Walking the Wainwrights by Graham Uney

Walking the Wainwrights by Graham Uney

The author opens his book with a somewhat anticlimactic account of summiting Carrock Fell to complete his first round of all 214 fells detailed by renowned author and artist Alfred Wainwright.

But as Uney points out, Wainwright’s Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells were meticulous in their description of routes to climb the hills and mountains of the Lake District, but are largely lacking in how to link these peaks in a day’s walk.

This new book offers baggers 64 different routes that will enable peak efficiency in ticking off Wainwrights.

Uney is now close to completing his sixth full round of the Wainwrights and has a wealth of experience of the Lakeland fells, having spent five years as one of the national park’s winter felltop assessors, making the ascent of Helvellyn more than 600 times. He also runs numerous courses as a mountain instructor and provides guided walks in the area and lives on the eastern fringes of the national park.

The book is arranged in sections corresponding to each of the seven volumes of Wainwright’s Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells, and begins with three walks that take in only one fell each, indicative of the fact it’s not always easy to link Wainwrights for a day’s walking.

Each walk is prefaced by its location in relation to Wainwright’s volume titles, a distance, ascent in metres and a list of felltops visited, along with their grid reference and height above sea level. The start point is also detailed by a grid reference.

The walk descriptions are simple but should allow competent walkers to follow. There are sketch maps for each chapter, with the route marked out in dotted lines. As well as topographical features, the maps have contour lines and crags and outcrops included.

There are also box-outs on the pages that include historical and other facts about some of the sights to be seen on the route. Uney’s colour photographs of the fells are liberally scattered across the pages of the book.

Because of the nature of the layout of the Lakeland fells, some peaks, such as Fairfield and Hart Crag, appear in more than one chapter.

Some walks, including the Fairfield Horseshoe from Ambleside, and the Kentmere Horseshoe, enable eight Wainwrights to be bagged in one journey.

Uney’s intimate knowledge of the Lake District fells is demonstrated by useful snippets, for instance where a path diverges on the ground from the course marked on OS maps. Where enhanced navigation skills might be needed, the author makes a note of this for the wary walker.

For anyone up for the grade-one scramble up Jack’s Rake on Pavey Ark, the book gives a detailed description of the ascent. Uney also suggests a route that will take you to the summit of England’s highest peak, Scafell Pike, while avoiding the hordes using the most popular path. And did you know there was a gnome garden in a very surprising place in the Lake District? It’s certainly out of bounds to walkers. In the section covering the Back o’ Skiddaw, there’s even the chance, with no extra effort, to summit a fell many reckon should be a Wainwright but, for some reason wasn’t included in his series of guidebooks.

In fact, there are a few queries as to why Wainwright chose particular fells for inclusion over perhaps more deserving ones, but for baggers, all 214 peaks described by the late author are included. Turn-by-turn descriptions of ascents should enable walkers to tick off each summit. Some walks are major day-long excursions; others can be done in a short evening saunter. One particular route in the north-west fells entails visiting 10 Wainwrights in one trek, albeit an eight- to nine-hour, 22km yomp with 1,620m of ascent. Uney describes this one as ‘a true challenge of a walk’.

Walking the Wainwrights also has a full list of the 214 fells, plus an alphabetical index of place names in the book, along with a small-scale map on the inside back cover locating all the peaks detailed.

The Wainwrights are an easier prospect for completers than the Scottish munros, being less numerous, all within a relatively compact geographical boundary and generally of a lower height. The original author’s accounts of the fells are true works of art and reflect his sometimes idiosyncratic and always self-assured views of the Lakeland fells but, with a few exceptions, don’t provide the sort of day-long round trips that Graham Uney has put together for this new book.

Anyone setting out to start their quest to bag the Wainwrights, continue to tick off some more towards their target or simply enjoy a good walk on some of Cumbria’s finest peaks, regardless of their list status, will find Walking the Wainwrights a useful guide.

Walking the Wainwrights – 64 Walks to Climb 214 Wainwrights of Lakeland, by Graham Uney, is published by Pesda Press. Softback, £19.99.

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