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 The manuscript lay unpublished until after his rise to fame when, in 1986, Michael Joseph published the story of his travels.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 http://www.wainwright.org.uk/). 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.