Famed walker’s first steps inspire new route

Legendary walking enthusiast Alfred Wainwright,  is most famous for his hand written and illustrated guides to the Lakeland fells but his journey began with a manuscript detailing a Dales trip in 1938,  which enthusiasts hope could become as famous as his Coast to Coast route. His journey began at Settle station and took in a stretch of Hadrians Wall, covering 210 miles.
Legendary walking enthusiast Alfred Wainwright, is most famous for his hand written and illustrated guides to the Lakeland fells but his journey began with a manuscript detailing a Dales trip in 1938, which enthusiasts hope could become as famous as his Coast to Coast route. His journey began at Settle station and took in a stretch of Hadrians Wall, covering 210 miles.
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IT was September 24, 1938, when a young clerk from Blackburn Town Hall stepped off the train at Settle station and set off at a steady pace into the Yorkshire Dales.

The route, a 210-mile circular walk through Yorkshire to Hadrian’s Wall in somewhat inclement weather, would change Alfred Wainwright’s life for ever.

The then 31-year-old painstakingly detailed every aspect of the walk in his first full length manuscript that experts believe gave him the confidence to embark on a remarkable literary career that encompassed 59 books and guides.

His work, A Pennine Journey – The Story of a Long Walk in 1938, lay undiscovered for nearly 50 years before it was published shortly before his death.

The route was revised by the Wainwright Society, a volunteer group of around 2,000 members, in an updated edition last year,

Now a campaign is gathering pace to make it a permanent trail through Yorkshire similar to Wainwright’s famous Coast to Coast footpath which brings in vital tourism revenue to the region every year.

Later this month, a blue plaque and information board highlighting Settle as the start of Wainwright’s walk is to be unveiled at the station.

And talks are currently going on with councils and national park chiefs across the route, to help get it marked as a footpath on the Ordnance Survey map.

Derek Cockell, 62, one of the original members of the Wainwright Society which was founded in 2002, said: “Getting this sign put up as a staging post for where the walk begins is a very important event.

“The Coast to Coast has done an awful lot for the people that live along that route and if this grows in popularity we hope it will bring a similar benefit.

“We hope with more people finding out about the walk and wanting to give it a go, it will bring a real economic boost for the landscape and the people that live there.”

Wainwright’s route takes in some of Yorkshire’s finest countryside including Wharfedale, Wensleydale and Swaledale before following up the eastern side of the Pennines and a substantial stretch of Hadrian’s Wall,

His book contains the typically politically incorrect Wainwright reflections about the people (chiefly women) who he encountered, but also the snippets of news he managed to gather from the various inns and stops en route from Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s trip to see Hitler in his ultimately doomed attempt to stop the country sliding towards World War Two.

He also sent a number of postcards from his holiday to his friend and fellow Blackburn resident Lawrence Wolstenholme, whose daughter Helen Holden will be at the plaque unveiling in Settle.

“It is very much a book of Wainwright’s time,” said Mr Cockell.

“Wainwright’s views showed how people thought and that is fascinating.

“But perhaps what makes it most special is that this was Wainwright’s first book.

“This convinced him he could write.

“Wainwright convinced other people that would look up a mountain and think to themselves, ‘I couldn’t do that’.

“He showed them that you could.

“He was an ordinary bloke and managed to make people realise that it was just going for a walk.

“More than anything, that is his greatest achievement.”

The original route was revised by Wainwright Society members David and Heather Pitt to encompass footpaths, as many of the roads originally chosen were traffic-free in the 1930s but have become a lot busier.

The society, which has members as far afield as mainland Europe, Australia and America, then tested this route and produced a new illustrated guide book published in s pring 2010 by Frances Lincoln, publishers of all of Alfred Wainwright’s works.

The new plaque is part of a partnership between The Wainwright Society, the Settle and Carlisle Partnership and Northern Rail, which has agreed that it can be installed at Settle Station.

It will be unveiled at the station on Saturday September 24 at 10am.