Mike Williams obituary

Keen ramblers – or even Sunday strollers –will be familiar with the photographic guides to national parks, and to long-distance walks, that have been created in ever-increasing numbers over the last 30 years. One of the most respected authors of this guidebook genre, the Derbyshire-based photographer Mike Williams, has died aged 66.

Born in Maidstone, Kent, he attended the local technical high school before becoming a photographer with the education department of Kent county council in 1972. This followed a number of jobs that included forestry worker and railway signalman. He studied part-time at Maidstone art school before becoming staff photographer at the Peak District national park – a job coveted by many professional photographers at the time.

Mike was passionate about landscape photography and was always eager to extend his knowledge and skills. He came to lectures by well-known visiting practitioners at Trent Polytechnic, Nottingham, which is where I first met him, and was a participant on the first-ever residential photography workshop in Britain, at the Photographers' Place, near Ashbourne, Derbyshire, in 1976. In that year he provided the photographs for one of the best ever national park guides – First and Last – for his employers.

A year later he spent some time with the American photographer and conservationist Ansel Adams, in Yosemite national park in California. Mike felt that revealing, through his photographs and writing, the attractions of the landscape was a double-edged sword. He was always conscious of the conservation versus footfall debate, but he felt there was no way you could control the public's love affair with rugged landscapes or picturesque villages.

In 1978 he left the Peak park to freelance, and was able to develop his reputation as an author/photographer, first with Wildest Britain (1983), followed by The Peak District National Park Guide and The Lake District National Park Guide (both for the Countryside Commission, 1987). Then, for Ordnance Survey and Aurum Press, he produced Southwest Coastal Path (1988), North Downs Way (1992), Two Moors Way (1997) and Wessex Ridgeway (1999). In 2004 came Pennine Bridleway for the Countryside Agency.

He was diagnosed with motor neurone disease two years ago. When I last saw him, he told me: "The consultant says I could go on for another 10 years, but if I can't walk or enjoy the countryside, I hope it doesn't take that long."

Mike is survived by his partner, Di, and daughter, Kate.

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Publication Date: Thu, 15 Aug 2013 17:06:25 GMT
Source: The Guardian

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