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Blonde Two of GetOutside Champion duo TwoBlondes, Fi Darby, explains how her love of maps led to a new career as a writer and children’s author. Who knows where maps might take you!
Maps can tell stories - this is how finding Bowerman’s Nose on Dartmoor helped my write mine.
My name is Fi Darby and I am an author.
I wasn’t always an author and I didn’t always write for a living (I am also a freelance copywriter) but it was my love of the outdoors, and more specifically maps, that encouraged me to explore the outdoor places that have been the inspiration for my children’s books.
Let me be even more specific about the map in question, OS Explorer OL28 is the Ordnance Survey map of Dartmoor National Park; I have lost count of how many copies of this wonderful representation I have walked, camped and weathered my way through but I always have a copy in my rucksack (I once took it to New Zealand) and I love every line, dot and square of it (except maybe the dot at Red Lake where I once broke my ankle).
One of the things I love most about maps is that they can take me exploring even when I am sitting at the kitchen table.
Discovering place names, spotting lonely crosses (Dartmoor has many) and wondering what views are like from hills can all lead to adventures and, if you have an overactive imagination like mine, form the beginnings of stories.
My first children’s novel, The Non-Story of Ignatius Bowerman was just such a tale. Bowerman’s Nose is clearly marked on Explorer OL28 and rightly so, he is a statuesque rock formation with a turned-into-stone-by-witches legend to match and we Blondes love to visit him (we were particularly thrilled to be able to show Bowerman’s Nose off to the nations public via ITV’s Britain’s Favourite Walks: Top 100).
Once you start looking closely at a map it is easy to see all kinds of elements that could lead to a story. For me the starting point was Bowerman’s Nose but as I looked and took the map out with me to explore further, I discovered;
One landmark, that wasn’t and still isn’t on OL28 but did appear in my story, is a rock known locally as Figgie Daniel. This rock is round instead of tall and elegant like Bowerman’s Nose so it became the food-loving, rhyme talking, irritating younger sibling to Ignatius Bowerman’s pompous and forgetful older brother. As different in the story as they are on Dartmoor, Iggie and Figgie love each other but don’t meet very often.
The Non-Story of Ignatius Bowerman is part detective and part adventure as Thomas and Ignatius Bowerman scour Dartmoor looking for Mr Bowerman’s lost hounds.
It takes the reader (children and adults) across the Dartmoor map and I have, of course, provided grid references to allow for actual as well as literary exploration.
There can be no doubt that another thing my love of maps has brought me is friendship.
Lucy (Blonde One) and I have spent many happy days making trails wherever the Dartmoor map takes us and my wider set of outdoor friends all share the same love.
The Non-Story of Ignatius Bowerman reflects this and it is perhaps the unlikely friendship that develops between the pedantic Thomas and the vague Ignatius Bowerman that is my favourite part of the book.
It is part of my role as an Ordnance Survey Get Outside Champion to encourage you to get outside and explore. There are lots of important health reasons that you should do so but I recommend that you get out there with a map in your hand and a spring in your step.
Who knows where map reading might take you. It led me down the path to a new career!
The Non-Story of Ignatius Bowerman is available from Dartmoor National Park Visitor Centres, Amazon and from the Two Blondes Walking shop. When you buy your copy, take a close look at the contour lines on the cover and compare them to OL28, they might take you somewhere interesting!
You can find our route for ITV’s Britain’s Favourite Walks: Top 100 on OS Maps. It takes in Bowerman’s Nose, Hound Tor and Dartmoor’s stunning Hameldown Ridge as well as a section of the Two Moors Way.
Or check GetOutside for more ideas for outdoor activities on Dartmoor.