Book Reviews: Wainwright’s ‘Other’ Guides

So, I was sent some books to review: ‘Walks On The Howgill Fells’ and ‘Walks In Limestone Country’ or, to give them their full titles, ‘Walks On The Howgill Fells and Adjoining Fells’ and ‘Walks In Limestone Country. The Whernside, Ingleborough and Penyghent Area of Yorkshire.’ We might call them Wainwright’s other, less famous, guide books.

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Warrendale Knotts from Attermire Scar

Now, you might think it a bit presumptuous for this insignificant blog with a trickle of readers to be reviewing the books of one Alfred Wainwright. The man has spawned an industry. He has an appreciation society! His surname has become a noun! He has a beer named after him, surely the ultimate accolade? He is a guidebook writing mega-star. A colossus!

I couldn’t agree more. I can’t help feeling that Wainwright doesn’t really need my help.

But I’m going to do it anyway.

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Whernside from Ribblehead

The books are available in the original edition, Wainwright’s unsullied version, or in a second edition which has been updated by Chris Jesty.

The unrevised edition has a handsome Wainwright drawing on the dust-jacket, the new editions have fetching photographs. (Personally, I prefer the drawing, but I think it’s good that the two are clearly distinguished.)

The books are fairly small and can handily fit in a rucksack (mine have both already been out numerous times). The new edition is slightly bigger than the old, which, if you’re of a certain age and are beginning to find that most things must be read at arms length, can be quite handy when trying to decipher some of the small handwriting.

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The Mare’s Tail, Force Gill

Wainwright and I have a bit of a history. Several of my friends are bagging the Wainwright’s or have finished the Wainwright’s or are pretending not to be bagging the Wainwrights. I’m in the latter category, surreptitiously ticking off the Wainwright’s as I accumulate Birketts. At University, always Tommy Opposite by nature, I was temperamentally inclined to take a dislike to anything which was popular with my peers – and one of those things was, as I saw it, the cult of Wainwright. I still stick by some of my opinions – ‘Allo, Allo’ really was dreadful,  and I’ve never warmed to the music of Genesis, Haircut One Hundred or Thomas Dolby, but I’ve grudgingly come to admire Wainwright’s pictorial guides.

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Catrigg Force

But, although I’ve gradually put together a second-hand collection of the Lake District Fells guides, and fairly recently added ‘The Outlying Fells’, I’ve never had either of these books. (I almost bought a second-hand copy of ‘Walks In Limestone Country’ but decided in the end that the copy I had found was prohibitively expensive.)

So – what do I think of them? Well, as I’ve alluded to already, I love them! They’re gggggrrreat! They’ve inspired me to go back and rediscover some corners of the North-West I haven’t visited for far too long and have also pointed me toward some delights that I hitherto was unaware of. (A few of these walks have appeared on the blog, but there are many more to come!)

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Stainforth Force

Initially, I was predisposed to prefer the original versions – why muck about with the best? But – I must admit that I’ve changed my mind. The access status of some of the routes in the Dales book are questionable and I wanted to know whether the routes were still OK to use. In the revised Howgills book, Chris Jesty’s additions, handwritten and sympathetic to, but distinct from, the original, are really useful and if were to buy Wainwright’s books again, I’d be strongly tempted to go for the revised editions.

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Rowten Pot

Either way, if you don’t know these books, I can’t recommend them highly enough. They’ve galvanised me in a way which I really didn’t anticipate.

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Book Reviews: Wainwright’s ‘Other’ Guides

One thought on “Book Reviews: Wainwright’s ‘Other’ Guides

  1. Like you I was very anti-Wainwright, primarily because he was a grumpy, curmudgeonly old git. Then I bought one of the guides (when I was doing my thesis back in the 80’s) and I was hooked. They do get put exploring hills and areas would wouldn’t normally go to and I did manage to “bag” 11 in one day.

    I’d probably be a fan now as by choice I now seek out the lesser known hills and am “Tommy Opposite” when it comes to big summits and well known hills.

    That walk we did from Stainforth was a cracker by way of example

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