This day in 1991, the man who became known as the legendary “Fellwanderer” died. He left a legacy for all who love and walk or climb the Lake District Fells. Way back in 1955 a small but rugged pocket size book was published by The Westmorland Gazette, Printers and the Local Newspaper Publishers. It was the first of seven guides, each covering a defined geographic area of the Lakeland Fells.
The author was a man who’s signature appeared on that cover, a man who was known simply as A.Wainwright…….. in fact it was perhaps two ,or maybe more, decades later, that his first name of Alfred became known. But for many followers and friends he was simply but affectionately referred to as Wainwright.
Wainwrights Guide books were very very different to its predecessors. Every page was hand written and drawn. Wainwright never intended them to replace a proper OS map, but the reality was that each of Wainwrights maps were fully detailed with landmark and facts about each of his described walking routes.
Wainwright was a Lancashire lad, born 1907 in the Mill Town of Blackburn. It is said that as soon as he was able he started heading at weekends to the Lake District. This love of the Lakes was confirmed when he moved to Kendal. His background was as a qualified Accountant and in1948 appointed Borough Treasurer of Kendal Borough Council.
His spare time was to explore the Fells. In the seven guides he published covered every summit high or low. Not only that every summit of any note was climbed from many directions, each route highly detailed…. and remember each page of every book was hand drawn and written. They were an immediate success, each guide for the defined areas was awaited in anticipation and expectation. The one question was…. when is the next Wainwright being published?. It was 1966 when the seventh and final Guide to the Lakeland Fells was published. They are still published today.
Wainwright himself remained an enigma. He walked alone, avoided crowds and publicity. It became a game for walkers, searching for a man in a raincoat and cloth cap, many insisting that they had spotted Wainwright (they may have or maybe not).
In later life Alfred did emerge into the limelight. Other books followed, Long Distance Trails were written and illustrated, even a TV series….. but I guess he avoided being a celebrity. It was sometime during this “coming out” that he also became know as the Fellwanderer , by those more close to him as simply AW
His memorial is a simple one and I think very fitting.
It is here in this small Shepherds Church above Buttermere.
The interior is simple and modest. But note the window to the right, the one with flowers and a plaque….
That window looks out to one special Lakeland Fell named Haystacks. Read the following message from Wainwright himself and you will understand just why…
A simple tribute to the Fellwanderer who contributed so much to the enjoyment of walkers and a pathway to Lakeland discovery for others.
His map style and guide format have been imitate since…. they say imitation is the best form of flattery. What they lack though is his slightly humorous descriptive style.
One intrepid walker asked for advice as to the best way in which to tackle the Fells. His reply was simple,…. You go out and walk, its easy just put one foot in front of the other.
As a final word, maybe a thank you……. I now enjoy reading and recalling routes walked, brought back to reality right off AW’s pages.
(For those of you puzzled by the reference to Westmorland it was one of two county names, Cumberland being thy other, that were merged into one to form Cumbria in 1974)
Wherever you are, whatever your dreams today……
Please Remember ….
Stay Safe …. Be Kind…. Look After Each Other
(C) David Oakes 2022