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back to Book Reviews

A. Wainwright's Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells: Book 3 - The Central Fells
Revised by Chris Jesty - Frances Lincoln
ISBN 0-7112-2614-8   

The Central FellsJuly 19 1970 was a key date in my life. It was my 18th birthday and one of the presents I received was Book 3 in A. Wainwright’s series of Pictorial Guides, The Central Fells. I used the book a couple of weeks later when I ascended Jack’s Rake on Pavey Ark during some free time I had whilst helping as an Assistant Leader at a Scout camp. Further ascents of the Langdale Pikes followed in September that year when I went with a fellrunning friend who was participating in the Langdale fell race; whilst Dave was running, I walked over Harrison Stickle and then onto Loft Crag and Pike o’ Stickle.

I was hooked! I immediately became a Wainwright fan and, by the end of the year, had bought the remaining six books. Little did I know that 36 years later, I would be reviewing the revised edition. The Central Fells still remains one of my favourite walking areas, particularly the Langdales and also the areas south and east of Borrowdale to Eagle Crag, Grange Fell and Great Crag. I have been eagerly awaiting the publication of Chris Jesty’s revised edition.

Comparing the new book with AW’s original, first published in 1958, there have been quite a number of changes. Most striking and immediately obvious of these is the new cover. Gone is the two-colour dust jacket with AW’s drawing of the rocks on Helm Crag; instead, there is a stunning photograph of the Langdale Pikes, taken by Derry Brabbs, AW’s honorary photographer. If only I could produce photographs as good! The Wainwright Estate and the family – who have authorised the current comprehensive programme of revision of the Pictorial Guides – gave their approval for the new jacket.  In addition to forthcoming revised titles being published with new four-colour jackets, Frances Lincoln are producing new-look jackets for Eastern and Far Eastern Fells, already published in their revised form. These jackets will be available in September, and members who bought copies of the revised editions at either last year’s Memorial Lecture or this year’s AGM will be able to collect new covers from me at this year’s lecture.For those not attending the lecture, details will be posted on the website in September, giving details of how to get the new jackets.

Regarding the new covers, John Nicoll, Managing Director of Frances Lincoln comments: ‘The guides continue to be enduringly popular but we are always looking for ways to keep the Wainwright name prominent in the walking market. We feel the full colour jackets are the next logical step for these guides. They will undoubtedly make them more obviously relevant and appealing to a new generation of walkers. The jackets will have the additional benefit of helping clarify the situation in the bookshops, where there has sometimes been confusion between the original editions, which we have made a commitment to keep in print, and the new ones.’

With regard to the 27 fells in the revised version of Book 3, there have inevitably been a number of changes to routes, paths and objects such as walls and cairns over the last forty-eight years. On Calf Crag, for example, the Cumberland and Westmorland boundary running across the summit now has to be referred to in the past tense – post the 1983 boundary changes – and the Stythwaite Steps have been amended from ‘old stepping stones’ to ‘footbridge’. Similarly, in the Blea Rigg chapter, the Refreshment Hut, useful as a shelter in AW’s day even though partly ruined, is now a mere outline in a bed of nettles. Seven summits have had their heights changed following GPS surveying by Chris – Helm Crag for example is now over 1,300’, but I am puzzled with Eagle Crag which still retains a height of 1,650’ approx. despite the fact that there is a comment stating, ‘The latest 2½” O.S. map shows a 520-metre contour, suggesting an altitude in excess of 1700’.’ Was this not measured on the GPS?

Close scrutiny is again needed, however, to notice the difference between the original and Chris’s revised version. The typeface used for amendments, designed by Judith Escreet, Frances Lincoln’s in-house art director, is so similar to AW’s original writing it takes an eagle eye to tell the difference. I continue to be greatly impressed with the clear printing in the revised books due to AW’s original artwork being re-scanned by Frances Lincoln This certainly makes a terrific difference to the overall appearance. I also find it very useful that the footpaths are printed in russet red, making route finding much easier in practice. I recommend that anyone who walks regularly on the Lakeland fells should buy these revised editions as they are published, even if their existing editions still have life left in them. For a modest outlay (£10 after Society discount), walkers can then have the most up-to-date guide to the fells. Frances Lincoln Ltd. and Chris Jesty are certainly to be congratulated on their endeavours.

reviewed by John Burland - Member No. 2