Some years ago while holidaying in the Lake District I came under the spell of A.Wainwright. His name was Alfred but as far as I can gather the famously reclusive fellow was always referred to as A.Wainwright
I came to him through his series of wonderful small guidebooks to the Lakeland Fells, all in his own handwriting with hand drawn maps and illustrations, which were published through the 50’s, and 60’s and for which he was awarded the MBE in 1966. After his retirement he prepared and published a further 40 guidebooks. I have them all along with just about every book ever written about him. He died in 1991.
The Coast to Coast Walk, originally devised by the same legendary A.Wainwright, is probably the most popular of Britain’s many long-distance walks. It starts at St.Bees on the Cumbrian Coast and runs for 307 km to Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea, passing through three beautiful National Parks along the way – The Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors.
Now there is a new book out, The Coast to Coast Walk, by Martin Wainwright. The author is Northern Editor of the Guardian and a regular broadcaster on radio and TV who tells me he is no relation to the famous A.Wainwright. Nevertheless I am sure the very presence of that name on the cover will enhance the book’s reputation.
This handsome book has photographs and up-to-date Ordnance Survey maps all in colour, in contrast to the original Wainwright guides which had no colour in them at all.
It is an immensely practical book as you would expect as it is intended to be a manual for those undertaking this spectacular but arduous walk. It is divided into 15 chapters each covering one day’s walking, though alternative stopping places are identified for those wishing to walk at a more leisurely pace. The route instructions are detailed, the many maps detailed and clear and at the back of the book another dozen pages of useful advice.
This is a demanding walk by any standards taking about two weeks and these days there are specialist companies which will carry your gear every day to your next stop as well as providing drop-off and pick-up if required at both ends of the walk The author provides the names and addresses of these companies as well as information on accommodation, useful contacts etc.
The plasticised cover is a practical feature considering you can experience heavy rain, and occasionally snow on the walk.
On my last visit to the Lake District, about 10 years ago, I walked one section of the Coast to Coast , from Rosthwaite to Grasmere, as a day walk, it took about 6 hours, and the memory of that day, the beauty and grandeur and wilderness of the landscape, and some of the steep and tricky sections of the path came flooding back as I read this new guide.
I also recalled most fondly Harold, a retired Yorkshire water engineer, who accompanied me that day. He had previously walked the Coast to Coast on several occasions but now in his eighties he confined himself to day walks. He was delightful company and had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Lake District. Alas Harold passed on two years after that but I know for sure that he would approve of this new book and would be particularly thrilled it was written by a Wainwright.
If you plan to walk this stunning path be sure to include this superb new guide in your pack. “Don’t leave home without it”.
Published by Aurum Press at pds.12.99 on 7 May, 2007.