book is winging its way in the post to me as we speak [or rather type]

Martin Rye said...

There was a fair old row about who made the route up and the like not long ago. I shall have to now read both accounts. Seems a fine idea for a walk.

beatingthebounds said...

I didn't know of this book Conrad - looks really interesting. Dave Hewitt always seems to me to be quite a character. I think I saw him on BBC4 last year in a program about Munro bagging.
Mark

Sir Hugh said...

All - Thanks for the comments. This seems to have stirred up a bit of interest. I think I should in fairness read the Wright book to get a balance., so I will try and slot this into my lengthy reading list and write a post.

Martin - you hint at to some old controversy about claiming the route. From Hewitt's book I have no doubt that he conceived the idea himself, whether or not anybody else had thought of it before, and he says that he thinks that his must have been the first traverse. Maybe somebody else has done it, but I don't think that detracts from Dave's achievement in any way. A route like this is unique every time.

afootinthehills said...

I think Dave Hewitt commented at some length about this on CT's post on the subject.

afootinthehills said...

Here's the link http://www.christownsendoutdoors.com/2012/12/walking-watershed-of-scotland.html

Sir Hugh said...

Afoot - Thanks for that Gibson. I have posted a comment on that thread as follows:

I have just come across this correspondence after reading Dave's book and posting a review on my blog, conradwalks.blogspot.com " Scottish Watershed" - 31st January 2013.

In retrospect, some of the things I wrote in the post, and subsequent comments may have been phrased differently armed with much more information from this thread, especially relating to the original conception of the walk.

I have also posted a copy of the review from my post on Amazon.

The important thing is achieving what is satisfying for you and knowing you have given something your best shot within your own parameters.

Thanks to Dave for his splendid book, and good luck to Chris on the walk. I look forward to reading his reports.