Peo­ple who rock

Great friend of Al­fred Wain­wright and Britain’s ul­ti­mate long-dis­tance trekker, 88-year-old Ron Sc­holes knows a thing or two about hill­walk­ing…

Trail (UK) - - CONTENTS -

Long-dis­tance walker, and great friend of Wain­wright’s, Ron Sc­holes

My 1360-mile solo jour­ney on foot in 1990 is my long­est walk­ing achieve­ment. It was full of mem­o­rable mo­ments and a source of great pride. I walked con­tin­u­ously for three months, all over the UK from Cape Wrath to Land’s End, on my re­tire­ment from teach­ing.

The day I joined Han­lien­sian Ram­bling Club in 1945 at the age of 15 was prob­a­bly the best day of my life. Since then I have walked the length and breadth of many parts of this coun­try, the Alps, the French Vos­ges moun­tain range, the Black For­est in Ger­many, the Pol­ish Ta­tra Moun­tains and the Faroe Is­lands, to name a few.

Af­ter WWII I led a YHA walk­ing trip to Poland. Ger­many was di­vided and we had to pass from West Ber­lin into East Ber­lin. One of the group dec­o­rated a wa­ter­melon to look like a bomb, and made a no­tice in Ger­man which read ‘A present from Great Britain with best wishes’. For­tu­nately, even the stony­faced bor­der guards roared with laugh­ter!

My friend­ship with Al­fred Wain­wright be­gan in the mid 1970s, through an an­i­mal res­cue char­ity in Cum­bria. I paid many vis­its to his home in Kendal Green. Dur­ing our friend­ship un­til his death in 1991, I as­sisted Wain­wright with back­ground for his Peak Dis­trict Sketch­book, and I greatly en­joyed our dis­cus­sions about all his books. We walked to­gether in 1983 in the Stafford­shire Moor­lands and the Up­per Dove, when we climbed The Roaches, but his eye­sight was de­te­ri­o­rat­ing quite badly at this time and this project was his fi­nal sketch­book.

Wain­wright wanted to know about my longdis­tance walk­ing projects, and the ideas for my first book Un­der­stand­ing the Coun­try­side – Man’s Im­pact on the Land­scape pub­lished in 1985. He cer­tainly gave me the in­cen­tive to write my lat­est book, A Pen­nine Odyssey.

The Pen­nines rate very highly as one of my favourite walk­ing re­gions. From north Stafford­shire up to the Tyne Gap and Ro­man Wall, the whole area dis­plays a won­der­fully wide and di­verse va­ri­ety of land­scape scenery – a long-dis­tance walker’s par­adise.

At 88 I con­tinue to en­joy my love of walk­ing and the coun­try­side. But I now think and plan a bit more be­fore I set out. I have learnt to re­spect moun­tains, hills and wild up­land. To have a plan or an es­cape route if some­thing goes wrong, don’t bite off more than you can chew, and to quote Wain­wright, sim­ply “Watch where you are putting your feet”.

Things have changed a bit over the years! Way mark­ers, route ar­rows and sign­posts are now aplenty. In con­ver­sa­tion, Wain­wright once mut­tered darkly, tongue in cheek, about ‘sign­post lit­ter’, stat­ing “There should be one at the be­gin­ning of a walk and one at the end!”

Wain­wright, through his great in­ter­est and guid­ance, was and still re­mains my in­spi­ra­tion for all my walks, great and small, through the beau­ti­ful and var­ied land­scape we are so for­tu­nate to en­joy in this coun­try.

Quick-fire Q &A

Strangest place you’ve ever slept? A barn in the French Alps. Cows were on the up­per floor, and there were gaps in the plank­ing. Dur­ing the night we were sub­jected to a rain of un­men­tion­able ob­jects.

Best hills? Chrome Hill – Peak Dis­trict; Pen-y-ghent – York­shire; Cross Fell – Cum­bria; Blen­cathra – Lake Dis­trict. Favourite post-walk pub? Al­len­heads Inn, Northum­ber­land.

A Pen­nine Odyssey – Walks and Ways (pb Sigma Press) de­tails a long-dis­tance trail based on Ron’s mus­ings with Wain­wright for a ‘purely Pen­nine Way’.

Ron dur­ing his epic 1360-mile walk in 1990.

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