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by A. Wainwright
Published by Frances Lincoln
Five years ago Frances Lincoln bought the publishing rights in Wainwright’s Pictorial Guides, thus ensuring that these unique titles, together with some of the other Wainwright oeuvre, remained in print and we are eternally grateful to John Nicoll launching the programme of revised editions. In addition, his company has published Wainwright-related books, such as The Best of Wainwright by Hunter Davies and this latest offering, Twelve Favourite Mountains.
In probably a moment of rashness, whilst writing the comments for the Bowfell chapter in Book 4, AW promised to name his six ‘best’ fells in the final book. As it turned out, he instead used the word ‘finest’ in his ‘Personal Notes in conclusion’ at the end of Book 7. Here he listed Scafell Pike, Bowfell, Pillar, Great Gable, Blencathra and Crinkle Crags. In the notes immediately after this list, AW mentioned some other fells that, for various reasons, did not qualify for the finest half-dozen. These were the Langdale Pikes, Place Fell, Carrock Fell, Scafell and, of course, his beloved Haystacks – now his final resting place.
These fells make up the dozen chapters in this book with the Langdale Pikes being represented by two of its three individual fells, Harrison Stickle and Pike o’ Stickle (so what happened to Loft Crag?), which have been assembled in the familiar Pictorial Guides’ format. There is an error, however, in the Pike o’ Stickle chapter where is states that it is the ‘lower’ of the Langdale Pikes – ‘lowest’? AW named three fells in the Langdale Pikes: Harrison Stickle (‘the highest of the Langdale Pikes’ – rather than the ‘higher’ as the publisher has used) at 2415 ft; Pike o’ Stickle ‘the second of the Langdale Pikes’ at 2323 ft; and Loft Crag (the third of the Langdale Pikes’ at 2270 ft.
This book is probably aimed at those who have recently started walking in the Lake District, possibly as a result of the TV series Wainwright’s Walks, but who do not necessarily want to purchase all seven Pictorial Guides – though that is their loss – but who wish to ascend what AW specifically picked out from all 214 fells covered in the book. My only criticism is that as seven of the twelve chapters have already appeared in Chris Jesty’s revised format, the publishers should have used these rather than AW’s originals (although a disclaimer does appear at the front of the book about possible changes) particularly for the chapters on Scafell and Scafell Pike where new walkers will not be aware of the dangers of Lord’s Rake, which is the route AW recommended when the original book was published, but is no longer safe!
This apart, it is a fine collection that contains some excellent walking and a number of fells that can be combined together for a single day’s walk such as Scafell & Scafell Pike, Haystacks & Pillar, Bowfell & Crinkle Crags, The Langdale Pikes, and Blencathra & Carrock Fell leaving Great Gable and Place Fell to be done on their own, perhaps the latter incorporating the return walk back along the shores of Ullswater which AW described as ‘the finest walk in Lakeland’.
reviewed by John Burland - Member No. 2