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A first class guide for the more serious fell walker
on 14 September 2000
The legendry Alfred Wainright's 7-volume Pictorial Guide,which describes in loving detail his selection of 214 peaksin the Lake District, is the bible of devotees of these imcomparable hills. This new guide sets out single-mindedly to provide routes for climbing the "Wainrights" as the peaks have come to be called, and it's the first pocket-sized book to do so. The author has walked the whole round several times and now offers his best shot at a scheme allowing the peaks to be scaled with the minimum of time and effort. Just what is needed nowadays by all those keen, middle-ranking walkers who simply don't have the time, the confidence or the intimate knowledge of the district to plan a complete scheme of walks themselves.
This book fills a real gap in the market since although "AW" himself described ascents of all the tops, plus many ridge routes connecting them, he didn't suggest full-day walks linking the fells together to give complete outings. While there are other guidebooks that do this they're mostly big, heavy volumes so that you must buy a number of them. Walking the wainrights by contrast, is a comprehensive,portable guide, sized and designed so that when opened it will fit into a standard map case with the whole day's route laid out on just two facing pages. (the author rightly insists, however,that the relevent Ordnance survey or Harvey's map is an essential back-up which should be carried together with the book in the same holder.)
Thirty-six circular walks are described, each including at least two Wainrights. The routes are distinct-no summit is visited twice- and "height once gained is not lightly surrendered"! the instructions are very concise, with no purple passages or needless drawing of attention to the views(either you see them or you can't!) and no patronising references to the readers aching limbs. The sketch maps, in two colours, are keyed to the text by numbered waypoints. (the maps, like the photographs,the cover and the book design, are the authors own work.)
The walks vary in lenght and difficulty. The easiest is a five mile stroll ("for a sunny evening") covering Low Fell and Fellbarrow on the north-west fringe of the district. The toughest two are "The Newlands Watershed" (15 miles and 5,700ft of accent) and "A Buttermere Marathon" (16 miles and 4,400ft). These are demanding expeditions by the standards of most of us and the author must still be in good shape despite his fifty-odd years of peak bagging! Less fit or determined walkers, and those with mobility problems such as myself, may well draw the line at about ten miles and 3000ft of accent in one day. Such people, probably in the majority, will welcome a unique feature of this book, which is the measured and timed two-day alternatives that are offered for all the longer walks. readers who chose a lot of the alternatives will find that they'll take nearer sixty than thirty-six outings to traverse all tht Wainrights, but any who finish the task will, as the author says,"have set foot on practically all the highest ground in the Lakeland-a satisfying and pleasureable achievement and one to be proud of.
as well as the route information, and some very stern advice on footpath etiquette, the book has useful sections on Lakeland geology and place-names that will surely enrich the readers experience of the hills. There are moments of humour. Fun is poked at all those publications with "a guidebook's soul trapped in a coffee-table books body"-and the author is not afraid of controversy. He detests unnecessary gadjets, safety mania and overdressing for the fells. Clearly he wouldn't be seen dead with a pair of trekking poles(at least not just yet) or a GPS and he's not too keen on waterproof trousers or gaiters-or even on jackets. His navigation technique is over simple for me and most of my friends but he swears it works well enough for the Lake District hills (" small even by British standards") I'm told he is a scientist,and so at home with metric units, but he ignores them totally in this book and for "practical and sentimental" reasons sticks to miles, yards and feet, which may upset some readers. I personally think he has a bit of "The Wainright" in him.
However these are minor quibbles. The author has made his wealth of experience available to other Lakeland walkers, and his obvious love of roaming the fells is illuminated in his book.
It's quite simply a must for anybody who enjoys the mountains and even better for anyone who wants to climb the "Wainrights" in one lifetime