Pennine Way Companion was published in June 1968 and was dedicated to:
“THE ONE WHO HELPED MOST OF ALL”
The whole story behind this guide is quite complex and does not necessarily fit in with the focus of this article, which covers the publishing and printing history. However, certain aspects of the story do need addressing. Wainwright’s dislike for the Pennine Way is one of them.
We associate Wainwright with the Lake District, but his connection with the backbone of northern England was just as strong. His 1938 circular walk, Pennine Journey, from Settle to Hadrian’s Wall, covered much of this region. So, when Wainwright eventually began work on the Pennine Way Companion, he was no stranger to this wild landscape.
The Pennine Way is a 268-mile walk across half of England to the Scottish borders. It was the brainchild of Journalist and rambler Tom Stephenson. He first proposed the trail in 1935, and after much lobbying, the Pennine Way officially opened on April 24, 1965, making it England’s first official National Trail. A ceremony to celebrate this occasion was held on Malham Moor.
Although Wainwright disagreed with the starting point in Edale and its terminus at Kirk Yetholm, he admired what Tom Stephenson achieved. The Pennine Way inspired Wainwright to create his own long-distance walk a few years later. The now world-famous Coast to Coast Walk.
Wainwright called upon a team of four gentlemen who helped with the fieldwork. Their tasks began in May 1965, and each collaborator covered an allocated route section. Wainwright spent the following year, from Easter 1966 to late 1967, walking each section in stages, double-checking everything as he went. The work had to be completed before the end of the year.
The guide was written in a very unorthodox but clever way. You start from the back of the book and work your way to the front. In addition, each page is read from the bottom up. It does take some time to become accustomed to the design, but it works perfectly and soon becomes second nature.
Studying Wainwright’s guides has taught me that not everything he wrote should be taken at face value. For example, his sense of humour could be interpreted in multiple ways. He was quite a complex character, and probably very few really knew him.
Wainwright was very direct with how he felt about his experience on the Pennine Way. The weather was terrible, with driving rain for days on end. He got stuck in a bog on the summit of Black Hill, enough to put anyone off.
Did Wainwright’s dislike of the Pennine Way stem from his experience on the trail? On the surface, it appears so, but if we dig a little deeper, we discover that he was going through a difficult period in his life. His relationship with Betty McNally was developing towards the end of 1965. Ruth walked out the following year and began divorce proceedings against him. He spoke about scrapping the book at one stage, so we know things weren’t good.
Author’s lives are often reflected in their writing at any given moment, and maybe Wainwright was no exception. Did his experience on the Pennine Way and his life at the time translate into his writing? Who knows, but I believe there is a strong case for this argument.
We will never really know for sure, and perhaps he meant what he said in his closing comment, “You won’t come across me anywhere along the Pennine Way. I’ve had enough of it.”
Wainwright had much to thank Betty for whilst researching the route. She owned a car and could assist by taking him to the hard-to-reach locations on the trail. It opened up a whole new world for Wainwright, enabling him to focus on projects beyond the confinements of the Cumbrian border. As a thank you, he dedicated the Pennine Way Companion to her.
The guide was a massive success for the Westmorland Gazette, and by the mid-1980s, it had sold more copies than some of the earlier Pictorial Guides—an incredible achievement.
A First Edition is identified by:
- Turquoise case with round corners and gold blocking
- 18/- price on the dust jacket
- No impression number
In the mid to late 1970s, the Gazette slowly moved away from Letterpress printing and invested in new offset litho technology. This improved quality and reduced print time. Two separate negatives were produced, each with 16 images. The finished printed sheets were then guillotined and ready for folding. Presented here are the original negatives photographed directly from Wainwright’s original pages.
Dust jacket negatives were used for many years. Old prices were cut out and replaced or masked out completely. Presented here are dust jacket samples that survived the intervening years.
This guide was the first to launch with an 18/- price printed on the dust jacket. The other Pictorial Guides prices received 18/- stickers. They were placed over the old price until new dust jackets were produced with the latest 18/- 90p price.
Tommy Fellowes took care of price clipping or applying new stickers. He’d been the storeman at the Gazette since the 1960s. As well as packing all book orders, he’d clipped and stickered thousands of dust jackets by the time he retired in the 1980s.
The turquoise (Betty’s favourite colour) case would soon change to blue. Before the end of 1970, the case corners were all squared, saving time and money during production. Decimalisation was also upon us, and in 1971, the price of the Pennine Way Companion increased to £1.05.
The route of the Pennine Way has changed over the years. Despite the many path improvements, erosion has been a contributing factor. Landowners have also requested route changes. There have been diversions to include better scenery, etc. The guide has received multiple revisions during its lifetime, which reflect the many route changes.
Presented here are a couple of examples of when the guide caused concern. The first letter refers to a complaint made to the Gazette concerning a remark made by Wainwright in the guide. There was the threat of action against the publisher, but nothing came of it. Whatever the circumstances, there was no case. The description in the guide wasn’t updated for another twenty years.
The second letter is from the Peak District National Park, politely suggesting a minor route alteration to keep walkers safe during shooting days. Wainwright kindly acknowledged their concern and agreed. He amended the page accordingly, and the changes were reflected in the sixty-fourth impression about three years later.
During the 1970s, many guides with the same impression number were bound with different case types. Some materials were in short supply, so alternative cases were used. Below are two fifty-ninth impression guides from 1979, each with different cases.
The early 1980s saw many changes for the guides. The gold blocking was removed from the front of the case, and impression numbers were dropped. This saved time and money. The Pennine Way Companion reached its eighty-sixth impression before they were removed. It highlighted the popularity of the Pennine Way twenty years after its official opening.
The new Wainwright BBC TV series aired in the North East in 1985. Its national debut was on May 12, 1986. A programme dedicated to the Pennine Way was part of the series, so stock levels of this title and others at the Gazette were increased to meet the expected demand.
The Gazette no longer printed the Wainwright books after 1987. They offered a local printer, Titus Wilson, a four-year printing contract between 1988 and 1991. The General Printing and Book Publishing Manager, Andrew Nichol, signed off all orders.
Following the death of Wainwright in 1991, the book publishing was to be transferred to Michael Joseph. By the Autumn of 1991, everything was complete.
In preparation for the new book launch in April 1992, Michael Joseph sent new guidebook designs to David Rigg, the owner of Titus Wilson and Dixon Print. Chris Jesty, who later revised the guides, handwrote the introductory prelim pages for the new Michael Joseph guides.
The original negatives were used to print the new Michael Joseph guides. The old prelims and introductory pages were replaced to reflect the new publisher. The original prelims were retained.
The old Pennine Way Companion dust jacket negatives were obsolete, and Titus Wilson made new ones. Presented here are the negatives used to create the Michael Joseph dust jacket.
Michael Joseph’s new book launch was successful, but the guidebook printing was transferred to Clays Ltd in Suffolk shortly after. The original materials did not leave Kendal under any circumstances, so Michael Joseph were given second-generation duplicates. The move was purely a business decision and very disappointing for Titus Wilson.
The guides were in desperate need of revising. Wainwright had given Chris Jesty his blessing to revise the guides, but only after death. Unfortunately, Michael Joseph didn’t favour guidebook revisions, which didn’t please Chris.
However, it was clear that some route changes in the Pennine Way Companion were unavoidable. Chris was authorised to proceed with these minor alterations, and the new Revised Edition was published in 1994. There was a reprint three years later, and the trademark yellow pages were replaced with white paper to match the rest of the guide.
Michael Joseph kept guidebook price increases to a minimum. The 1992 launch guide retailed at £8.99, and the 1994/7 revisions were priced at £9.99.
Chris wasn’t satisfied with the Michael Joseph revisions. He wanted to produce a thorough handwritten revision matching Wainwright’s original work as closely as possible. The minor edits for the 1994 guide were typeset and didn’t merge well with Wainwright’s organic handwriting.
From left to right:
Pennine Way Companion, Michael Joseph 1992
Pennine Way Companion – Revised Edition, Michael Joseph 1994
Pennine Way Companion – Revised Edition, Michael Joseph 1997
Michael Joseph were invoiced for 8500 copies of the Pennine Way Companion in February 1992. It’s hard to believe it has been thirty years since it left. It is the only guide that never returned home to Kendal.
Michael Joseph ceased publication of the guidebooks in January 2003. Less than a month later, Frances Lincoln won the bid to republish them again. Wainwright’s works of art returning to their rightful home in Kendal was a special occasion. Unfortunately, The Pennine Way Companion would not be among them.
The Pennine Way Companion was printed in Singapore in May 2004, retailing at £11.99. It was reprinted again in Thailand in 2007 and 2009, priced at £12.99 and £13.99. It became available again as part of a clothbound box set published in 2009.
For some reason, the sales figures for this guide were waning. Both Michael Joseph and Frances Lincoln only managed three impressions each. Was this an indication that the Pennine Way itself was becoming unpopular?
From left to right:
Pennine Way Companion, Frances Lincoln 2004
Pennine Way Companion, Frances Lincoln 2007
Pennine Way Companion, Frances Lincoln 2009
Fortunately, Frances Lincoln were in full support of the guidebook revisions. Chris Jesty was delighted with this news and dedicated the next ten years of his life to delicately revising them. He was meticulous and respected Wainwright’s original work, making changes only where necessary.
Chris began the fieldwork for the Pennine Way Companion – Second Edition at Middleton-in-Teesdale in May 2010. After spending many months on this iconic trail, the revisions were completed in January 2012.
In the summer of 2023, Chris returned to the Pennine Way at Teesdale for the first time in thirteen years to retrace his steps along the River Tees to Low Force, High Force and Langdon Beck.
From left to right:
Pennine Way Companion – Second Edition, Frances Lincoln 2011
Pennine Way Companion ‘enlarged type’ (low gsm paper), Frances Lincoln 2009
Pennine Way Companion ‘enlarged type’ (high gsm paper), Frances Lincoln 2009
In recent years, the sales of the Pennine Way Companion have undeniably plummeted. You could say it shared the same ups and downs as the Pennine Way.
In the past, the Pennine Way had a bad reputation for its many peat bogs, driving rain and mile after mile of wet and dreary moorland. Many accepted the challenge, as it wasn’t enough to detract people from attempting the walk. In addition, the free beer on behalf of Wainwright, as a reward for completing the walk, was an opportunity too good to pass up.
I think the Pennine Way is just as good, if not better than ever. The paths are vastly improved, and we have more accommodation options. If fewer people are walking it today, maybe there are many new National Trails to choose from, and the Pennine Way gets lost in the mix.
My wife and I completed the Pennine Way in 2013, and this trail won us over. Traversing through the numerous iconic and spectacular locations was an absolute joy. The many moorland sections’ were a great escape from civilisation, and you felt at one with nature. The problems of everyday life just seemed to dissolve away. I cannot recommend it enough to those who have not yet walked the Pennine Way. The exhilarating experience will leave a positive mark that will resonate with you for the rest of your life.Back to top of page