Alfred Wainwright. Photo: Wainwright estate

Alfred Wainwright. Photo: Wainwright estate

Fans of the late author Alfred Wainwright are gathering this evening to celebrate two significant anniversaries.

The Wainwright Society was formed 10 years ago and it was 60 years ago that the curmudgeonly fellwalker first put pen to paper on what would become his celebrated Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells.

This evening, Britain’s only mountaineer to complete the ascent of the world’s 14 8,000m mountains will deliver the Wainwright Memorial Lecture.

Alan Hinkes will speak to the gathering at Rheged near Penrith, where a selection of items from the newly acquired Wainwright Archive will also be on display.

Derek Cockell of the Wainwright Society said: “For devotees of Alfred Wainwright, [today] is a significant date as it was sixty years ago on 9 November 1952 that Wainwright penned the first page of the first volume of the Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells.

“Book One was The Eastern Fells and the very first page depicted the ascent of Dove Crag from Ambleside.

“Years later, Wainwright recalled that November evening in his book, Fellwanderer: “Somebody once said that a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.

“November 9 1952 saw my first step. It was a good evening for me. It was a winter’s night, but I spent it going up Dove Crag and was lost to all else.”

The 214 Lake District fells described by Wainwright in his handwritten and illustrated series are now walked by thousands of visitors every year.

Mr Cockell said: “It was fitting that the inaugural meeting of The Wainwright Society was held on 9 November 2002, 50 years after that first page was written.

Alan Hinkes will this evening deliver the memorial lecture

Alan Hinkes will this evening deliver the memorial lecture

“The idea for a Wainwright Society was originally conceived by John Burland and, having sought and obtained the blessing of [his widow] Betty Wainwright, the first gathering was held at Ambleside Youth Hostel where the 98 people who attended agreed that the Wainwright Society should be formed.

“Betty Wainwright consented to serve as life president and, following her death in 2008, was succeeded by her two daughters, Jane King and Annie Sellar.

“The patron of the society is Wainwright’s biographer, Hunter Davies. For the past 10 years the chairman has been Eric Robson who, with AW, made the only television series that Wainwright recorded in the 1980s.”

The society exists to keep alive the fellwalking traditions that Wainwright promoted in his guidebooks and his philosophy of caring for the upland landscapes of northern England and, particularly, the Lake District.

Since the meeting in Ambleside, the membership of the society has grown ten-fold and over the years has raised more than £50,000 for local charities it believes Wainwright would have approved and supported.

The society has also campaigned against inappropriate or potentially harmful developments in the Lake District landscape.

Members will tomorrow walk to Dove Crag, described by Wainwright on the first page of his guides and this will be followed in the evening with an anniversary party.

To round off the weekend, some members will attend the Remembrance Day services held on Great Gable or Castle Crag.

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