Review: Trailblazer South West Coast Path
The series is now complete, with the recent release of the third volume and between the two, the release of the second.
- Volume 1 – the baby of the bunch as it turned out – covers the first 124 miles of the path from Minehead to Bude
- Volume 2 – covers the next 289 miles from Bude to Plymouth and
- Volume 3 – covers the final 217 miles from Plymouth to Poole Harbour
Together, the three tomes provide a highly detailed and comprehensive guide to the 630 mile route; Britain’s longest official path and a serious undertaking for anyone considering the walk. Henry Stedman, a long-standing Trailblazer author was joined by Joel Newton to bring these books together.
In terms of their vital statistics:
- Volume 1 weighs 259g, it has 210 pages, including 68 large-scale route maps and guides to 30 towns and villages
- Volume 2 weighs 350g, it has 352 pages, including 142 large-scale route maps and guides to 81 towns and villages
- Volume 3 weighs 328g, it has 336 pages, including 88 large-scale route maps and guides to 48 towns and villages
Anyone who reads this blog will know that I’m a huge fan of the trailblazer guides. From my first experience of them when I walked the Coast to Coast back in 2006, using Steadman’s guide during the day to walk the route and reading the notes in the evening from Wainwright’s book. This series has done nothing to change that.
The expertise of the authors is outstanding and this shines through as you read their narrative, the skill of the cartographer, Nick Hill, has reached new levels of proficiency and I’d rather walk with these maps than with the OS maps for this particular route.
That statement probably needs some explanation. I would never normally walk a long distance route without an OS map, in particular the Explorer (1:25k scale) series. They provide an incredible amount of detail and once away from the open expanse of the hills they help you navigate through complex farmland and urban environments.
A coastal path is somewhat different. It is quite difficult to gauge the severity of gradients on a coastal path, just using the OS maps. The contour lines tend to be too close together and are complicated by other features. The route too is often hard to follow and is it overlaid by many other symbols and map icons.
The Trailblazer maps cut away all the non-essential information and leave you with the detail you need to follow the route. Gradients are indicated by arrows built into the path symbol, which may not sound very intuitive, but works extremely well. You can easily see how steep the slope is ahead and in what direction (down or up) it goes. The position of little gems like benches, water taps and the like is something you won’t get on the OS maps.
As such, I’d be happy to walk with these book in place of the OS maps – saving a considerable amount of weight into the bargain and having all the peripheral detail such as town plans, accommodation information, pubs, cafes, shops, Post Offices as well as opening times for many of these places, website information and contact details.
The added bonus of approximate pricing for all the hotels and B&Bs mentioned in the guide will help you short-list your accommodation before you arrive in the village. As a solo walker, the inclusion of things like sole-occupancy surcharges is a wonderful addition.
As with all their new guide books, the South West Coast Path series have GPS waypoints that can be downloaded from the Trailblazer website and these match up with the references in the maps in the books. The website also includes updates to the guides that may have been added since original publication.
It’s great to see Trailblazer undertaking new projects, covering new paths and adding to their UK walking guides. The SWCP is a huge project and the use of three volumes was absolutely necessary in order to maintain the level of detail and professionalism that goes into their guides – I’m so pleased to see that standards have been maintained, even across 630 miles of footpath.