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back to Book Reviews

Heritage of Lakeland
A Centenary Collection of A. Harry Griffin - by Peter Hardy
ISBN 978-0-7112-3179-5.
Published by Frances Lincoln

Heritage of LakelandArthur Harry Griffin, who died in 2004 at the grand old age of ninety-three, was a fabled fellwalker, rock climber, author and journalist, perhaps best known as a contributor to the Guardian’s Country Diary for over fifty years. This book of previously uncollected writings has been compiled by Peter Hardy (who previously edited The High Places, which comprised a selection of A. H. Griffin’s articles in the Lancashire Evening Post up to 2004) to mark the centenary of Harry’s birth in 1911.

While the book includes sections on rock climbing and Harry’s other great interest, classical music, it is the extracts from his years of journalism that form the core of the book, specifically articles written for the Lancashire Evening Post, Cumbria, and the Guardian’s Country Diary. Most of these are taken from a twenty-year period extending from 1946 to 1966 and, with their occasional references to the old counties of Westmorland and Cumberland, have an undoubtedly nostalgic feel, which captures the time when the Lake District was a quieter place. There is, however, a reference in a 1962 article to ‘when Helvellyn, Gable and the Langdale Pikes are swarming with people and cars are grinding over Hardknott Pass in scores’.

This is very much a book to read at random, articles having such enticing titles as ‘Neat Cairns are Best’ and ‘Who was St. Sunday?’ My personal favourite is an article on ‘The Incomparable Screes’, referring to those by Wastwater, described as the most dramatic mountain view in England for the motorist, where ‘among fantastic minarets of rock and the black cavernous gullies, could be the abode of trolls’. The book contains a section of photographs taken by Harry over a period of many years.

Much of the period covered by this collection of articles coincides with the years when Wainwright was compiling his Pictorial Guides, and one of Harry’s Country Diary articles duly acknowledges these as being ‘the most comprehensive study ever made of the hills of the Lake District’. Harry Griffin often expresses a desire for solitude, and presumably detected a kindred spirit in AW. All in all, this is an interesting compendium that concentrates on the earlier period of Harry Griffin’s writings – his later work having been covered elsewhere, including in High Places.

Kevin Whalley - Member No. 743

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