Revising the Pictorial Guides

(published in the Wainwright Society Newsletter 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 March 23rd, 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 August 7th, 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 about 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 November 19th 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 old dam 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 January 9th, 2010 and again on December 22nd 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 the June 19th, 2010 when I reached the summit of the Cheviot from the east and had to turn back because my hands were too cold. 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 on the Pennine Way and 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 November 16th, 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.