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articles > 2012

10th Anniversary of The Wainwright Society
Friday 9th November 2012

For devotees of Alfred Wainwright, 9th November is a significant date as it was sixty years ago on 9th November 1952 that Wainwright penned the first page of the first volume of the Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells. Book One was The Eastern Fells and the very first page depicted the ascent of Dove Crag from Ambleside.

Years later, Wainwright recalled that November evening in his book, Fellwanderer, ‘Somebody once said … that a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step. November 9th 1952 saw my first step. It was a good evening for me. It was a winter’s night, but I spent it going up Dove Crag and was lost to all else.’

From the beginning on that November evening grew a series of seven guides describing 214 fells that some have called the ‘Wainwrights’. Despite the length of time that has elapsed since they were written, the Pictorial Guides have remained the most popular walking guide to the Lake District fells.

It was fitting that the inaugural meeting of The Wainwright Society was held on 9th November 2002, fifty years since that first page was written. The idea for a Wainwright Society was originally conceived by John Burland and, having sought and obtained the blessing of Betty Wainwright, the first gathering was held at Ambleside Youth Hostel where the 98 people who attended agreed that The Wainwright Society should be formed. Betty Wainwright consented to serve as Life President, and, following her death in 2008, was succeeded by her two daughters, Jane King and Annie Sellar. The Patron of the Society is Wainwright’s biographer, Hunter Davies. For the past ten years the Chairman has been Eric Robson, who, with AW, made the only television series that Wainwright recorded in the 1980s.

The Society exists to keep alive the fellwalking traditions that Wainwright promoted in his guidebooks and his philosophy of caring for the upland landscapes of northern England and, particularly, the Lake District.

Since that meeting in Ambleside, the membership of the Society has grown ten-fold and over the years has raised in excess of £50,000 for local charities that we believe Wainwright would have approved and supported. The Society has campaigned against inappropriate or potentially harmful developments in the Lake District landscape.

The Society is celebrating this landmark in its history with a weekend of events, beginning on Friday 9th November with The Wainwright Memorial Lecture, to be held at Rheged, Penrith, where the speaker is the mountaineer, Alan Hinkes. There will also be a display of some artefacts from the newly acquired, Wainwright Archive, at present being catalogued at the Kendal Archive Centre. The next day there is to be a walk to Dove Crag, described by Wainwright on the first page of his Guides, and this will be followed in the evening with an Anniversary party. To round off the weekend, some members will attend the Remembrance Day Services held on Great Gable or Castle Crag. Derek Cockell Press & Publicity Officer The Wainwright Society