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 try to only travel to and around the Lake District by train, bus and on foot. (I admit that down the years some cars and taxis have had to come into play very occasionally, but I do my best.)

I completed the first round of these fells in November 2015 (walk 103), but had already started a second round which is under way. I still hope to finish this second round in late 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 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. The original 7 volumes were finished in 1965, but in 1972 Wainwright then published a supplementary eighth volume, The Outlying Fells, which takes the number of fells up to the 330 that are covered on this site.

Even just as a guidebook, the Pictorial Guide is a phenomenal piece of work. Unlike previous writers, Wainwright did not just stick to the popular ascents, like Helvellyn and Great Gable. He sought to provide detail on 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.

List of 'The Western Fells'

The table of contents for ‘The Western Fells’ (volume 7).

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.

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).

Summit of Scar Crags

Summit of Scar Crags: Causey Pike and, ultimately, the Pennines behind

Some notes about the information on this site: Each walk I have taken on this project has its own page, which provides practical information, route advice and, hopefully, some half-decent photos (weather permitting…).

The aim is to provide enough info to allow readers to duplicate the walks if they wish to. But please bear in mind the following: first, that the figures for mileage, feet of ascent and time taken are just what i happened to do on the day and are provided for information only. Others will walk at different speeds or find different routes. All information on public transport connections was accurate at the time but you should always check the most up-to-date timetables.

Climbing South Rake

The ascent of South Rake, on Dow Crag. Please take care if you do this kind of thing.

All information on this site is presented in good faith and represents a personal account of some walks I have undertaken. However, it should not be used as the sole source of information about a walk. First, buy a good map – namely the OS Outdoor Leisure maps of the area (numbers 4 to 7 cover the whole District with plenty of room to spare) – and take it on each trip. You could do worse than invest in Wainwright’s Pictorial Guides as well (follow that link for more information).

All fellwalking, particularly in the Lake District in which conditions can change rapidly, should be considered a potentially risky undertaking. You should be sure you are in good health. Wear proper outdoor gear, including good boots: check the weather forecast always, particularly if you are going up above 2,000 feet. I swear I have had sleet fall on me in August (on Pike o’Blisco – see the picture) and remember that the Lakes is the wettest part of England. Take food and drink, and make sure someone knows where you are going and what time you expect to return.

Walker and Pike o'Blisco

Dreadful conditions near Pike o’Blisco on walk 64 — in August

Although I would be flattered if anyone was inspired by my ramblings (on the fells and on the web site) to go and follow in my footsteps somehow, please note you do so at your own risk and I cannot be responsible for any mishaps which may befall you. However, I say that only because I must – actually I hope you really enjoy it, as I (almost) always do. Please use the comment facility on this site to tell me about your experiences.

Copyright statement: All text and photos on this site are copyright Andrew Whitworth 2009-2020. 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.

9 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

  6. Lee said

    Hello, stumbled across your blog when googling the Wainwrights. Just wanted to say what a great resource you have and must have been a lot of fun putting it together. When lockdown is over I’m going to start doing something similar on my blog – so thanks for helping with the inspiration.

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