Fellwalking with a Camera

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“Andrew, I’ve an idea for a book,” shouted Alfred Wainwright from the kitchen, as he poured two mugs of steaming coffee.

In the living room, Andrew – Mr Nichol, General Printing and Book Publishing Manager at the Westmorland Gazette, was startled from his thoughts. Another book? Could that be anything to do with the shoebox on the coffee table, that was overflowing with old photographs?

“Is this anything to do with these old pictures, AW?” he asked.

The tall figure of the legendary fellwalker came into the room and carefully set the mugs down on the table.

“It’s called Fellwalking with a Camera,” he said, “and yes, those photographs in the shoebox are to be part of it. Have a look through them all and see what you think.”

Wainwright settled into his seat looking thoroughly satisfied. He watched Andrew look through the huge pile of old black and white photographs. He lit his pipe as Andrew sifted through images that had helped to shape the Lake District guidebooks which made Wainwright famous. Many of them had been as references for his pen and ink illustrations. They added so much to the seven volumes of guidebooks, first published between 1955 and 1966. When he had finished with the shoebox, Andrew looked up.

“How can you make a book out of these? There are no names on them to identify which is which, there’s only a skyline.”

“I don’t need names on them,” replied Wainwright . “I know which is which.”

Andrew drank his coffee as his host looked at him expectantly.

“What about your eyesight, AW? Your writing…. these days it’s not as –”

“I’ve got just the thing,” Wainwright cut in, as if expecting the question.

“The Underwood!”

He said it with such confidence that Andrew knew there and then that this was not the usual Friday morning visit to Wainwright ’s Kendal Green home to drop off fan mail received by the publisher. The day was turning out to be rather significant.

AW’s idea was for a landscape format book, similar to the numerous sketchbooks – of the Lake District, Scotland, and various regions of the north of England, as well as a couple of Welsh volumes – he had created in the wake of the Pictorial Guides. So, Andrew returned to the Gazette’s office and had one of the book binders put together a blank dummy book for Wainwright to use for his manuscript. Every day for the next three weeks, Wainwright worked away in his study, on his old Underwood typewriter. With his eyesight failing, he struggled to read each key: his solution was to write each letter on a large piece of paper, then stick them to all the keys on the typewriter.

The original manuscript.

Wainwright typed out his manuscript. He then cut up each sheet individually and glued them into the dummy book on the left-hand pages. On many, he made amendments to the text by hand, in black ink, his familiar handwriting. Although it was somewhat less smooth than it had been in his younger years. Wainwright numbered the text pages and, on each facing page, sketched an outline drawing of the scene represented in the corresponding photograph.

Three weeks later, Andrew collected the completed manuscript and the shoe box of photographs – each now numbered on the reverse, to identify the correct order and to match the typed text – and gave them to Anne Clarke, who worked in the Gazette’s book publishing department. She edited and prepared the layout of the manuscripts ready for typesetting.

Interview with Ann Clarke and husband Ken.

Wainwright had also submitted a rare photograph of himself smiling towards the camera for the front cover. This now famous black and white image was taken in late October 1988, by Wainwright’s long-time friend Ken Shepherd during a photoshoot in Kentmere for the cover. The book was dedicated to Ken Shepherd, who was the man, that made it possible. The two had known each other since the 1950s. The photographer lived on Windermere Road and specialised in weddings and portraits. Wainwright was never happy with the quality of the prints produced by the local chemist. He took his negatives to Ken who brought them to life in his darkroom.

Not all the images Wainwright passed to Andrew could be improved, however – some were out of focus, or either over or under exposed – so a number were edited out of Fellwalking with a Camera, along with Wainwright’s corresponding text.

An estimated 40% of the work featured in the original manuscript was unpublished. Wainwright wanted everything published as he produced it, but he understood why some had to be omitted. I am just pleased his original work remains intact.

Fellwalking with a Camera and Manuscript
Fellwalking with a Camera and Manuscript.

On publication in December 1988, Andrew remembers Wainwright being satisfied with the finished book, despite it not being his original vision – it was in portrait format instead of landscape. More than that, Wainwright was pleased that he had come up with the idea in the first place. The publication of Fellwalking with a Camera came close to Andrew’s retirement, when Michael Joseph was gradually preparing to take over as publisher of Wainwright’s work. There was only one print run of 3,000 copies, so every book is a first edition.

During this time, printing company Titus Wilson had acquired the Westmorland Gazette’s general print works in the old Gazette premises. Andrew was moving to a smaller office at the newspaper side of the building. As he was clearing out his office, he found the manuscripts for Ex-Fellwanderer, Fellwalking with a Camera and a hand-drawn Three Peaks Walk Certificate in his drawer. Later that day, he took all three to Wainwright in Kendal Green.

“Oh, I don’t want them, they are no good to me,” said Wainwright.

“Well, put them in the cellar to keep them safe,” replied Andrew.

“No, the cellar is full. You have them if you want.”

Andrew didn’t need telling twice and quickly changed the subject. He was now the owner of two original Wainwright manuscripts and a certificate.

Fellwalking with a Camera, Signed
Signed copy.

Today, the Fellwalking with a Camera and the Ex-Fellwanderer manuscripts are thought to be the only two complete Wainwright manuscripts in private ownership. What makes Fellwalking with a Camera’s unique is that it contains much unpublished work by Wainwright, whereas every word in Ex-Fellwanderer has appeared in print.

A few years ago, Andrew put both up for auction. Ex-Fellwanderer sold, but the reserve wasn’t met for Fellwalking with a Camera.

I have become good friends with Andrew over the last three years. I have learned so much from him about the master fellwanderer. It was a surreal experience when he showed me Wainwright’s manuscript for the first time. There I was, holding a complete piece of Alfred Wainwright’s work in my hands; I was surprised they weren’t trembling! A few months later I acquired the manuscript from Andrew: as a Wainwright collector, it is one of the most treasured pieces in my collection.

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