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back to Book Reviews

Fellwalking with Wainwright
18 of the author’s favourite walks in Lakeland
Newly photographed by Derry Brabbs
Published by www.franceslincoln.com 
ISBN: 978-0-7112-2651-9

Fellwalking With WainwrightOne of the Christmas presents my wife bought me in 1984 was Fellwalking with Wainwright and I spent many happy evenings reminiscing over some of the walks I had already undertaken, and planning others that the book inspired me to tackle.

As well as AW’s magnificent descriptions, I was captivated by the photographs by Derry Brabbs, a photographer I had come to admire greatly through his work in James Herriot’s Yorkshire, a book I already owned since it covered many areas close to my home in Wharfedale.

As we learned from Derry’s book In the Footprints of Wainwright, published by Frances Lincoln last year, he was never entirely happy with the original pictures in Fellwalking. He knew that the pictures had been taken mainly during the summer when the landscape was overly green and, as a result, the photographs lacked colour contrast. He endlessly faced the vagaries of the Lakeland weather, but the photographs had to be taken before he could start on the book to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Pennine Way (about which he had originally approached the publishers, Michael Joseph Ltd). It was AW’s ‘sting in the tail’ that he would agree to write the text for the book about the Pennine Way (Wainwright on the Pennine Way 1985) provided that a book on Lakeland was produced first to raise funds for what was to become his beloved Kapellan.

Derry felt that the final result of Fellwalking was less than it could, or should, have been. The usually exacting AW seemed happy enough with the book and the pair worked together on a series of further walking books over the next decade. But the quality of Fellwalking has always niggled Derry. He says, ‘It was the first time that I had photographed the Lake District and the first time I had been fellwalking. I did not have very good weather and I was also using a different film from the type I currently use. I don’t think that the final result did either Wainwright or the mountains justice. As I spent more time there, I was able to adjust to the particular micro-climate of the Lake District and I improved, as you would expect over a period of twenty years. So when I compare the original Fellwalking to, say, Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains (published in 1991) it was like chalk and cheese.’

So last year, Derry spoke to John Nicoll at Frances Lincoln and they decided it would be a good idea to reshoot the photographs for this classic book, and publish it in a slightly larger format. So has it worked? I would say most definitely. I was blown away with the stunning new pictures that, in some cases, fill a two-page spread measuring 16x10 inches. Of these I have picked half a dozen that I consider to be the best – not that any can be classed as poor or even mediocre, they are all superb – it is just that these stand out for me as the ‘cream of the crop’. These are, as AW puts it at the end of Book 7, ‘in no particular order of preference’ but in the order they appear in the book

  • Dove Crag from Patterdale, (Pages 50-51)
  • Grisedale Tarn, (Pages 60-61)
  • Skiddaw and Derwentwater at dawn, (Pages 90-91)
  • Wastwater, Pages (204-205)
  • Great Gable and the Scafell range from Pillar, (Pages 228-229)
  • Haystacks and High Crag. (Page 248)

 

Regarding the text, apart from a revision to the Scafell chapter because of the danger following the rockfall in Lord’s Rake, AW’s original writing remains unchanged. The revision to this chapter was done by Derry with assistance from Eric Robson, John Nicoll and Jenny Dereham. The pictures, however, are new in the main. Viewpoints are very similar to the originals but as Derry said to me, ‘I know the area so much better these days. For instance, I can recall from memory the best time of day that a shot needs to be taken to obtain the best lighting conditions for most of the fells. Because most places in the Lake District face south or east, most of the fells need to be photographed in the morning. Collecting these pictures has been a question of fleeting sorties rather than a concerted campaign. Through the Internet, it has been much easier to get information about the weather forecast before leaving home. On one occasion I wanted a shot of the peaks coming up through mist and the Weatherline told me exactly when and where I would get it – cloud and mist up to 600 metres and clear above – and they were spot on!’

In the original version of Fellwalking many of the photographs were taken during high summer when there is less dramatic light, hazy horizons and too many uniform green trees and fellsides. This new version has a broader range and makes much use of the rich pallet of golds, browns and whites of autumn and winter.

Derry continued: ‘I am now happy that I’ve raised the bar in my personal standards and given the book a fresh coat of paint. It’s been about getting to grips with the relationship between the light and the land, and that can be very fickle. No matter how much you plan, sometimes it’s still a question of luck of being there when it happens. That can literally be for a fraction of a second but those moments when everything is right are the ones that give you the best shots. The light and the clouds are just right, and then the curtains can close again in a matter of seconds.

‘In the new book I have done one or two variations but most of the viewpoints have remained the same. The photographs are there to amplify AW’s text. That has not changed so the pictures cannot really change. It would have been wrong of me to go around taking different shots just because he is no longer here to smack my legs! That would have been inappropriate when I am illustrating someone else’s text. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reshooting the book, even on cold winter nights when I’ve been the only person on the campsite in Wasdale or Langdale. You lie there shivering but then you open the tent door and see that ultramarine pre-dawn sky and think, “That’s why I’m here.”’

Having seen these stunning shots, all I can say is I am glad that he ‘was there’ to record the beauty of Lakeland and I am sure that AW would have been delighted with the finished result. This new book is a must as far as all AW devotees are concerned. Make sure it’s on your Christmas list!

reviewed by John Burland - Member No. 2



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