Over­seas Walks: The story of the mod­ern ‘A Pen­nine Jour­ney’

Walking New Zealand - - Contents - By David Pitt

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.

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