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Wainwright’s Walks, Then and Now

by admin on July 19, 2015

Wainwright’s Walks – Then

Alfred Wainwright’s walks in the Lake District began in the 1930s. He went on a walking holiday with a cousin and was captivated by the Lakeland beauty.

This was far from being his introduction to country walking. He’d enjoyed the West Pennine countryside of East Lancashire close to his Blackburn home for many years. The Ribble Valley, Bowland and Pendle are without doubt beautiful. The Lake District, though, caught hold of him in a different and more powerful way.

When the opportunity arose to work in Kendal he took it, and stayed as an accountant with the council there right up to his retirement. By the early 1950s his weekend walking had triggered a plan. He would produce a series of little books describing the best ways to walk to the top of each of the Lakeland fells.

Each walk would be described in words and also by means of sketches, diagrams and maps, all drawn by hand. It took him until 1966 to finish the original plan for seven volumes, under the general title, A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells “.

Later, in 1974, he added an eighth volume describing walks on what he called the “Outlying Fells”. Many of these are lower and less rugged. He thought they would be particularly suitable for walkers whose limbs were no longer capable of the more demanding fells.

Wainwright’s own walks over the fells took place in an era of much better public transport provision than we have today. Car ownership was far less widespread and frequent rural bus services were still viable. Wainwright did not own a car. His walking was timed carefully to fit with bus timetables, a remarkable achievement.

The “ Wainwright guides ” became very popular. Their unusual personal style, different from any previous Lake District walking guide, was a great attraction.

Wainwright’s Walks – Now

Just when “Wainwright’s Walks”, or simply Wainwright Walks, became a common term amongst lovers of Lakeland I don’t know. Certainly the television and DVD series featuring Julia Bradbury helped to further popularise the phrase.

Today, sixty years after the first volume hit the press, Wainwright’s walks are popular with Lake District visitors of all ages and abilities. There are selections for family walking as well as checklists and notebooks for those aspiring to reach the summit of every “Wainwright”. The guides themselves were updated as a second edition, and a third is on its way.

Wainwright’s walks over the Lake District fells have been followed by thousands, and there’s little sign of their popularity abating. Wainwright has a lasting place in Lakeland, and especially his Pictorial Guides.

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