Over the years, I have owned these guide books many times! They have been ruined by Cumbrian rain as I followed his routes on to the tops, loaned to friends who never gave them back and I've lost them in house moves, in each case replaced with others. I always loved what Wainwright did - writing about and illustrating (with pen and ink drawings) every aspect of every route to the summit of every fell in the Lake District! What is fascinating is that there is no typeset in the books - every paragraph is in his own neat handwriting, every drawing is his own and it took him 18 years to complete the task! He was a solitary man, going about his work in his spare time. No GoreTex clothing and Leki poles for him - his theory was that a jacket was good for 'fell' use once it had acquired too many burns from the sparks of his pipe to be any use at the office any longer! I loved the man and, for the many years I worked in the mountaineering trade, camped, climbed and walked the Lakeland hills, his volumes were always nearby. So, talking to my wife about them whilst on holiday in Finsthwaite last month, she took it on board and bought me the complete set again, as a belated anniversary present! Here is some more information about this wonderful man:
Alfred Wainwright lived and worked in Kendal for most his life but his origins were elsewhere, in a very different environment. He was born into a working class family in the Lancashire mill town of Blackburn and experienced the difficult times of the 1920s and 30s. Being a bright lad, however, he worked hard at improving his position, taking night school classes and later correspondence courses to qualify as a local government accountant. This eventually enabled him in 1941 to obtain a position in the council office in Kendal, just where he had wanted to be since taking a holiday with a cousin walking in the Lake District – he was now hooked on Lakeland walks.
He’d for many years been fond of taking long walks in the Pennine countryside nearer to his Blackburn home, the Darwen moors, Pendle Hill, the Ribble Valley and more. The book shown here relates to a long Pennine walk in 1938, three years before he moved to the Lake District. It was written at the time when he was only 31 but only published (without changes) half a century later.
After his move to Kendal walking in the Lakeland fells occupied as much of his spare time as possible, becoming his obsession. His view of the Lake District is clearly expressed in the opening sentence of his first guide: “Surely there is no other place in this whole wonderful world quite like Lakeland.”
It was in 1948 that he developed the idea of mapping and drawing the routes of his Lakeland walks so as to compile them into printed volumes, publishing his first Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells in 1955. He never expected them to take off as they did, but by the time the last of the seven main guides was published in 1966 he was a household name and “Wainwright’s Guides” had become a must for holidaymakers planning their Lake District walking routes.