Thursday, 28 June 2012

Introduction to the Wainwrights

I’ve got a copy of most of Wainwright’s books which shows that perhaps I’m a bit too much of a collector but I couldn’t resist buying a copy of the new “Wainwright Family Walks” earlier this week to add to my library.

For those experienced or novice fellwalkers with either younger or older family members, this book details 20 walks of differing distances and difficulties, but includes none of the highest tops or most challenging routes, in order to keep within the theme.  Editor Tom Holman has labelled this as “Volume One: The Southern Fells” but there is no indication about how many volumes will be in the series.  From the map that displays the location of the walks, I assume there will only be one more volume which will cover the northern half of Lakeland.  This volume does not correspond with Wainwright’s Southern Fells which is of course his book 4.

From Wainwright’s pictorial guides, of the 20 walks, 12 are outlying fells, 3 are central fells, 3 are southern fells with 1 each of the eastern and far eastern fells.  The relevant chapter has been reproduced from the Chris Jesty updates of the original guides.  The editor has added an introduction, walk directions and other relevant information to make the undertaking of each walk as simple as possible.

I like this book.  It may not be aimed at the Wainwright purist but its extra information and paperback format makes it a practical guide for those unfamiliar with the fells.  The car parking information given for each walk is particularly useful.  There are some obvious popular favourites (Orrest Head & Gummer’s How) and some less so (Silver How & Wansfell).  Eskdale’s Harter Fell and Black Combe add some more challenging routes to the list.  And I’m glad to see a particular favourite of mine has been included – Stickle Pike.

For those who want to escape the crowded honeypots of Ambleside and Bowness and experience the real Lake District, I’d recommend this book.  It might just lead to a lifetime of enjoyment on the fells.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Constancy of Wainwrights

The beauty of the Wainwrights as a ticklist is that their classification will never change.

With the advance of GPS technology, surveys have been undertaken in recent years to determine the status of a number of prominent hills, fells and mountains.  Should Foinavon be promoted to Munro status?  Is Tryfan really a Welsh 3000er?  These questions, which have been posed for a number of years, have finally been answered.  (No and Yes, in case you’re wondering.)

When Wainwright compiled his list of mountains for inclusion in his seven Pictorial Guides, he inadvertently made them technology-proof.  Other than, in his own words, his “arbitrary” definition of boundaries of Lakeland and the areas within, he made no specific definition of what criteria should be met for any particular fell to be included in the guides – no minimum height and no minimum prominence / relative height / drop.  He simply made a choice and stuck to it.

Of course, this doesn’t stop the discussion of the merits of inclusion or exclusion of particular fells.  Whether Mungrisdale Common deserved its own chapter has had many a bagger scratching their head, particularly on a windswept and misty trudge down the broad ridge from Blencathra.  Some have said that Iron Crag deserves greater status than just being a label on a map in the Caw Fell chapter.

From my own experience of Wainwright-bagging, I would question the inclusion of Stone Arthur and argue that the Southern Fells boundary should be extended beyond the Walna Scar road towards Caw.  At least Wainwright addressed some of the exclusions in his Outlying Fells volume – the unofficial book 8 in the series.

But despite the debates that we can have, none of it matters because the list has been fixed within the covers of seven volumes of handwritten genius.  So when I complete my round, which will have taken me 30 years, I don’t have to worry that a future GPS survey will add another fell to my To Do list.