05 Aug 20
Alfred Wainwright first published his guide book ‘A Coast to Coast Walk’ in 1973 and described it as “a book for walkers with a liking for long distance unofficial expeditions.” Wainwright devised the 190 mile walk by linking a series of the right of way pathways through three of England’s most beautiful national parks.
Wainwright was born in Blackburn in 1907 and first visited the Lake District in 1930 where his passion for fell-walking was ignited. He described the experience as a “revelation so unexpected that I stood transfixed, unable to believe my eyes” and was so affected by the encounter he moved his family to the Lake District to pursue his passion. It is well documented that Wainwright was unhappily married for 36 years and that walking on his beloved fells was an escape from this misery.
In many ways he was a complex man and the fells offered an opportunity for solidarity and escape, he has also been described as shy, enigmatic, grumpy and feisty, according to stories if walkers greeted him on the fells, he would turn away and pretend to urinate. It may be my own contrary nature that I love the flaws in his personality and the walk is the richer for knowing that Wainwright was a grumpy old man.
Wainwright’s ashes were scattered atop Haystacks which was his favourite mountain on the high route from Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite, a route not recommended for inexperienced walkers. However, the spirit of Wainwright is inescapable as the magnificence of three of the UK’s areas of outstanding natural beauty unfold before you from the wild rugged Lake District National Park, to the rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales before finishing with the broad expansive colours of the North York Moors.
In Wainwrights words “one should always have a definite objective, in a walk as in life – it is so much more satisfying to reach a target by personal effort than to wander aimlessly. An objective is an ambition, and life without ambition is …… well, aimless wandering.”