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Events > 2010

Orrest Head 80th Anniversary Walk
The 80th Anniversary of Alfred Wainwright’s first visit to the
Lake District and the ascent of Orrest Head
Monday 7th June 2010

Photo Gallery at foot of page

On 7th June 1930, two young men set off on their first holiday to the Lake District.  For one of them, Alfred Wainwright, it was to be a day that changed the whole course of his life.  Arriving at Windermere after a journey of nearly five hours by bus from Blackburn, the two cousins climbed Orrest Head, a nearby viewpoint.

Emerging from trees on to the bare summit, the view that they beheld completely captivated the young Alfred.  He wrote later, ‘It was a moment of magic, a revelation so unexpected that I stood transfixed, unable to believe my eyes.’ Ex-Fellwanderer

This was the moment that settled AW’s destiny and, ultimately, led him to produce the seven Pictorial Guides, his love-letter to the fells.

On Monday 7th June 2010, exactly 80 years later, a party of 34 members together with assorted dogs and a film crew re-created the day that had been so important in the life of Wainwright.

We assembled at Windermere station, most dressed in period 1930’s costume, and travelled to Blackburn using a modern coach and the M6.  In little more than an hour, we had arrived at the Town Hall, where the Mayor of Blackburn met us before the long journey back on a vintage bus.  Our arrival had caused local interest and there were interviews with Radio Lancashire and photographs by the press.

The Ribble Vehicle Preservation Trust provided our transport, a magnificent 1939 Ribble double-decker.  It looked very fine in the company livery of cherry red and cream.  Once we were all aboard, we set off at a sedate pace to link up with another bus at Preston that would take us the rest of the way to our destination.  Dave Moss, a trustee of the charity, turned conductor for the journey and gave us our tickets from his original ticket machine.  Our journey to Preston was via Ewood Park, where AW had been an avid supporter of Blackburn Rovers.  We also crossed the new Wainwright Bridge before climbing up the hill out of the town.  There was one heart-stopping moment when the bus was stopped by traffic lights at the top of a very steep hill.  But we had a good driver who coped calmly with the ensuing hill start!

At Preston, as AW would have done, we transferred to another bus as our 1939 double-decker was too fragile to make the whole journey to Windermere.  The replacement was a 1960 Leyland Tiger Cub and we now picked up a bit of speed to manage an exhilarating 30 m.p.h. along the original A6 route through Garstang and Lancaster to a stop for tea and cake at the newly refurbished Midland Hotel at Morecambe.

Here we had our first view of the Lake District, as had AW in 1930.  He wrote, ‘At one point of the journey I got my first ever glimpse of the sea in Morecambe Bay, and rising above its far horizon was a hazy background of lofty hills: a thrilling sight. The Lake District!’ Ex-Fellwanderer

We were keeping good time and drove into Windermere just after four o’ clock to be greeted by over twenty other members of the Society, who were joining us for the walk up to Orrest Head.  Despite an earlier thunderstorm, the sun was shining brightly as we arrived and, after a further round of press interviews, we made our way to the summit of Orrest Head as AW and his cousin did all those years ago.

At the top, we were able to enjoy the magnificent panoramic view and marvel at the scene that was little changed since AW’s day.  A school party from Elleray Preparatory School joined us for the summit ceremony led by Committee member, John Bewick.  A cheque for £2200 was presented to a representative from Fix the Fells.  Society members raised this money during this year’s Challenge, The Best of the Rest. 

He then introduced Jane King, daughter of Betty Wainwright, who spoke a few words of thanks to the assembled company and said that the trip had brought back many memories for her and that her mother and AW would have been very proud of the way that this important day had been celebrated by the Society. 

Another guest speaker was John Nichol, MD of Frances Lincoln, who now publishes the Wainwright books.  John compared the guidebook that Wainwright used, Baddeley’s Thorough Guide, with the books that AW produced.  He said that the written description of Baddeley bore no comparison with the genius of Wainwright whose routes were a unique combination of two-dimensional map and three-dimensional drawing.

John Bewick thanked the organisers of the day, Caroline Nichol and Derek Cockell, for their hard work, which had helped make the day a memorable one for everyone.  John had also brought a stick with him that had belonged to AW.  Apparently, Wainwright would not use the stick, given to him by a friend, as he thought the horn head was rather too dangerous, especially if he had fallen over and impaled himself!  John announced that at some point in the near future, the stick would be auctioned amongst Society members with the money going to a worthwhile charity.

The whole company then assembled on the topmost point for a group photo as well as providing a long-range shot for the film being shot by Striding Edge. 

The day ended with a buffet at The Marchesi Centre and a presentation of a cheque for £200 to Dave Moss, trustee of Ribble Vehicle Preservation Trust.

Derek Cockell, Press & Publicity Officer

80th Anniversary Commemorative Programmes
Following the celebration of the 80th Anniversary of Wainwright's first visit to Lakeland, the Secretary has a number of commemorative programmes, which he will give away upon request.  If you would like a copy of the commemorative programme, please send your request, together with a stamped addressed envelope to:
The Secretary, The Wainwright Society
3 Beech Close, Farnham, Knaresborough H95 9JJ


Gallery of the days walk - click on an image for a higher quality version
many thanks to Andy Beck, Ray Bradshaw, Jenny Whalley, Peter Linney and David Johnson for permission to use their photos below.