Travel & Outdoors | 5 August 2016Alfred Wainwright and the Lakeland Fells Share article facebook twitter google pinterest When recently appointed British Prime Minister Theresa May gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel a copy of Coast to Coast with Wainwright for her birthday, it brought Alfred Wainwright to the international stage. Well beloved by the British walking community, Alfred Wainwright dedicated the majority of his life to studying and recording the Lakeland fells in their entirety. Photograph by Derry Brabbs, courtesy of The Estate of A. Wainwright About Alfred Born in Blackburn, Alfred Wainwright left school at 13, ten years later, at 23, he took a holiday to the Lake District that changed his life. Eleven years later he achieved his dream, and moved to Kendal in 1941. In 1952, at age 45, he came up with the plan to create a series of illustrated guidebooks for the Lakeland fells. The task took 13 years, and Wainwright accomplished it just in time for his retirement. Wainwright did not stop at carefully noting the paths and tracks that crisscross the fells. A patient perfectionist, Wainwright scrapped the first 100 pages of his guidebook after becoming dissatisfied with the alignment of the text. He redid the text so that the lines began and ended neatly in a column – creating the distinctive style that the Guides maintain to this day. Though initially self-published, the Westmorland Gazette published the Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells until Michael Joseph picked them up following a BBC programme. The Guides finally came to live with us here at Frances Lincoln Publishers in 2003, along with Wainwright’s other walking titles. This humble writer is happily going to the Lake District this weekend, to stay in a Coniston Cottage that sits in the shadow of the Old Man. There will be many walks, aided by an old, battered set of the original Pictorial Guides. Wainwright notes the key to Lakeland walking in his autobiography, Memoirs of a Fellwanderer: The secret, and it isn’t really a secret at all because it becomes second nature with a little experience, is to keep the feet horizontal or even pointing slightly upwards when descending, and don’t point them down the slope; keeping them horizontal means taking advantage of protruding stones and tufts of grass and flat ledges, and after a season or two one does this instinctively and automatically, without thinking. Every step downwards should be planned to act as a brake. The eye is a stride ahead of the foot all the time. Watch where you are putting your feet, every step. Come down the Breast Route on Great Gable with the feet horizontal and you will not slip; come down with the feet pointing down the slope and much of the journey will be done sliding on your back. And always stop if you want to look at the view. Don’t think you can come down the Breast Route and admire the Scafells simultaneously. For the third time, watch where you are putting your feet! **biographical information take from Memoirs of a Fellwanderer by A. Wainwright, published by Frances Lincoln. Buy from an Online Retailer US: UK: The latest edition of Coast to Coast with Wainwright is a new edition of the classic photographic book containing the walk A. Wainwright devised in 1973, covering rights of way and areas of open access between the Irish sea and the North Sea. The route starts at St Bees Head and finishes at Robin Hood Bay, passing through three National Parks: the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors, all areas of outstanding beauty. Providing a wide and varied range of scenery with changing landscapes over a distance of 190 miles, it is one of the most challenging of long-distance walks. The text has been updated to take account of minor changes in the terrain and the result is not merely the most beautiful but also the most authoritative and useful book on the much-loved Coast to Coast walk. For this new edition, many of the photographs have been retaken by the legendary lakeland photographer, Derry Brabbs. The result is the transformation of an already fine book into something spectacular. Buy from an Online Retailer US: UK: These memoirs of the great fellwalker Alfred Wainwright, author of the Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells and many other volumes of walking guides and sketchbooks, are full of his thoughts on life and on his experiences on the fells. Wainwright writes about his boyhood in Blackburn, his work and interests as a young man, and the visit to the Lake District at the age of 23 which kindled in him a lasting passion for the fells. He reveals how he set about researching and compiling the Pictorial Guides, the labour of love which occupied so many years of his life. For walkers and other lovers of the Lakeland fells, this is a great read. Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.