'Wainwright' takes to the Lakeland fells againHe may have departed for the great peak in the sky 16 years ago, but the ghost of Alfred Wainwright has returned to guide a new generation of fellwalkers.

'Wainwright' takes to the Lakeland fells again
Steve Barber

The flat Lancashire tones of the Grumpy Old Fellwalker have been recreated in a podcast guide to a diminutive peak described by Wainwright as possibly the ‘best known hill in the country’. Actor Nik Wood-Jones, who voiced over the recent BBC Wainwright’s Walks, has provided the voice for the audio guide, which leads walkers up Helm Crag, overlooking Grasmere.

The podcast has been produced by Cumbria Tourism and capitalises on the recent successful series of broadcasts fronted by Julia Bradbury, watched by six million viewers. Ironically, the very peak of the ‘Lion and the Lamb’ at the top of Helm Crag, involves a scramble and Wainwright admitted the exposed route had defeated him, so he never actually made it to the pinnacle of the fell.

The 'Lion' conquered: Nik stands at the top of Helm Crag Mr Wood-Jones donned flat cap and traditional walking gear to recreate Wainwright’s route, which starts in Grasmere and has been committed to digital audio with the blessing of the estate of the former Kendal borough treasurer.

The 'Lion' conquered: Nik stands at the top of Helm Crag
Steve Barber 

Eric Robson, chairman of the Wainwright Society and Cumbria Tourism, said: “Many people go walking in the Lake District with a Wainwright guide book for company and this is their chance to experience what it might have been like taking a walk with Wainwright by your side.”

Eric should know: he was given the task of coaxing the recalcitrant chronicler of the Lakeland fells into speaking on camera during his earlier broadcasts of the 1980s.

Mr Robson continued: “The idea that this priest and poet of the Lakeland Fells is telling you which path to take while reading his love letter to the fells directly to you is a novel approach to 21st century hill walking.”

London-based Nik Wood-Jones said: “To have the opportunity to walk Helm Crag and follow in his footsteps, as the man himself, was a wonderful experience and I hope it introduces more people to his fantastic books and the stunning Lake District which inspired him.”

2007 is the centenary of Wainwright’s birth. He produced pictorial guides to 214 of the Lakeland fells and went on to extend the range of hand-illustrated and written books to the Howgill Fells, Yorkshire Dales limestone and the Pennine Way. He also devised his Coast-to-Coast Walk, followed by thousands of people since its instigation. The traverse of the 405m (1,328ft) Helm Crag is an option for those undertaking the Coast-to-Coast Walk.

Details of the Wainwright podcast can be found on the on the Go Lakes website or you can download the 15-minute-long mp3 file direct.

  • Visitors to the Yorkshire Dales now have five podcasts to use as their personal walking guide.

As grough reported, the first was a tour of the former shanty-town sites of Ribblehead. There then followed further MP3 guides to Malhamdale, Lower Wharfedale and Ribblesdale. The latest podcast is a guide to Swaledale and was added to the Out of Oblivion website this month.

Karen Griffiths, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s interpretation officer, said: “The audio trails are a great way of finding out more about different features ranging from ancient burial sites through to 18th century farmhouses; you have your own personal guide bringing history and archaeology alive.”

The trails are part of an authority drive started last year to try to reduce the number of new interpretation panels – boards placed on site explaining the immediate surroundings – being installed in the National Park because of the visual impact they have on the environment.