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…
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.