The story of the 'lost' Alfred Wainwright book about the Coast to Coast route that was never published

A lifelong love of the outdoors and the walks of Alfred Wainwright has led to Yorkshire-born engineer Christopher Butterfield becoming the famous author’s archivist and curator.

St Bees was going to be the starting point for the new book

Stumbling across a second-hand copy of Wainwright on the Pennine Way when he moved from his home town in Bradford to Mytholmroyd, near Halifax, Chris said: “I had no idea know who this Wainwright fella was, but as far as I was concerned, he had written an excellent book.”

Completing the Coast to Coast walk some years later with his wife Priscilla, Christopher described the route as “pure genius” prompting him to look further into Wainwright’s work.

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Discovering his A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells series sealed his fascination with the fell walker and author.

A meeting with Wainwright’s former printers led to Christopher becoming the official custodian of the Wainwright archive but as he has recently found out there is still much to be discovered about Wainwright and his legacy.

Here he talks about the Wainwright book which ‘never was’.

"Wainwright’s world-famous A Coast to Coast Walk is one of my favourite long-distant walks in Northern England.

"This 190-mile hike traverses through not one, but three National Parks, the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, and the North Yorkshire Moors. So, it’s not surprising it attracts people from all over the world.

"Three years ago, when I started researching Wainwright’s work, I learned much about this enigmatic character that was not yet public knowledge.

"One of my biggest finds was a story about his beloved creation, A Coast to Coast Walk.

"I was staying with Andrew Nichol one weekend - he was the former general printing and book publishing manager at the Westmorland Gazette.

"We were chatting about Wainwright’s work and something we said triggered a memory. In mid-conversation, he suddenly said: “I have some photographs you haven’t seen.”

"He then produced a photo album featuring multiple images of Wainwright in Cumbria, taken in 1989 before relating the full story of a book proposal he had in mind.

"Prior to the then new Coast to Coast TV series which was aired in 1989, the Westmorland Gazette stockpiled 10,000 copies of the original guide.

"They all sold out and thousands more were printed to keep up with the demand. This gave Andrew the idea of producing a new book with the working title Points of Interest on the Coast to Coast Walk. Andrew said he put the idea to Wainwright on one of his regular visits to his home, and he was delighted.

"Wainwright would choose the route, locations and produce the writing, while Andrew would be the photographer.

"This would have been a first-time collaboration between Wainwright and his publisher.

"Despite Wainwright’s poor eyesight, he was like a homing pigeon and knew every bend and junction from memory without even seeing them.

"Andrew said he was amazed by this skill and impressed with how much information Wainwright retained throughout his entire walking life.

"Just when you think you have learned everything about Wainwright’s work, a story like this comes your way.

"The new book wasn’t just aimed at walkers, it was for a much broader demographic and was never featured in any previous publication, so this information shared by Andrew was new to the public.

"This ‘lost’ book aimed to include everyone, people who couldn’t walk far or felt they were unable to take on a long-distance walk.

"The places featured could be visited easily and the journey involved could be completed by car as well as by foot.

"The whole route wasn’t thought out in advance, it was to be done one day at a time.

"The first day was planned out as St Bees to Keswick with Betty Wainwright and Andrew’s wife Bernice accompanying them on the day’s shoot.

"Andrew said he developed the photos from the first day and gave a set to Wainwright so he could get started on producing the words for that initial section but it was not to be.

"Several weeks went by before Andrew eventually informed Wainwright that due to work at the Gazette, he no longer had the time to continue the book project.

"It then became one of those ‘could have beens’ that gave us a little insight into a book that unfortunately didn’t see the light of day.

"This story never went public due to the project being abandoned and Andrew said he had almost forgotten about it, thinking it wouldn’t be of interest.

"It wasn’t until something stirred his memory during our conversation that weekend which reminded him of the project.

"Almost 30 years after Wainwright’s passing, I often wonder what other surprises are left for us to discover."