Sunday, 14 September 2014

Following the trail of Wainwright’s Boots

 Alfred Wainwright wrote his Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells between 1952 and 1966.

 The simple line drawings and clear concise directions make the seven pocket sized guides almost as essential as good walking boots.

 Wainwright was born into poverty in the Lancashire town of Blackburn in 1907. The son of a stonemason, he left school when he was 13 and became an office boy in Blackburn Borough Engineer's Department.

 At the age of 23 he managed a holiday away from home, to the Lake District. It was love at first sight. In his book Fellwanderer, Wainwright described his first visit there.
"I was utterly enslaved by all I saw," he said. "Here were no huge factories, but mountains; no stagnant canals, but sparkling crystal-clear rivers; no cinder paths, but beckoning tracks that clamber through bracken and heather to the silent vastnesses of the hills. That week changed my life."

 He qualified as an accountant and moved to Kendal in 1941, rising to become Borough Treasurer seven years later.
He spent every spare moment walking the fells that he loved so deeply.

 Alfred Wainwright was Honorary Clerk and Curator to Kendal Museum from 1945-1974. An exhibit in the museum recreates his office with many of his original pen and ink drawings on display.

 Many people visiting the museum still remember him sitting in the museum office, under a large no smoking sign, smoking his pipe.

 When, George Miller Rigg opened The Bookworm bookshop in Highgate Kendal (where the Rug Emporium now stands), Alfred Wainwright, presented him with a pair of his walking boots. The boots were in the window of the shop for years but were donated back to Mr Wainwright’s widow Betty and are now in Kendal Museum.

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