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" Wainwright: A Love Letter to the Lakeland Fells "

An Exhibition celebrating the life of Alfred Wainwright.

Kendal Borough Treasurer, Fellwalker, Author.

Date & start time: Friday 22nd May 2015, 7pm start.

Location of Start : The Keswick Museum, Station Road, Fitz Park, Cumbria, Uk.

Places visited : Upstairs and downstairs.

Highest point : Upstairs !

Walked with : Ann, six colleagues and many other invited guests.

Weather : A lovely early summer's evening.

© Crown copyright. All rights reserved. License number PU 100034184.


As a member of George Fisher's Staff I received an invite to the opening night

of the new Alfred Wainwright's "A Love Letter to the Lakeland Fells " exhibition in the Keswick Museum.

It has been beautifully put together with many new exhibits and offers a wider appreciation of the man and his Lakeland legacy.

7pm and it's a grand evening for a game of Bowls in Fitz Park.
There's someone being interviewed to camera on the field.

Maybe it could be something to do with our invite to the Museum.

The main hall is already buzzing with other attendees.
Civic patronage on this opening night too.

We were welcomed by Mr Tony Lywood (pictured below), local businessman and trustee of the Keswick Museum and Art Gallery,

who had conceived the idea and, with the help of Sue Mackay, Helen Keogh and staff of the Museum, developed the exhibition we were about to view.

Welcome speech by Len Davies, the new Mayor of Allerdale.
The exhibition was officially opened by the broadcaster, Eric Robson.

The invited guests on this preview night were all associated in some way with the museum, were contributors to the displays

or part of the wider circle of sponsors who made it all possible.

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Now to find our way around the exhibits and read the stories.

The author of the famous guide books - Alfred Wainwright.
He was born and raised in the mill town of Blackburn, Lancashire.

I would not pretend to say it better myself.

Wainwright was a writer and artist from an early age, even publishing an in-house magazine

in his first job in Blackburn Borough Council's Engineer's Department. 

His enthusiasm for his local football team led to him becoming founder member of the Blackburn Rovers Supporter's Club.

Not keen to work in the mills, Wainwright was destined to train for a life in local government accountancy.

Promotion to Borough treasurer allowed him to move to Kendal in 1941

which meant he was also closer to the big love of his life  . . . the Lakeland Fells.

He then set himself a thirteen year project . . . to write about his beloved fells and selected 214 significant Lakeland peaks for his subjects

His initial theory was that in his latter life, when he would be too old to walk the fells, he could read his "diary" and recall a lifetime of enjoyment.

The exhibition has brought together many previously unseen items on show . . . too numerous to include in this short report.

Do visit Keswick and include a visit to the museum so as to take time to appreciate them all yourself.

Some of his walking gear . . . a far cry from the present day equipment.
He never drove but used public transport for most of his visits.


For his writing project he developed his unique stile

of both writing and line drawings.

Fortunately for us, he was soon encouraged to publish them in book form

and his initial private project grew to become the seven book series

known as the " Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells "


As you can see, his initial skills as an artist were much improved

from those early 1922 drawings in that office magazine !

The exhibition contains many original examples of his famous pictures.

A Westmorland Gazette's print block from his first guides . . .
. . . and details of the modern updates now available.

His work often generated correspondence from his readers, but this exhibition is not detailing the "Wainwright Letters".

We'll leave that to Hunter Davies's book which you can search out for yourself.

There is also a new project on the go to find all the people who met, and were possibly even photographed with Wainwright.

Here is a rare photo of AW with John and Robin Knowles in 1986.

If you met him, or know someone who met him, please do contact the Museum, they would be delighted to hear from you.

Wainwright also wrote of long distance walks and of Scotland.
His final resting place was beside Innominate Tarn on Haystacks

RIP. Alfred Wainwright MBE, Borough Treasurer, Fellwalker, Author, 1907 - 1991.

A fuller summary of his life and the huge list of his publications can be found on his Wikipedia entry here.

- - - o o o - - -


Amongst fellwalkers and visitors to the English Lake District

his legacy is immense and he lives on through his books

of which he published over forty in addition to

the seven Pictorial Guides.


It has become a challenge both to visitors and locals

to "walk the Wainwrights".


Ann and I have completed three rounds,

Harry our older retriever has completed two

but this gentleman (apologies, name unknown)

was proud to have completed ten rounds

of the 214 Wainwright Fells.

With any challenge there are notable 'completers'.
The first (notified to AW) and the youngest . . .
. . . and recently Steve Birkinshaw's amazing 'fastest round' . . .
. . . beating the legendary Joss Naylor's 1987 seven day record.

Steve's time was six days and 13 hours . . . my fastest was three and a half years !

His journey around the fells amounted to 320 miles and 36,000 feet of climbing . . .

that's the equivalent of two marathons a day for seven days plus an ascent total 20% higher than Mount Everest.

There have also been many other spin-offs from AW's lifetime achievements.

The artist Andy Beck (who was here tonight) has undertaken to produce (and offer for sale) authentic water colour pictures

of each of the drawings in the seven Pictorial Guides. 

In doing so he has searched out every location where AW stood to photograph, and subsequently draw, each of his pictures in the 214 chapters.

Andy has produced them all in beautiful water colours.

Others have taken Wainwright into the electronic age with interactive screens of Lakeland views.

AW has also become the inspiration of a range of Thwaites beers.

Do visit the Keswick Museum and see the full story.
A big thank you to the sponsors, and also my colleague from Fishers.

Apparently AW always liked the opportunity to stop off for some fish and chips after his walks,

so the museum (for this night only) was offering refreshments with a fellwalking theme.

These are four other colleagues that came along this evening, plus Ann (with her back to camera).

Classic Wainwright 'Fish and Chips' in newspaper . . .
. . . with a modern addition, some Wainwright Ale.

P.s. I didn't drink all those bottles . . . other enjoyed taking the caps off the bottles and supping the contents too !

Finally a picture of two guys who were also here tonight.

On the right, the acclaimed photographer Derry Brabbs who worked with AW to produce many of his later photo-illustrated books.

He is now working on his own photographic guide books to the Pilgrim Routes to Santiago and Rome.

The other gentleman is Jeff Ford who is chairman of the Mountain Heritage Trust.

He has been working recently to produce a display in the museum to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the climbing of Kanchenjunga

(George Band and Joe Brown, May 25, 1955) . . . . yet another reason to get yourself along to Keswick Museum as soon as you can.

We enjoyed it . . . I'm sure you will too.

- - - o o o - - -

Hit the start button to hear some of the thoughts of our speakers in this 4 minute introduction to the evening.

[ Use the video controls to view full screen if you wish ]

- - - o o o - - -

Click hear to listen to the BBC Podcast of the 1988 Desert Island Discs programme where Sue Lawley interviewed Alfred Wainwright.

- - - o o o - - -


Technical note: Pictures taken with Canon 1100D Digital SLR.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

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