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back to Book Reviews

Three books by Hunter Davies

A Walk Around the Lakes - ISBN 978-0-7112-3036-1
Published by Frances Lincoln Ltd.

A Walk Along the Wall - ISBN 978-0-7112-3046-0
Published by Frances Lincoln Ltd.

William Wordsworth - ISBN 978-0-7112-3045-3
Published by Frances Lincoln Ltd.

In the autumn of 2009, Frances Lincoln Ltd, having taken over publishing Hunter Davies’ books, reprinted three of his books that were originally published in the late 1970s. I spent a fascinating time reading these, all of which have north of England backgrounds.

Apart from new introductions in each of the three books, the remainder of the text is as the author originally wrote it thirty years ago. This means that the prices mentioned in the books are wildly out of date, be it admission prices to attractions in the Lake District or to the various excavations and forts on the Wall. Although the introduction mentions that none of the text has been amended, I think this is an unfortunate economy.

I found A Walk Around the Lakes very easy to read as there is a great variety of subjects in its 28 chapters, ranging from interviews with personalities such as Wainwright, Joss Naylor, Chris Bonington and the poet Norman Nicholson, to the places walked to and frequented by the great writers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries such as William Wordsworth, Robert Southey and Thomas de Quincey. The author visits many of Lakeland’s famous valleys – Wasdale, Ennerdale, Buttermere and Patterdale –during the course of his journey, bringing anecdotes to the book from these places.

A Walk Along the Wall is the journey taken by the author from Wallsend to Bowness-on-Solway. Having been born in Carlisle near to the western end of the Wall, he was inevitably drawn to walk its length at some time during his life and he did so in 1974. He writes about the various people he met during the walk, and describes the excavations and forts visited. At the time of his visit, many of the excavations were only just starting but now it has become big industry with school visits and thousands of tourists visiting Housesteads and Vindolanda each year. Again, the fact that none of this has been up-dated makes somewhat surreal reading.

I found the biography, William Wordsworth, the most interesting of the three re-issued books. The famous poet was born in Cockermouth in 1770 and lived much of his life in the Lake District. I had, of course, heard of Wordsworth – who hasn’t? – and I remember learning Daffodils at school, but that was about the limit of my knowledge prior to reading the book as I hadn’t read any of the many other biographies about the poet.

Now I feel a greater affinity with Wordsworth and the other Lake Poets, and I have vowed to visit Dove Cottage at Grasmere and Wordsworth’s birthplace in Cockermouth during my next few visits to the Lake District. Dove Cottage, along with the Wordsworth Museum and Art Gallery, is owned by the Wordsworth Trust, and the poet’s birthplace is owned by the National Trust.

These are three good books, well worth reading, and full of very useful information (albeit some of it out of date).

reviewed by John Burland - Member No. 2