Chapter 17 – Wainwright
From 2003 to 2013 I devoted my life to the revision of Wainwright’s pictorial guides, and the best way that I can describe this period is to quote two more articles that I wrote for the Wainwright Society magazine. I assumed that members would know that John Pulford was the treasurer of the society, that Betty Wainwright was the author’s widow and that Edale was the start of the Pennine Way.
Article published in the Wainwright Society magazine Footsteps in 2009
When I submitted an article to this magazine in December 2002 about my unpublished work on the revision of the Lakeland guides I never dreamed in my wildest moments that six months later I would be back at work, and that this time my work would be published. I knew that both the publishers (Michael Joseph) and Betty Wainwright were opposed to the idea. I thought that I was incapable of the dedication that I knew was required, and in any case I was far too old.
Then, before the article was published, the books were taken over by Frances Lincoln, who were in favour of the revision. They were able to persuade Betty that it was a good idea and me that I was capable of doing it. I started work on 2nd June, 2003, which happened to be exactly 50 years from the Coronation and the announcement of the first ascent of Everest. Two days earlier I had finished listening to a serialised account of the ascent on the radio, and this was just the thing to get me into the right frame of mind for my own forthcoming adventure.
I gave up all activities apart from my work and turned down all invitations, except where publicity was involved. I would give interviews for magazines and later read that I had said things that I was quite sure I had never said. You might think that this couldn’t happen on radio or television, but it can: on the television series Mountain, by carefully cutting out much of what I said the producers were able to make me tell millions of people that seven plus one equals ten.
I couldn’t resist the temptation to identify some of the unfamiliar wild flowers I came across, including starry saxifrage, alpine lady’s mantle, bird’s eye primrose, wild thyme, cowberry, butterwort, bistort and bugle. I also identified eight different kinds of caterpillar, but I never identified those I saw on 11th June, 2007. I was in one of the remotest parts of the Lake District, the moors above Iron Crag near Ennerdale, and there were caterpillars every few inches over an area more than a quarter of a mile across. There must have been millions of them. They were dark grey or dark brown with wide yellow stripes along their sides and five narrow yellow stripes along their backs.
I had another interesting experience on 15th January, 2007. I was driving along the shore of Ullswater, well above the level of the lake, when a wave came up and completely covered the windscreen, so that for a moment I couldn’t see where I was going.
On 14th January, 2005 I walked through a plantation below Black Fell, and there were so many trees blown down it was very difficult for me to find a way through them. There was hardly a tree left standing. I later approached the plantation from another direction and found it impossible to get through. I had never encountered anything like it before in my life.
On another occasion I went up Rosthwaite Fell from Stonethwaite. In the valley the fields were so white with frost it looked like snow. Everything was covered in spikes of ice a quarter of an inch long. In the afternoon I watched dark shapes like amoebae moving downwards under sloping slabs of ice.
Two days later I went up Grey Friar from Seathwaite Tarn. Before long I was above the clouds, which doesn’t happen very often because I don’t usually go up in the mist. I could see the tops of Caw and the Black Combe range, but I couldn’t see Stickle Pike because it wasn’t high enough. When I got higher I could see the top of the cloud extending right across the Irish Sea with Ingleborough and the highest peaks of Snowdonia sticking out of it. On the way down I saw what looked like masses of white waterfalls at the top of the cloud layer. It must have been some sort of mirage.
Although my name appears on the cover, all the changes you see in Books 5, 6 and 7 were made by Kate Cave. All I did was to provide the pencil drawings on which her work was based. She is also responsible for some of the layout. On High Pike 12 in Book 5, for example, I just typed out the text and asked if she could get it to fit by sacrificing the illustration in the bottom left-hand corner. Then she did the rest.
One day the books will need revising again. Perhaps there is a young person reading this who will take up the challenge.
Article published in the Wainwright Society magazine Footsteps in 2014
In 2009 I wrote an article for this magazine about my revision of the seven Lakeland guides. Since then I have been working on the revision of A Coast to Coast Walk, The Outlying Fells of Lakeland, Pennine Way Companion, Walks in Limestone Country and Walks on the Howgill Fells. This article continues the story where the other one left off.
For ten years and six months, between 2003 and 2013, I devoted my life to this work, and I only just managed to finish it before I became too old to climb mountains. John Pulford must surely have noticed how quickly he caught me up and how quickly he left me behind when I met him in the Howgill Fells. If I hadn’t dropped all other activities the work would never have been completed.
All the time I was working on the seven Lakeland guides I never saw an adder, but in the Outlying Fells I saw two, one on Bigland Barrow and the other on Walna Scar. On 23rd March, 2011, as I was passing the hide at Low Birk Hatt (Pennine Way Companion, page 79) I saw five toads, and I mentioned them in the record book in the hide. I didn’t see a newt on any of my walks until 7th August, 2013, when I had finished the twelve volumes and was checking the starts of the Lakeland paths. It was on the slopes of Harter Fell, near the top of Hardknott Pass, and nowhere near any water.
The most remarkable sighting from this period was not in the mountains, but fifty yards from my home in Kendal, when I saw a family of otters in the River Kent. Two things surprised me about them. One was that they were active in the middle of the day, and the other was that they behaved quite naturally, ignoring all the people who were watching them. I have seen foxes in the middle of the day, but only in very remote places, and I have only seen badgers very early in the morning before it gets light.
On 19th November, 2009 I noticed that the River Kent was exceptionally high and I later learnt that twelve inches of rain had been recorded at Seathwaite that day in 24 hours, beating the record set up in Dorset in 1955. I went back there later and couldn’t see any signs of flooding at Seathwaite, but I could at Lanthwaite Green, where the two footbridges and the remains of the weir had all been swept away. It occurs to me that the only reason that Seathwaite holds the record is that that is where the rain gauge happens to be.
I remember seeing in one of Wainwright’s Lakeland sketchbooks people walking on the ice at Derwent Water and never thought I would live to see it, but I saw it twice, on 9th January, 2010 and again on 22nd December of the same year. On both occasions Windermere was completely free of ice.
People sometimes write that I set off at the same time each day, but that is not true. I time my departure so that I start walking just as it gets light, and that varies from 4.0 a.m. in June to 8.0 a.m. in December. The earliest I left home was 1.30 a.m. on July 3rd, 2010 when I was working in the Cheviots. I think that my longest day was when I left home at 4.0 a.m., walked from Edale to Kinder Scout and back and got home at 9.0 p.m. The longest wasted journey I had was on 19th June, 2010 when I reached the summit of the Cheviot from the east and had to turn back because my hands were frozen. It hadn’t occurred to me that I would need gloves in June.
When I read on page 267 of the Outlying Fells that sheep could be trapped by their horns in a wire-mesh fence I thought that this was most unlikely, but near Glendue Burn on the Pennine Way (page 45) I encountered a sheep in exactly that predicament and was able to extricate it. This was not easy, and the sheep didn’t seem to realise that I was trying to help. The same day I stopped to talk to the poet Colin Simms, who was sitting beside the lane above Garrigill with his binoculars and writing poetry. Another person I stopped to talk to was John Morrison. He was working on a book about the Pennine Way when I was working on the Coast to Coast Walk and we met where the two paths crossed.
As in the case of Books 5, 6 and 7 of the Lakeland guides, the alterations to A Coast to Coast Walk, The Outlying Fells of Lakeland and Pennine Way Companion were made by Kate Cave using a computer in the Frances Lincoln office. For Walks in Limestone Country and Walks on the Howgill Fells I made the alterations myself using a computer provided by the publishers. I would never have mastered it if it hadn’t been for the help given to me by Dan Hodge, but when I did master it I was astonished at how much easier it was than making the alterations in pen and ink. What impressed me most was how much the image can be enlarged on the screen. If I had wanted to I could have made a full stop as big as a saucer.
On 16th November, 2013 I asked the publishers to find a successor, and five days later I heard that Clive Hutchby, the author of the Wainwright Companion, would be taking over from me. Studying his book convinces me that nobody is better qualified to continue the work.
In 2015 the 24-hour rainfall record was beaten again in the Lake District, and the River Kent was two and a half feet higher than it was in 2009.
In the introductions to the Lakeland guides I mentioned the advantages I had over Wainwright. I had a car, for example; I had satellite navigation equipment; and I didn’t have to go to work. What I forgot to mention was that by the time I was working there were accurate weather forecasts. As recently as 1992 I wrote in my diary that life would be a lot easier if it were possible to predict the weather. By 2003 I had discovered a telephone service called the Lake District Weather Line, which was so accurate I was hardly ever caught out by the rain. When it came to the Coast to Coast Walk the Weather Line was no help because the weather in the North York Moors could be quite different from that in the Lake District, but by the time I went there I had discovered an accurate internet forecast that covered the whole country. Several times I set off from Kendal in rain confident that it would clear up as I headed east, and it always did.
In the first paragraph of his ‘personal notes’ at the end of The Central Fells Wainwright wrote that when he finished the Lakeland guides he would be too old to go over the ground again making such revisions as may be found to be necessary. When I started on the revision in 2003 I was actually older than he was at that time.
When I got the first batch of changes back from the publishers it was accompanied by a letter asking me to make a large number of alterations that spoiled my carefully-planned layout. This made me feel like the man in the song who was digging a hole when a ‘bloke in a bowler’ asked him to ‘dig it elsewhere’. Happily there came a time when the publishers learned to take the layout into consideration.
There was one place in Book One where I could not make sense of my survey, so I went back and did it again. I found that the line produced was the same shape as the original line, but in a different place because the equipment had been adding or subtracting the same amount from all my readings. Since then I have always used at least two g.p.s. units.
The most difficult problem was getting the text to fit the space. If the text was too long I could generally get it in by rephrasing it or omitting unimportant information, but if it was too short the problem sometimes seemed insurmountable. On Greyfriars 3 in Book 4, for example, Wainwright had written something that was no longer relevant and I just bodged it up. My editor at Frances Lincoln didn’t like what I had written and replaced it with something that I didn’t like. I felt that the only solution would be to fill the space with something that was completely unconnected with what was written before. I went to the public library and studied every book that might have something to say about the area. Eventually I found what I was looking for and filled the space with text that we were both happy with.
A similar problem arose with page 6 of A Coast to Coast Walk, but here I couldn’t find any helpful information. I felt that I would never be able to fill the space, but I kept on thinking and thinking about the problem, and in the end I succeeded. On page 84 of Pennine Way Companion I was asked to replace three quarters of a page of obsolete text, and for weeks I would send emails saying that I was working on it, but the white space was so enormous I didn’t see how I could ever fill it. Now the page looks like any other and nobody would imagine the torment that went into it.
There was a tennis player called Jimmy Connors, and every time he played a good shot he gave a series of little jumps. I know exactly how he felt, because I felt the same whenever I got a paragraph to fit the space.
On 10th June, 2006 I found the remains of a balloon a few yards from the summit of Coniston Old Man with a postcard attached asking for it to be returned to a school near Wigan, so I did so.
On page 59 of A Coast to Coast Walk there was a quarry that was still operating but had become very much larger, and I was able to show the extent of the quarry both in 1972 and in 2009. Remarkably, a similar opportunity presented itself on page 17 (1) of Walks in Limestone Country. At the foot of page Great Borne 4 in The Western Fells Wainwright mentioned that Croasdale was mis-spelt Crossdale on a signpost and I was able to say that it had been mis-spelt for more than forty years. Then a similar opportunity presented itself on page 31 (2) of Walks in Limestone Country.
When I started working on The Outlying Fells of Lakeland I bought a second-hand copy of the first edition. In it I found a press cutting in which somebody suggested that the route from Faulds Brow to Caldbeck should be diverted to visit the Howk. I thought that this was an excellent idea, and I featured this as an alternative route in the revised book.
Making changes using the computer was so easy I was able to go through every page of Walks on the Howgill Fells (and, to a lesser extent, Walks in Limestone Country) cleaning up the places where the lines were too thick. To do this required so little thought I was able to do it when I was too exhausted to make the more difficult changes. The improvement is obvious if you place the unrevised and revised pages side by side, but so far as I know nobody has noticed it.
When I thought the work was all over I was asked to make some alterations to A Coast to Coast Walk to reflect changes to the signposted route. I thought that in many cases the new route was not as satisfactory as the old one, but I am pleased to say that the very last change I made was an improvement: I described a new route that avoided the swamp on page 157.
I finished the work on the twelve pictorial guides on 15th July, 2013, ten years and six weeks after I began. I continued working on the starts of the Lakeland paths until 11th December, 2013, but the changes I made were never published. While I was revising the Wainwright books I felt, more than at any other time in my life, that I was a round peg in a round hole.
Sales of revised Wainwright books up to February 2017:
(excluding those subsequently revised by Clive Hutchby)
|Book 4 The Southern Fells||26048|
|Book 1 The Eastern Fells||25878|
|Book 3 The Central Fells||22213|
|Book 2 The Far Eastern Fells||18539|
|Book 5 The Northern Fells||17539|
|Book 6 The North Western Fells||16794|
|Book 7 The Western Fells||14554|
|A Coast to Coast Walk||10726|
|The Outlying Fells of Lakeland||6420|
|Pennine Way Companion||1296|
|Walks in Limestone Country||383|
|Walks on the Howgill Fells||360|
|The Best of Wainwright||7538|
|Wainwright TV Walks||6076|
On 23rd December, 2013 I took my car to the auction mart at Bamber Bridge near Preston. By this time the car was so old that all I received was £65. In ten years the car had only broke down twice, and on both occasions it happened within 200 yards of my home. When I bought a motor caravan in 1975 it broke down three times in the first thirty miles. When I bought another motor caravan in 1977 the throttle stuck open and the silencer went before I left the premises of the person I bought it from. And when I was trying out a kart with a view to buying it in 1965 the brake came off, the throttle slipped, the choke lever broke, the silencer became disconnected and the petrol tank broke loose, but fortuately all this happened before I agreed to buy it.
In 2005 I moved from my flat in Beast Banks to a small cottage at number 3, Yard 18, Kirkland in the old part of Kendal. In 2007 I moved to another small cottage at number 13, Longpool. Its best features were its lovely old doors with their long iron hinges. This was my only Kendal address that was not difficult to find. It was actually on the A6, which was the main road from London to Carlisle before the coming of the motorways. In 2008 I moved to a former council flat in the Kirkbarrow estate. This was the least attractive of all my Kendal addresses, but after I had been there for eight years I realised that how long I was allowed to stay in a place was far more important than what it looks like.
In my flat in Beast Banks I encountered a strange blob that turned into powder when I touched it, and I wondered if it was a slime mould. In my flat in Anchorite Place I found something similar, and this time I was able to identify it with certainty because an identical one was illustrated in the internet.
In March, 2007 I tried to construct a Jesty family tree using the internet, but without success. In October of the same year I received an incredibly detailed and well-designed family tree from a distant relative. There were 800 names in it, but my own branch was missing. I sent an email to Prof. Jolyon Jesty, who compiled the tree, adding the missing information, which was finally incorporated in 2013. This story was similar to that of the Old Buckwellians (the society of former pupils of Buckhurst Hill County High School). I tried to contact them without success in 1993, and then in 2002 I found out that they were trying to contact me.
I was disappointed to learn that I was not descended from Benjamin Jesty the smallpox pioneer as I had always believed, but I was pleased to learn that I was descended from a succession of eighteenth-century farmers from the Dorset villages of Yetminster, Chetnole and Leigh. These three villages were the subject of a television programme that was so good I would have kept selections from it even if there hadn’t been a family connection.
In January 2009 Jonathan de Ferranti made it possible for people to view my panoramas on the internet at:
It is surprising that he was able to do this, because some of the panoramas are too big even for an A3 scanner. At first it took ten minutes to get a panorama on the screen, but later I could do this instantaneously. I also learned how to enlarge the image so that I could read the small lettering, and to move from one part of the image to another.
One of the first things I did when I finished working on the Wainwright books was to sort out my possessions. Among the things I threw away were 90 maps, 25 pens, 19 pencils, and 11 rolls of adhesive tape. My next task was to create my own website. This included scans of the pages of my five books and the video of my journey to Africa in 1995. It was explained to me that I would have to provide a long thin photograph for the site, and I found one of Harrison Stickle from Scafell Pike that was ideal.
One of the most interesting emails I received through my website came from Simon Burnill. He claimed that the widest-ranging view in Britain was from the Merrick in southern Scotland, because it extended from Snowdon in the south to Ben More on Mull in the north, and he wanted to know whether I agreed with him. I replied that I had never considered the question before, but now that I had done so I had come to the conclusion that it was very unlikely that a greater example would ever be found.
In 2012 I was asked to contribute to a book about John Nicoll, the Managing Director of Frances Lincoln, but I never heard any more about it. Here is my contribution:
In 1991 I prepared revised editions of the first two volumes of Wainwright’s Lakeland guides, but I couldn’t get anyone to take an interest in them. I felt that what I needed was a person who appreciated the value of what I was doing and could promote my ideas. Twelve years later, in 2003, that person finally turned up: it was John Nicoll.
Since 1979 I have added items to my scrap books as soon as they become available.
Volume 15 includes selected rough drafts of 15 unpublished panoramas and Y.H.A. membership cards with 128 stamps on from 1969 onwards.
Volume 25 consists of 46 pages of photographs taken between 1981 and 1985.
Volume 28 includes press reviews for East Anglian Town Trails and eight pages of revision notes for the Wainwright books produced as a sample in 1988.
Volume 30 consists of 42 pages of photographs including those taken in Switzerland in 1985. My favourite photograph from this volume is that of an old door in the village of Symondsbury near Bridport.
Volume 32 includes the map I produced for Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains and the three maps I produced for Walking the Peak and Pennines by Mike Harding.
Volume 33 includes photographs of Robin Hood’s Bay and Chapel Close.
Volume 35 includes photographs from my flats in Chapel Close and Beast Banks.
Volume 36 includes the Jesty family tree and various press cuttings about my work on the Wainwright books.
By 2014 the more interesting pages of my scrap books had been scanned because by this time there was much more room on the discs. When I first had this idea I could only get one page on a disc. In 2014 I got over 700 pages onto a storage device that is easy to copy and small enough to go into a purse. This way the contents of the books may be expected to survive much longer than the books themselves would have done.
From 1948 until 1984 my scrap books were my most treasured possessions. Then their place was taken by my collection of scenes from television.
On 3rd March, 2014 I donated a computer disc containing my diary and the best of my writings to the Great Diary Project in the hope that they will last forever. At this time my diary was 380,000 words long. On 29th March I went to the Wainwright Society A.G.M. in Staveley village hall, where the Chairman, Eric Robson, called me to the front and presented me with an inscribed tankard for my work on the Wainwright books. This I regard as the crowning achievement of my life. It came as a pleasant surprise, and the moment was captured on a photograph taken by the editor of Footsteps, David Johnson.