Saturday, January 19, 2008


In 1938 Alfred Wainwright walked 200 miles from Settle to Hadrian's Wall and back and wrote an account of his journey. The manuscript lay unpublished until after his rise to fame when, in 1986, Michael Joseph published the story of his travels. It is not a guide book but is his musings about life and general thoughts on a wide variety of matters. Although it is never entirely clear as to what was his driving force behind his Pennine journey it seems that the backdrop of imminent war provided him with the desire to get away from the general trials and tribulations of life.

In 1997 I read the book "A Pennine Journey - the story of a long walk in 1938" and decided that I would repeat the venture in 1998, 60 years after his original journey, setting off on the same day in late-September, taking 11 days to undertake the trek, stopping at the same towns and villages where possible.

On returning to Settle 11 days later I had already decided to write my own account. Like Wainwright found for so many years after his journey my manuscript remains as only a personal diary of those 11 days for I am not in a position to vanity-publish and the mainstream publishers haven't quite enough courage to release a new unknown into the literacy market place.

If the account of the journey remains as a personal story that only I (and one or two others) will ever read then so be it as I have no special desire for literal acclaim but there was another aspect of the journey that spawned only after I had returned. That other aspect was just how good an excursion this 11 days had been with the only tarnished part being some specific parts of the routes that had to be taken in following Wainwright's original route. The unsatisfactory part was the fact that modern-day road-walking is not conducive to a pleasurable experience so I set to in designing a new set of stages between the stopovers that would predominantly avoid roads but would follow closely to the 1938 route.

The route maps for this work have been completed for several years but both work- and family-life have got in the way and had prevented me from finalising route descriptions so, like the manuscript, this project too has been left lying unfinished.

I have long had the thought that any modern-day guidebook doesn't need to tell the walker to turn right or turn left or cross the stile. Armed with the route maps and current OS maps the walker can very easily navigate over the whole distance without risk to life or limb. As the walk itself is an 11-day trip through the social history of the north or England from just before World War II then it would be of far greater interest for the reader to know something of the history of the areas through which he or she is walking.

It became a mission of how to acquire relevant information from the places en route and that is where the power of the internet can help. The internet provides the vehicle to transmit the details - the real driving force is to use people-power to build up this data base of facts using anecdotal evidence from those who were perhaps around at a time just before WW2 , or from those whose families have knowledge of a specific area. My plan is to use this modern information technology to provide me with the relevant personal accounts which will then supplement the overall text to provide the social history aspect of the guide that would make this an account of unique quality.

My request, then, is to have third-party commentary posted to the blog, the authors of which will then be recognised within the final guide (if they so choose).

For anyone who is really keen I am intending to allow "sponsors" of different legs of the journey. There are 65 separate legs so it would be good if as many as possible had "owners" who would look into the history of that section, walk the leg and really get to know it. The details would then be fed back and included in the final version with that leg being credited to the sponsor. Any person taking on a "sponsored" leg needs to be a member of the Wainwright Society (details at For those interested the first thing to do is to include a comment on this blog and I will pick that up and get back to you.

I look forward to hearing from people who can help to give this extra dimension to this unique project.

Andrew Lambert


Hesperius said...

Well that's certainly got my attention! What an exciting premise for a blog. I look forward to your accounts of the journey!

Simply by undertaking such a project, though, you have inspired me to see more, do more, and be more than I have been doing. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Hello Andrew,

I was very interested to read of this project in todays Yorkshire Post. In April 1997, I walked from Settle to Hadrian's Wall after having spent a couple of years researching Wainwright's route and drawing maps etc of the route. I had previously had published 'On Foot from Coast to Coast:The North of England Way' and hoped 'On Foot to Hadrians Wall' would be my second published walking guide book. My editor at the time was also Wainwrights and understandably showed the draft to Betty Wainwright who had some objections on emotional grounds (not copyright grounds). Not wishing to go against her wishes I did not pursue publication. However. the Wainwright Society (contact David Pitt) are presently compiling a guide to the route, which I have assisted with. I look forward to reading your blog in detail which I am sure will bring back happy memories of a fine and historic walk.

I did not walk back from Hadrians Wall as my view is that a long-distance walk should have a great ending and for me that was it (AW confirms this in a roundabout way in his book). My own 200-mile coast to coast 'The North of England Way' starts in Ravenglass and finishes at Scarborough - a good start and finish!!

Beware of the addiction of long-distance walking - I will do my 19th in May in the last 18 years!!

David Maughan
25 March

Andrew Lambert said...

Thanks for the comments, it is good to think that things may be moving. I suspect that it is unlikely that I will become addict, other commitments will see to that - my 1998 sojourn was Ifear the one and only. I hope that the Wainwright Society have brought to Betty a sense that all is not distasteful for I too shared your feeling back in around 1999 re her sentiments (although these were as intimated to me by the same person to whom, you referred. If you have any thoughts that might help this project please have a look at the blog and post comment accordingly. Ta

Geoff Gibbs said...

Hello Andrew,
I too read Wainwright's "A Pennine Journey" back in the late nineties.
I am a frequent visitor to the "Yorkshire Dales" which has included four visits to Muker where we have stayed at Marina Whitehead's cottage to the west of the village.The last time we stayed there,which was Xmas 2006 I asked Marina if she knew of the family "Harkers".She said she didn't have any knowledge of them personally and she said she wasn't aware if there was still anybody of that name living in Muker.
I scoured the graveyard that week but couldn't find any trace of any "Harker" graves of the date that would've tied in with the couple "AW" mentioned.I told Marina of this and she said it could well have been that their graves were never marked as was the custom,some times,years ago. It could also be possible that they may be interred in one of the "Reformed Church/Wesleyan" graveyards in that locale.I think they are located at Keld and Gunnerside?
I was hoping to be able to solve this little puzzle myself two years ago.However,I hope the little information I've provided has been of interest.

Andrew Lambert said...

Hello Geoff and thanks for your comment, it's good to know that people are finding the blog and hopefully finding it interesting. As for the Harkers of Muker perhaps the best thing I can do is add a small extract from my manuscript "Back to the Wall" from my stay in Mujer with Ron and Yvonne Metcalfe:

"....I had arranged an earlier breakfast at eight o’clock and was greeted on arrival at the table by Yvonne Metcalfe. Ron had already left the house to call on an elderly local resident, Margaret (I never did discover her surname) to see what light the benefit of her advancing years might cast upon the Harkers with whom Wainwright had stayed. He returned as I was part way through my bowl of cereal and imparted the news that Margaret recalled the Harkers very clearly and that both were now interred in the church cemetery and was even able to give directions as to the location of their joint-gravestone. She also confirmed that their house was not more than spitting distance from the Metcalfe’s guesthouse and was now named “South View” and had been further modernised in the years since Wainwright’s visit. It was now like so many others in the village; very tastefully presented but not so manicured as the guesthouses of Buckden. In Muker the impression was not given that almost all the houses are bed and breakfast establishments...."

I found the gravestone and have a photograph but I fear that Margaret may be no longer with us. Perhaps on your next visit a further look may reveal David Harker's stone (I can't read Mrs Harker's first name from the photo).

All the best, Andrew

Geoff said...

Hi Andrew,
Obviously I didn't look hard enough!!! I will check it out the next time we're in Muker which hopefully will be next year.
I imagine retracing "AW'S" steps on this walk must have been very interesting.
I will drop in on your blog from time to time to see if anymore information has come to light about the "gaps" you found when you recreated the walk.

Andrew Lambert said...

Hello Geoff, I wish you better searching next time (sorry I can't recall the actual directions with the graveyard). Yes, you are right about retracing the 1938 walk and I look forward to more folks like you looking at the blog and helpng to build the final book (the only problem is of course that locals with first hand knowledge are not getting any younger!

See you again soon on the blog I hope and of course any more info you may have will always be welcome.

andrew lambert said...

I have just changed email address for post and want to check I am receiving comments

andrew lambert said...

The Dalesman article is just published so it is my hope that some new comments will be forthcoming into the blog