Overseas Walks: The story of the modern ‘A Pennine Journey’
In September 1938, Alfred Wainwright (AW), now well known for his Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells in Cumbria, England, made a solitary walk through the Pennines as the storm clouds were gathering over Europe. ‘ There seemed no escape from the atmosphere of gloom and despondency........things were getting worse day by day. But I was fortunate in having a fortnight’s holiday due, and I fled the
familiar scene.’ wrote AW a year later. Other travellers in Britain, going back many years, had written about their journeys but his idea of a long distance walk could be said to have been the seed corn that has led to the wonderful variety of walking routes in Britain.
He had taken a break from his job
as a clerk at Blackburn Town Hall and headed to Settle in North Yorkshire for his walk “....which should take me by way of the Yorkshire Dales and Durham along the eastern flanks of the Pennines as far as Tynedale, from which faraway valley I planned to return along the western slopes of the range.”
During the walk he sent back postcards on which were probably his first landscape sketches.
The following year he wrote a narrative description of the walk, showed it to some colleagues and put the manuscript away in a drawer where it remained untouched for nearly forty-eight years.
Nearly thirty years after his Pennine Journey AW wrote the Pennine Way Companion in 1968: still for many the definitive guide to Britain’s first Na- tional Trail – something he had planned during the 1950/60’s whilst engaged on his fells guides.
Then, after writing his pictorial guides, ‘Walks on the Howgill Fells’ and ‘Walks in Limestone Country’ covering an area close to where he lived in Kendal, in 1973 he published his Coast to Coast Walk – now one of the world’s most popular walks which passes 200 yards from where I live.
Perhaps here I should mention my introduction to long distance footpath walking.
It was in the mid-1970s that I came across AW’s guide to the Coast to Coast Walk being already familiar with his pictorial guides through my father who had retired to the Lakes.
In 1978 I was approaching my en-
forced ‘retirement’ from the Round Table movement and planned a ‘final fellowship fling’ along the Coast to Coast Walk. Not surprisingly, as until then I had been a golfer more than a walker, I arrived at Robin Hood’s Bay totally exhausted with the firm resolve never to get involved in any similar venture.
However, when the fatigue and blisters were no more, I remember experiencing a warm glow of satisfaction on my achievement. Next year my father, then aged 77 and doing his only long distance walk, joined me along the 84 mile Dales Way: thus began a sequence of annual long distance walks that has continued to this day.
My wife, Heather, was introduced to the fells and long distance walks soon after we met and by autumn 1986 we had completed our first Wainwright ‘round’ of the Lakeland fells and were firm AW admirers and long distance footpath walkers, having completed the 630 mile South West Way in five stages from Poole to Minehead.
Others followed and in 1991 my early
Left: A distant view of Cautley Spout in the Howgill Fells. Above: Hull Pot - reputedly the largest natural ‘hole’ in Britain.