For the last 18-or-so months I've been working on a new book that combines my passion for Lakeland with my love of maps, graphic design and infographics. And finally I'm pleased to announce it's out and, as they say, in all good bookshops :-)
I have been fascinated by infographics for years. Ever since reading National Geographic magazines as a kid. Distillation of complex data in a creative and artistic way is not as easy as it looks (as I was to discover), and some of the classic National Geographic spreads are works of art.
My interest in infographics was further wakened by David McCandless' wonderful visualisations in the iconic Information is Beautiful book. And as I read I thought, we need something like this for Cumbria..
...So here it is. 134 pages of maps, illustrations and infographics celebrating the unique culture, landscape, history, humour, dialect, wildlife and people of the Lake District and Cumbria.
What are the most popular fells in Lakeland?
Where in Cumbria is happiest?
What’s the number one reason for Mountain Rescue callouts?
Which village is nearly all holiday homes?
And how can you visit 24 pubs in 12 hours?
Featuring thousands of datasets number-crunched and then visualised in myriad different ways, this is not only a gorgeous coffee table book, it is also a graphical state of the nation, revealing how we farm, how we live, where we're pointing our lenses, where red squirrels still thrive, how many people (don't) want zip wires, the rise and rise of the tourist population... and much, much more.
There are many spreads that became favourites of mine. I close the bog with a brief narrative about three of them.
The Fred Whitton challenge is an annual cycling sportif that takes place around the Lakes that is known worldwide for its notorious ascents (and often lethal descents), not least over Wrynose and Hardknott passes. This visualisation used GPS data overlaid onto OS base maps using elevation modelling to provide the topographical map along the bottom. The rest of the magic was woven by designer Andrew Chapman.
The issue of second homes in the Lakes is a thorny one, with locals being priced out of the housing market by the ever-growing number of second and holiday home owners. It’s a problem that’s getting worse – particularly on the fringes of the National Park.
In this visualisation I took census data from the two most recent periods – 2001 and 2011 – to compare levels of second-home ownership throughout the Park. The data confirmed what locals are saying; in 2001 Caldbeck, for example, only had 16 second homes. In 2011 that figure had rocketed to 58 – a rise of more than 300%. In the village of Elter Water 85% of houses have no permanent residents.
I had planned an infographic about the farming calendar from the start. The final illustration - made by the multi-talented Evelyn Sinclair - ended up being a tough proposition. Partly because there's an awful lot more going on on the hill farm than any graphic can show; partly because a lot that happens - particularly around tupping time - is highly technical, not lending itself to quick-read infographics; and partly because the cycle of farming activity doesn't have an obvious start and end point. Nevertheless, with help from Trevor, my local farmer, who patiently explained the minutiae of pregnancy cycles and grazing regimes over a cup of tea or three, we got there in the end.
You can look at spreads in more detail by zooming in on them on the front page slideshow.
And you can buy the book from our shop here.