Walks: Series Two
an epitome of life.
You start at the bottom;
the weaklings and
irresolute drop out on
the way up.
The determined reach
Life is like that
THE HUGELY SUCCESSFUL BBC Television series, Wainwright Walks is a
visual pleasure of spectacular views and towering peaks on rugged mountains
that are older than either The Alps or The Himalayas; where "scenes of
great beauty unfold on all sides". It is a fitting tribute to the life
and work of legendary fell walker, artist and guide writer Alfred Wainwright,
who was born in 1907.
Now Wainwright Walks: Series Two is to be released on DVD for the first
time. Originally screened on BBC Four, it remains one of the most highly-rated
factual programmes in the channel's history. The stunning aerial photography
from Richard Mervyn, with Janusz Ostrowski on camera has to be mentioned here,
along with the splendid accom-panying music from Alec Cornish.
Britain's most beloved naturalist, Alfred Wainwright known as AW
started working on his famous Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells
in 1952, having fallen in love with the area on his first visit as a 23-year-old
in 1930 and moved to Kendal in 1941. Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth both
lived in the area.
Respected broadcaster Julia Bradbury follows in the footsteps of Wain-wright,
fearlessly tackling some very challenging climbs. Not only is Julia's voice
very pleasant to listen to but she seems to be a mine of information. The occasional
gems from Wainwright's descriptive prose lift the dialogue and are ably recited
by Nik Wood-Jones with a rare credibility.
The seven volumes that make up Wainwright's Pictorial Guides were hand-written
and drawn over thirteen years and earned Alfred Wain-wright an MBE. They have
sold in excess of two million copies, having been in continuous publication
since they were written, inspiring generations of walkers to explore the fells
amid the natural beauty of the land.
Enticingly lovely countryside and spectacular scenery mark the beautifully-filmed
Wainwright Walks along with stunning sweeps over the dramatic landscape
shot from the crew's helicopter some of which were specially filmed to
take advantage of better weather and show the glory of The Lake District.
Wainwright Walks: Series Two starts with Helvellyn, the third highest
peak in England, and takes in Ullswater and Striding Edge, which is described
by Wainwright as the finest ridge in Lakeland. The final climb to the summit
is a demanding 300ft face of steep rock with loose
scree and Julia does it with ease.
A monument bears testament to a young man, Charles Gough, who died on the mountain
two hundred years ago, three months after leaving Patterdale with his Irish
Terrier. Wordsworth immortalised the tragedy in poetry: I Climbed The Dark
Brow of the Mighty Helvellyn.
Julia meets a variety of interesting local characters at each location and on
her Helvellyn walk she speaks to Dave Freeborn of the Patter-dale Mountain Rescue
Team and David Powell-Thompson, whose in-depth local knowledge is indispensable.
The second walk, Catbells, Wainwright describes as having "a bold, come-hither
look". The perfect family walk, it is one of the most photo-graphed points in
the Lake District and takes in Derwent Water with
its pretty islands; woodland and the engineered, zig-zag path that Wainwright
described as "an enchanting stairway". Julia meets local guide Frank Harrison,
and finds a plaque to Thomas Arthur Leonard,
the father of hiking.
The area was once the heart of a thriving mining community; a busy, clamouring
industry that in 1900 provided work for around half the population. Ian Tyler,
curator of Keswick Mining Museum, shows Julia examples of minerals. "Silence,"
Wainwright said, "is all the more profound in places where there was once noise."
A short scramble up a polished rock face to a stony plateau where
Julia reaches Friar's Crag, regarded as one of the most beautiful spots in the
Lake District. A rocky stairway takes you the rest of the way where "glittering
diamonds adorn the crown" as the sun touches small pools of water in rocky hollows.
"Ridge walking is fell walking at its best," said Wainwright. And The Crinkle
Crags and Bowfell walk epitomizes that with boulder-strewn rivers, streams and
hidden waterfalls, peaty grasslands, towering
cliffs and shattered rock; and a small oasis with rowan trees and flowering
Photographer Derry Brabbs worked with Wainwright and says Crinkle Crag and Bowfell
summit are ideal subjects. Wainwright described The Crinkles as "a scene of
desolation and rugged grandeur equalled by few others in the district." Bowfell
Buttress, he noted, is "a challenge that cannot be denied," and Julia rises
once again to this challenge.
In the very heart of The Lake District is the instantly-recognisable Helm Crag
or The Lion and the Lamb. The mountain's summit is
a cannon-shaped rock known as The Howitzer and on the way up is a spectacular
waterfall called Sour Milk Gill, rippling streams, babbling brooks and canopies
of trees with dappled light. Local writer and broadcaster Mark Richards tells
of the special relationship he had with AW that dates back to the 70s.
This area is also crossed by the 190-mile long Coast-to-Coast walk devised by
Wainwright in 1972 from St Bees Head to Robin Hood's Bay in the East, taking
in three national parks along the way.
Julia talks to young Jonathan Broad, who was already well experienced with the
fells before his tenth birthday, before she bravely goes on to the top. "The
summit," said Wainwright, "is altogether a rather weird and fantastic place.
Well worth not merely a visit, but a detailed and leisurely exploration."
High Street, according to Wainwright, is the "connoisseur's route". It is an
ancient route where legions of Roman soldiers used to march on their way to
and from the forts at Penrith, Keswick and Ambleside. Not so long ago a dam
was built to create a reservoir in the valley, flooding Mardale, said to be
one of the most beautiful and tranquil villages in the Lake District.
The indistinct route of the Roman Road the highest piece of roman road
in England can be seen by those who know where to look, says Jamie Lund,
an archaeologist with the National Trust. High Street has been used for fairs,
shepherds' meets and horse racing. "Any person so favoured may recline on the
turf and witness in their mind's eye a very pageant of history," promises AW.
The area is also the last nesting place of the Golden Eagle, reduced to one
solitary male since 2004.
One of the remotest places in The Lake District is the area around Pillar
the highest peak in the Western Fells and which offers one of the most dramatic
climbs. AW thought it had the most handsome crag
in Lakeland: "Crags and shadowed hollows, scree and tumbled boulders form a
wild, chaotic scene. A setting worthy of a fine mountain."
The only building in the upper reaches of Ennerdale is Black Sail Youth Hostel
built as a shepherd's bothy hundreds of years ago where walkers
can sit and assess their route in the company of one or two grazing sheep.
There is plenty of rocky ground and grass on this climb. The thousands of conifers
were described disparagingly by Wainwright as "a dark
and funereal shroud of foreign trees". A problem that has been add-ressed recently
by the introduction of mixed woodland to return to a more natural landscape.
Pillar Rock dominates the horizon as you approach a full 500ft from base
to summit. Wainwright rated this area as one of his favourites in Lakeland and
it offers a rare chance to scale vertical cliff faces. Pillar Rock is definitely
not for the unskilled! In 1826 the first peak there was conquered and it arguably
marked the birth of an entire sport in this country. As Julia approaches the
summit, we get a shot of the valley and, perfectly on cue, the sun comes out
and a rainbow appears.
Alfred Wainwright died in 1991, leaving his love letter to the English Lakes.
His second wife, Betty, sprinkled his ashes at Haystacks, above the tiny youth
hostel, where Pillar's summit "soars proudly above". Wainwright said: "Those
who seek and find while there is yet time will be blessed in mind and body."
I won't forget the image of Julia resting at the top of the Howitzer, looking
as if she is held in the giant hand of King Kong.
Wainwright's Walks, Series Two will
be released on DVD on 7 January 2008 at an RRP of £16.99 | Cert: E | Cat No:
AV9641. Series Produced and Directed by Owen Rodd, Skyworks for BBC.
Special Features: Interview with Eric Robson; Alfred Wainwright Biography;
Pictures Galleries; and Julia Bradbury Filmography.