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articles > 2008

Back to the Wall - Pennine Journey

It seems Wainwright's 1938 Pennine Journey has become the flavour of the month. Not only is David Pitt preparing a guide - see his article in the next edition of Footsteps (March 2008), but another member has also been working on a version and has sent us this note about it.

Andrew Lambert is collating information for the as yet untitled guidebook of the walk that was undertaken in 1998.

1938 – AW set out on a long walk in the Pennines that took him from Settle to Hadrian’s Wall and back. Over 11 days he walked 200 miles and wrote an account of his journey that was finally printed many years later by Michael Joseph. The account was not in the form of a guide book but was more of a wide and varied commentary on life as perceived by AW.

Much has been said of his comments about making your own route rather than slavishly following his movements. Although therefore potentially the target of criticism I decided that in September 1998, sixty years to the day (as near to the same Sunday as possible), I would retrace his steps over the same route and over the same timescale. I had decided that my route had to be as his had been as I was looking to experience for myself the essence of the walk along the same byways that he had travelled.

So, after 11 days, I completed the walk not having set out with any intention other than to get from Settle to Hadrian’s Wall and back. I did then write my own account but this remains unpublished. I am not disheartened as even AW himself had to wait 40-odd years before “Pennine Journey” was finally in print. During the walking I had no thoughts as to the possibility of the route being transformed into a new long-distance path. It was only afterwards that I began to consider that there might exist a fascinating project that could involve a walk that would not just look at the geographical aspects but that could also provide a social history slant.

I was absorbed by the idea of producing a guidebook with a fundamental difference. Ordnance Survey extracts for route-planning were likely to prove very expensive so the answer was simple – to make use of OS maps were closely contemporaneous with 1938 to be sourced from an antique map dealer and therefore out of copyright. These maps would be essentially those that AW had used providing an association with the past that I liked and that avoided any reproduction costs.

It was after sourcing these old maps that the next step naturally evolved – features within the 1938 editions that had been noted on the maps used by AW were different to the modern maps. I started to consider the merits of being able to provide route maps that instead of simply guiding the modern walker would give an insight into life just prior to the Second World War and my thoughts centred on the possibility of identifying anecdotal evidence relating to places en route. An example of this was when visiting Buckden I discovered an interesting fact relating to the fact that J B Priestley had stayed for a couple of days at one of the local farms. This would not be so interesting but for the fact that he had already died when he stayed! He had a desire for his remains to be interred at the church at Hubberholme but as his remains were transported it became apparent that the requisite paperwork hadn’t been completed so he had a posthumous short break in Wharfedale. Although this relates to 1984 it illustrated to me the benefit of having relevant asides as part of the overall account.

The project had laid gathering dust for 5 years or more as the prospect of acquiring the required evidence was something that I could never quite get the time to really get stuck into. Had it not been for the Wainwright Society I suspect many more years of dust might settle but having joined the society I always read “Footsteps” and when I saw an article “The Wainwright Letters” by Hunter Davies I had my answer as to how I might best obtain more detailed information. The Hunter Davies article was seeking contributors to a new book centred on letters that AW had sent to correspondents over the years it was this that gave me the idea that might provide the impetus to see progress in my own project.

Whilst I am looking to provide the bones of the guide I am looking for a major and essential part of the account’s interest to come from anecdotal evidence provided by other contributors. Such anecdotes will then be credited in the form of a glossary or index of the contributors (unless of course they prefer anonymity) and the result will be what I hope will be a guidebook with a difference. It will not tell us which way we should go but it will tell us something of where we have all been.

I have set up a weblog at www.penninejourney.blogspot.com where there are details of the walk and the places en route. I welcome anecdotes, either from firsthand or from family history, that relate back to approximately 1938 and relate to places that are associated with the route. A visit to the blog should provide all the instructions that are required and I look forward to seeing a great wealth of comments being posted from fellow society members. I am planning to walk the route again in July of this year (nearly 10 years after I first undertook it) to finalise any route-issues and to visit the places along the route that have been identified by contributors.

I would also by very interested to hear from any Society members who are interested in taking “ownership” of a particular section from those 65 sections within the blog and who could then look in detail at the historical elements within that section. The idea then would be to feed the detail direct to me and whichever member took ownership of the section would then have that section credited to them in the final book as a sponsor of that specific part. If members are interested then I can be contacted on 07990 533047 and this will be on a first-come first-served basis and provides for a Society-wide involvement within a project that will provide a unique snapshot of life just pre-war.

I look forward to those contributions and hope that many of the members may share a small but essential part in the final book. It will only then remain to speak nicely to John Nichol at Frances Lincoln to finally see the guide in print.

Andrew J Lambert