A Bathymetric Atlas of the Lake District

Ullswater in the Bathymetric Atlas of the English Lake District

The contours of Ullswater, with Pooley Bridge facing towards the right of the picture

For anyone who loves the Lake District and also likes books, this Lake District gem is a bit of an unusual find. When I first saw that Blackwell, The Arts and Crafts House, in Bowness-on-Windermere was hosting A Bathymetric Atlas of The English Lake District, it took me a little while to work out exactly what a Bathy-‘thingy’ Atlas was! To see it though is absolutely fascinating.

Artist Christian Barnes, came up with the idea for the Bathymetric Atlas whilst working on another project using Thomas West’s A Guide to the Lakes. We’re all familiar with the contours we see on Ordnance Survey maps of the Lake District, but he was intrigued by how little we think about the contours beneath the area’s many stretches of water.

Front cover of The Bathymetric Atlas of The English Lake District

The front cover

The atlas is an enormous hand-made book which contains no text or printed diagrams at all and, when closed, measures a whopping 120 cm by 120 cm (representing a map of 50 miles by 50 miles). No, I haven’t got a bookshelf that big either!

The pages are all made from one continuous sheet of paper, which has been carefully folded in a sort of zig-zag to produce a spineless binding, and shapes have been painstakingly cut out of each page to represent the contours of the Lake District’s many stretches of water. This means that as the pages of the book are turned, three-dimensional outlines of each lake or tarn suddenly appear.

A Bathymetric Atlas of the English Lake District - Wet Sleddale

The first stretch of water is revealed – Wet Sleddale Reservoir in the Shap Fells

The Bathymetric Atlas of The English Lake District

Turning the pages to reveal new bodies of water lower in relation to sea level than Wet Sleddale Reservoir

Derwentwater in The Bathymetric Atlas of The English Lake District

Derwentwater is revealed along with its tiny island detail

The pages in the book are made of 315 gsm card, with each page representing 1.72 metres in depth. Something else we often don’t think about is that each of the Lake District’s lakes and tarns are at different heights in relation to sea level, so when the pages of the book are turned, hardly any of them are revealed at the same time. A lovely set of tabs has been crafted into the right hand side of the pages to show you when to expect each body of water to appear.

The tabs belonging to The Bathymetric Atlas of The English Lake District

The book’s tabs

Two people carefully turn the pages of the atlas in front of an audience, with a tour through the book taking about 30 minutes in total – today it was the book’s originator Christian Barnes, and the Curator of Windermere Jetty, Meredith Greiling, turning the pages.

The folding, cutting and assembly was all done by hand by Book Works Studio in London, who used template drawings as a guide. These were produced by Price and Myers from a three-dimensional computer model of the Lake District’s main stretches of water, with data coming from a variety of sources including depth charts created from historic surveys. The atlas was commissioned by the visual arts agency Locus+.

The Bathymetric Atlas of The English Lake District

The Bathymetric Atlas of The English Lake District

Coniston and Windermere are amongst the last stretches of water to appear

Coniston Water in A Bathymetric Atlas of the English Lake District

Coniston Water

The Bathymetric Atlas of The English Lake District

Windermere in detail, with Coniston behind

The Bathymetric Atlas of The English Lake District

Nearing the end of the book

The Bathymetric Atlas of The English Lake District

But that isn’t the end of the story… now they’ve got to turn each page to get back to the beginning, in time for the next performance!

If you’re interested to learn a bit more about the atlas, Christian Barnes has shared his thoughts on the book in the video below.

The Bathymetric Atlas of the English Lake District is on show for just one week until Saturday 17th September 2016, after which there are no upcoming plans for the book to be shown again (it’s quite fragile, and there’s only one copy), so you will need to be quick to catch it! Performances start every day at 11.30am, 1.30pm and 3.30pm (but see the Lakeland Arts Trust website for details).

What is the most fascinating book you own or have seen about the Lake District? Share your book with other readers of the blog by leaving your comment below.

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One Response to A Bathymetric Atlas of the Lake District

  1. Janine John 14/09/2016 at 11:44 am #

    Blackwell is a great example of a house from the Arts and Crafts movement, and is well worth a visit at any time – it has an excellent tearoom too!

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