In July 2009 I started a personal project – to climb all the 330 fells (mountains) in the English Lake District, as catalogued in the 1950s and 60s by the guidebook writer Alfred Wainwright (see below for some information on these guides). I have also committed to doing this without using a car. I can only travel to and around the Lake District by train, bus and on foot. I live a three-hour train journey from Windermere (the only rail station located in the District) so this is not an idle commitment!

I completed the first round of these fells in November 2015 (walk 103), but had already started a second round which is under way. Probably I will finish this around 2021.  I started this blog so interested parties can track my progress and I can share photos and comments on the walks I have undertaken.

The Wainwright guides

A page from 'The Central Fells'

A page from ‘The Central Fells’

In the 1950s and 1960s, Alfred Wainwright, a council treasury officer who lived in Kendal, Cumbria, began compiling what has since become the standard reference work for the mountains (known as fells) of the Lake District. His Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells groups the 214 fells into seven volumes (see the fell list for details) and provides routes of ascent and descent (see the picture), details on the natural features of each fell, summit views, ridge routes, illustrations and so on.

Even just as guidebooks, these are phenomenal pieces of work. Unlike previous writers, Wainwright did not just stick to the popular ascents, like Helvellyn and Great Gable. He detailed every route up every fell. But as well as this, the books are works of art. He drew each page by hand, including the text as well as the illustrations, and the books were then produced by photocopying the original manuscript. Finally, the guides are suffused throughout by wry comments, jokes and philosophical musings on the nature of fellwalking.

The following information was taken (in 2010) from the Wikipedia page on Wainwright:

“According to Wainwright in his autobiography Fellwanderer, he initially planned the series for his own interest rather than with any intention of publication. When he did come to publish his first book it was privately through a local printer, as he could not face the prospect of finding a publisher; however, his friend Henry Marshall, Chief Librarian of Kendal and Westmorland, took charge of publicity and administration and his name appears as publisher on the early editions. This arrangement continued for the first editions of the next three books in the series, after which they were taken over by the local newspaper The Westmorland Gazette in Kendal. Wainwright’s books were in turn taken over by Michael Joseph in the 1990s. When they ceased publication in 2003, the rights were bought by Frances Lincoln.

Hart Crag in snow

Hart Crag in snow (picture taken towards the start of walk 29, 6/1/11)

The Pictorial Guides are currently being updated [Drew note: this has now been completed], for the first time since their original publication, to take account of changed conditions on the fells. The revisions are being made by Chris Jesty, who uses an imitation of Wainwright’s hand lettering to make the alterations look as unobtrusive as possible. The most notable changes are that the covers of the revised books show photographs of the Lake District by Derry Brabbs, rather than the drawings that were on the covers of the originals, and the maps show the paths in red. As of February 2009 the first six books in the ‘Lakeland Fells’ series have been issued in the revised edition, with the seventh and last due in September 2009. Revised editions of the remaining guides, including The Outlying Fells of Lakeland are planned to be published by 2012.”

See also Clive Hutchby’s Wainwright Companion, a guide to the guide if you like, published in 2012: a decent volume (and a book I’d have written myself if I’d thought of it first).

Copyright statement: All text and photos on this site are copyright Andrew Whitworth 2009-2016. You can quote text on this site if you credit the source. Photos cannot be reproduced without permission.

Please note that this web site is not in any way connected with Frances Lincoln or the estate of Alfred Wainwright.

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7 Responses to “About this site”

  1. vicki lee said

    Quite happy to join you on a few if thats ok – do I have to go on public transport though?

    • Drew Whitworth said

      I’ll let you drive from Sabden to Accrington or Burnley Manchester Road, but after that you can join me on the train! Except for the weekend after next – if the weather holds and I can get away with it – I doubt I’ll be doing any more until at least February, and probably March, but let’s think about it then…

  2. Thank you for liking “The Unexpected.” I enjoyed reading about your interesting project and seeing the beautiful photos on your blog. Good luck with your fellwalking journeys. 🙂

  3. Your blog is really inspirational. It’s great to hear you’ve done so well. As I don’t drive I’m ever more interested in learning how you got about the Lakes without a car. It’s one of my favourite places and although I’m no hiker I do enjoy a good walk. I can’t only imagine the trains started to get a bit expensive! I look forward to catching up on all your posts. 🙂

    • Drew Whitworth said

      Hi Sophie. I get the train from Yorkshire to the Lakes, then a bus if necessary (and occasionally a boat). The most useful stations are Windermere and Penrith but sometimes I’ve used others like Ulverston or Ravenglass. There’s plenty of info on public transport in the ‘Walkers’ Guide’ pages, if you look at the menu at the top you can find it. I guess I spend at least £50/trip on the transport, which is one reason why I only do one a month…

  4. This is quite an interesting target you have set…

    I really love hiking and let me wish you all the best 🙂

  5. Hi Drew,

    I’ve just stumbled upon your site during a quiet night shift, and have thoroughly enjoyed perusing for a couple of hours. I have made it my mission this year to become better acquainted with Lakeland (currently on a feeble six Wainwrights) and I’ve a feeling I’ll be visiting this blog frequently. Keep up the good work and the excellent photography.

    Regards, Nathan

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