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back to Book Reviews

A. Wainwright's Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells: Book 1 - The Eastern Fells
Revised by Chris Jesty - Frances Lincoln
ISBN 07112 2465 X

The Eastern FellsIn AW's 'Some Personal Notes in Conclusion' at the end of Book 3, The Central Fells, he made a comment that by the time he reached the end of Book 7, age would prevent him undertaking the 'joyful task' of revising the series himself. He commented in these notes that 'the books must inevitably show more and more inaccuracies as the years go by'.  This was written in 1958 when Book 1 was only three years old and by 1965, at the completion of the series, he was even more aware of things that had changed - cairns that had been demolished, woodland felled or planted, and new paths that had come into being as people with more leisure time spent more hours on the fells.

In 1980, Chris Jesty (member number 313) broached the idea to AW of revising the guides, but was told 'after my lifetime'.  AW knew Chris's work well and trusted him.  With Betty's blessing, and as a result of the change of publisher two years ago to Frances Lincoln, Chris has embarked on these revisions and the first book is now available, exactly fifty years after AW published the original guide to the Eastern Fells. 

The revised edition carries a foreword by Betty, giving it her all-important blessing, and this is followed by an introduction by Chris himself.  Apart from these, the book is very much the same as AW's original when you first look at it.  It is not until you start comparing the two editions that the changes can be spotted. Descriptions of natural features and views are virtually unaltered, of course, the major changes coming in the maps on page 1 of each fell and the ascent diagrams. Footpaths have been printed in a russet-red to make them stand out more - an excellent addition, I thought. Altitudes have been amended where they differ from the original by more than 5 feet, as ascertained by satellite navigation system (what AW would have thought of that, I'm not sure!). Information on parking has also been added (something that never bothered AW as all his journeys to the foot of the fells were by public transport and then his old feet);occasionally, other information of interest has been included where Chris felt this was appropriate.

No changes have been made to the drawings of landscapes, buildings and natural features even though some of these have also changed in this period of fifty years, and likewise AW's 'Personal Notes in Conclusion' remain unaltered. Although most of the individual corrections are relatively minor, the overall impact is huge bringing the guides up to date for the current walking public. Frances Lincoln have very cleverly used a new typeface, designed by Judith Escreet, their in-house art director, that is extremely similar to AW's writing and both my wife and I had to look very closely when comparing this revised guide with the original to spot where Chris has made his changes.

Betty concludes her foreword by saying: 'I feel proud and confident - as I am sure AW would be too - that the revised guides will satisfy the needs of the 21st-century walker.' I totally agree with her comments: AW would have been proud with the way Chris and Frances Lincoln have made these revisions, yet at the same time retaining the beauty of these masterpieces of art and literacy.

reviewed by John Burland - Member No. 2