Obituary: Mike Williams – photographer and author

Keen ramblers – or even Sunday strollers – are only too familiar with photographic guides to national parks, and to long-distance walks created with ever-increasing rapidity over the past 30 years.

One of the most respected authors of this guidebook genre, Derbyshire-based photographer Mike Williams (pictured) has died after a long illness.

Born in Maidstone in 1947, he became a photographer with the education department of Kent County Council in 1972.

Two years later he was appointed 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 this country 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 legendary American photographer and conservationist Ansel Adams in Yosemite National Park in California.

Mike felt that revealing the attractions of the landscape through his photographs and writing was a double-edged sword.

He was always conscious of the conservation vs. 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 as a consequence was able to develop his reputation as an author/photographer. First with Wildest Britain (Blandford Press) in 1985 followed by The Peak District National Park Guide and The Lake District National Park Guide, both for the Countryside Commission. Then for Ordnance Survey and Aurum Press, he produced Southwest Coastal Path, North Downs Way, Two Moors Way, Wessex Ridgeway, and later Pennine Bridleway for the Countryside Agency.

When motor neurone disease was diagnosed two years ago, Mike received pioneering surgery as an outpatient at a hospital in Sheffield, but to no avail. Mike died on 9th July.

When I last saw him last year, 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 Williams is survived by his partner, Di and daughter, Kate.

Picture credit: Mike Williams