Walking the walk

Sheffield-born Chris Goddard, author of The West Yorkshire Moors guide for walkers
Sheffield-born Chris Goddard, author of The West Yorkshire Moors guide for walkers

Christopher Goddard reckons he has the perfect job ibeing paid to walk footpaths and now he has begun to share his enjoyment with highly individual guidebooks for walkers .

Born in Sheffield, he now lives in Hebden Bridge and has produced a book covering the West Yorkshire Moors with hand-drawn maps and illustrations.

It charts the county’s open access moorland, parts of which were only recently made accessible to the walkers, fell-runners and antiquarians who wanted to explore them. 

These days Goddard spends three or four months of the year as a freelance rights of way and trail surveyor and the rest of the time working on his books.

Councils or national park authorities will commission him to survey the state of footpaths in a particular area, work that has taken him to some of the most beautiful parts of the country such as the Lake District, the Scottish Highlands and the Cambrian Mountains.

“Ever since I was young it’s been my hobby, poring over maps, so it was a natural thing for me to be doing,” he says. “Growing up in Oughtibridge I was always out in the woods with my brother and mapping them which is not that far removed from what I am doing now.”

In fact one of his earliest assignments was to walk the paths of North Sheffield (“one of the best networks in the country”).The purpose of the surveys is to check that access is being maintained and sometimes he will have to report on blocked paths.

His responsibility is to report on the state of the paths and it’s up to the authorities to act. “Sometimes you feel the council is using the lack of money as an excuse to do nothing which can be dispiriting.”

The West Yorkshire Moors traces each of the paths in the area and discovers the hidden features of these heights, unearthing the lost names and historical sites of even the most seemingly empty scene. Goddard also provides extensive notes and sketches on the area’s wildlife, etymology and historical background. He offers suggested routes for walkers, often far from the beaten track; each offers a new approach to these moors.

The lay-out of the book with its densely-packed handwritten text and sketches alongside the maps inevitably calls to mind Alfred Wainwright’s famous Lake District guides, an influence Goddard cannot deny.

The drawings, incidentally, took a bit of an effort. “I was never very good at art,” admits the geography graduate. “Map-making was something natural to me and historical research and the illustration fell into place later. It still doesn’t seem natural but I have got better and people seem to like them much to my surprise.”

He is already well ahead with the next book, Woodlands of Calderdale, but has long-term plans to chart the coastline of England.

The West Yorkshire Moors (£12.99 via www.westyorkshiremoors.co.uk).