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This book takes us on a journey with Eric Robson, his border collie and a film crew on a 190 mile adventure through the mountains of remote Lakeland.
Illustrated with original line drawings taken from Wainwright's pictorial guides.
Old A.W., the indomitable Alfred Wainwright, has a lot to answer for. His guide books have sent thousands, if not millions, scurrying up and down the Lakeland hills, striding through farmyards, scrambling down screes, crawling through old mines, and generally doing anything and everything to despoil the peace and tranquility of the most beautiful country in Britain.
And yet Wainwright himself loved the solitude of a lonely pipe in the midst of the mist of the Lakeland Fells. Something he may still celebrate today as his own ashes were scattered by Innominate Tarn on Haystacks. The populous hills are a tribute to a man and his passion.
And Eric Robson's splendid little book is a tribute as well. Eric knew the old cantankerous curmudgeon as 'a gentle, generous and poetic man'. In Wainwright's latter days, Eric had the supreme good fortune to film a Lakeland walking tour with him, and now with the benevolent ghost of Wainwright at his side, and tracing every line in the appropriate guide books, Eric has pioneered a new long distance path.
The path takes him 190 miles and climbs almost 40,000 feet, well over the summit of Everest if he did not come down from time to time. On the map the route looks like an ungainly set of bagpipes with the extremities cut off. It weaves its easy way around the outlying fells of the Lakes, starting at Rheged and stopping at the pubs in Hesket Newmarket, Castle Inn, Loweswater, etc. - you get the picture. Eighteen days of nicely paced strolls between good warm watering holes, admittedly in the teeth of Autumn's wind and rain.
Eric is with an unlikely crew. His cameraman is Jan Ostrowski, a patriotic Pole with a passion for polemics, his sound man is Terry Black from Essex, who is equally fond of an argument, and his researcher and international mediator is David Powell Thompson. The only sane being appears to be Jess the Border Collie who cheerfully walks every inch of the way and wisely keeps her own counsel. It sounds like the Famous Five.
And it is quite an adventure. The lonely hills are a world of their own and Eric Robson knows them as well as anyone, especially his own country, over around Wasdale in the west. Amid all the banter and wet feet and complaints of the sheer trudgery of it all, Eric has a fine eye for scenery, is deeply appreciative of the individual character of each fell and knows its history.
The book is full of sudden, fleeting sunbursts, just as when, on great Mell, 'the grey emulsion' lifts and they have 'a panorama cut sharp under heavy cloud'. Beyond 'the raised plateau of High Street and the chaos of Thornthwaite Crag,' they see the 'haughty outline of Helvellyn' and ' best of all a view up the aristocratic nose of Blencathra'.
In Eskdale, after 'a downpour that bounced over the gutters' they discover 'a gentler place dappled with the turning colours of mature trees'.
On the top of Green Quarter Fell, in the fresh snow, they feel 'We're on our own up here. Occasionally we stop walking just to listen to the nothingness, a silence rounded and deadened by the snowfall.'
Eric Robson's descriptions are as natural as the fells themselves and he wears his learning lightly. Detailed directions are neatly appendixed at the back of the book and Wainwright's own maps and drawings conjure the landscape up before your eyes.
After Wainwright sets out to encourage walkers to explore the lesser known corners of Lakeland. The route followed by Eric Robson and his crew looks set to become a favourite long distance trek.
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