Today is 1st August, the feast day of St Alphonsus de Ligouri, whose fame comes from his pastoral care and moral theology, and whose major life challenges seem to have come from not reading stuff in detail. It seems an appropriate day to mention those first forays into Digimaps.
My inability even to upload a picture of the log-in page speaks volumes of my lack of application.
I spent a fun hour browsing the Brookes hard-copy maps but came up with nothing more revealing than the OS maps I had already bought. There used to be helpful maps from the OS family on Roman Britain, prehistoric Britain, monastic England. I can’t see them. I wanted some guide to Neolithic standing stones in Cheshire, and I have, so far, failed in this. What I did find was the Brookes library guide to the map collection, and the links to Digimaps. Here again, Thursbitch slid away from me, in broken URLs, 404s, and not logging on in the right way. The library staff were, as ever, helpful, and While I felt an utter novice, I was quickly back at a desk up by the archeology section on the top floor, engaged in a search for the right steps in the Terpsichore of logging on, gaining permissions, clicking agreements, &c. Lost in a system, lost on a moor. The system seems the less daunting.
I’m in. A map of UK. Here I was struck – not for the last time – at how limited maps can be. I have the name, the rough area, and, on the OS maps, my references. But where, when falling from a great height onto Cheshire, is Thursbitch near? I find Congleton and edge past the fond memories. I find Alderley Edge, piece together the visit Annie and I had made with little Maisy. I look next for other details, and think of Lizzie’s massive gazetteer for her PhD. Remembering names is of limited help if you aren’t in (or don’t know) the place: there is Shining Tor, but which of these is the Goyt valley? How does a hamlet hide (even Garner suggests it does). Back to Google images and sites such as this useful one, and trying with my not-quite-an-O-Level-Geography to match contours to escarpments. What is the Macclesfield Forest doing there? At least I find these useful walks in the Goyt Valley.
And then a bit of a disaster: I lose the maps on Digimaps, panic and have to start again. Log out, log in, back to UK from a great height and plummet to Cheshire. Easier this time, and Shining Tor appears – and then Errwood Hall. Google images tell me I am where I remember in Gomrath, but I look at this unforgivingly bare landscape (thinking of Monbiot‘s railing against upland deserts) and wonder how I will cope in it when I get there. Will the valley establish establish an “intimate osmotic relationship with my arse,” as it does with Sal’s? Will I go and find nothing, as I seem to with these maps and guides? Then, there it is, in “Neighbourhood View:” Thursbitch. A tiny mark and a name. I find it with the same chance that Garner himself relates here. No better detail is visible on the closest scale, the “Building View,” and most disappointing of all, no sign of the mythology Garner creates in Thursbitch (and afterwards in his terrifying methodology lecture I’ve just cited, courtesy of the Harcourt Librarians) not even the half-memories woven around standing stone or Crom-lech, although I make the connection between Crom and cromlech, and hope I’m on the right track, at least etymologically.
For that session, I thought it was enough.
Except it wasn’t. Coming back to it, a day to so later, it was like starting again. Logging in. Permissions. The fall. Macclesfield. The Cloud and Congleton Edge. What images return. Shining Tor. Jenkin Chapel. Thursbitch. And this time a new skill: saving the maps. I now have a fairly straightforward map of Alderley Edge, a close-up (but fairly un-detailed) map of Thursbitch – oh, and a map of Ludchurch, but that’s another part of the story.