At The Guardian books blog Ben Myers celebrates Alfred Wainwright, who documented the Lake District hills wrote of some of the most attractive, meticulous, and downright useful guidebooks I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Written in longhand (no standard fonts for old Wainwright) and accompanied by beautiful line drawings, these books are eccentric and lovely. As Myers says, he is one of the most important of all Lakeland writers. And now Kendal town council is building a statue:
Kendal town council recently announced that they are to honour a notable local writer with that rare tribute, a public statue. No, it’s not Wordsworth (or Coleridge, De Quincey or Ruskin – all of whom drew inspiration from Cumbria’s rugged landscape and inclement weather – or for that matter, Beatrix Potter, Hugh Walpole, Arthur Ransome or John “Postman Pat” Cunliffe).
The writer in question is Alfred Wainwright, an obscure name to many beyond Britain’s shores but a God-like figure to those hill-walkers, ramblers and mountaineers who gravitate to the Lake District national park in their droves. Or perhaps it is Wainwright’s body of hand-drawn guide books – many of which are still considered definitive guides, all of them researched on foot – that people admire, rather than the actual man himself. Having grown up surrounded by my Dad’s many copies of Wainwright books I naturally assumed he would be an admirer. “Yes – of his work,” he said when I asked him recently. “But he was a miserable bugger.” [More]