5 minutes with: the man revising Wainright's guides

Posted on 16/11/2016

ViewRanger meets Lake District resident Clive Hutchby, the man with the unenviable task of updating Alfred Wainwright’s legendary and much loved Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells.

Clive 2015What do you love about walking in the Lake District?

I love the fact that, if you put in the effort (work out a route, start early, go properly equipped) you can 'get off the beaten track' somewhere extraordinarily beautiful and feel as if you are the only person to have ever walked this way and seen this sight – and then you look down and see some footprints :-(


When did you first start using Alfred Wainwright’s Pictorial Guides?

Two days after me (aged 12), my mum and my dad arrived on our first trip to the Lake District and set up our tent in the Newlands valley. We climbed Catbells that afternoon, then the next day went down to George Fisher in Keswick and bought Book Six: The North Western Fells – the next day we used it to climb Causey Pike. The next day we were back at the shop to buy Book Five!


How have Wainwright’s guidebooks remained so popular for so many years?

By being unique. All guidebook writers before (and since) insist on writing about the routes; but Wainwright SHOWS you, thanks to his ascent diagrams. This, added to extraordinary detail, brilliant maps (Ordnance Survey please note: no parish, district and county council boundaries; no thick green dotted lines showing you where you can walk; crags where they actually are, not scattered everywhere; paths you can actually see!), marvellous writing and the sheer beauty of the hand-crafted books. Oh, and they really are useful!


Why do they need updating now?

All guidebooks could do with being updated yesterday. Once they get out of date they aren't guidebooks, they are coffee-table books. The fells are constantly changing: new routes, old paths going out of fashion, repaired paths, new fences, gates replacing stiles, etc, etc.


What process do you go through to update each route?

I walk it! I make notes in a 'master' guidebook (from the Chris Jesty second edition of Wainwright’s guides), I take photographs to remind me of things, and I record new paths using ViewRanger. When I get home I call up the digital page in Adobe Photoshop and make the changes – this can entail drawing in new paths, walls, trees etc (or removing the same), and sometimes re-drawing the fellside to show new routes. 


How does using ViewRanger help you revise AW’s books?

It enables me to track, precisely, where I walk, so if I'm checking out a new path ViewRanger will follow and record my footsteps (as long as I remember to switch it on!). Also, and this is not to be underestimated, when it's misty it shows me exactly where I am.


These are three versions of the page Bowfell 12, which first appeared in Book Four: The Southern Fells, first published in 1960. In the first illustration (below), note the route indicated WR at the foot of the diagram.

bowfell12 FIRST.jpg

The second illustration (below) is how the page appeared in the second edition of Book Four: The Southern Fells, first published in 2007. Note, the WR route is the same, but all paths/routes have been updated to appear in red.

bowfell12 SECOND.jpg

The third illustration (below) is how the page will appear in the Walkers Edition (third edition) of Book Four: The Southern Fells, which is being published in spring 2017. Note, the WR route has been replaced by two routes (WR1 and WR2). This is an accurate map of these thin paths, which I walked and recorded in ViewRanger. This is quite significant. WR1 is a doubly useful route in ascent and descent, whereas WR2 is rather pointless in my opinion. All of this was discovered thanks to ViewRanger!

bowfell12 THIRD.jpg

Do you still use paper maps, or are you a full digital convert?

I keep an OS map in my rucksack and a compass, of course, but I prefer digital on my iPhone; when it's blowing a gale it's easier to look at a phone screen than unfold a map. I actually prefer Wainwright's Pictorial Guide maps to 'get a picture' of the terrain I'm walking because he shows the crags much more accurately, and things such as broken walls, pools, cairns, which you will not find on an OS map.


And finally, which is your favourite Wainwright walk?

Difficult question, because sometimes the beauty of a walk depends on the weather, the company, the mood one is in, etc. I must admit I've gone off ridges a little since I've been revising the guides; I now really do appreciate the beauty of climbing up a valley to the headwall and onto a summit and/or ridge.

If pushed, though, I would say the ascent of Mardale Ill Bell from Mardale Head via the north ridge, overlooking Blea Water, and the descent via the east ridge, overlooking Small Water. YES, I know, these are ridges – but they're ones that aren’t swarming with fellow fellwalkers (!) and have wonderful views of the two best tarns in Lakeland.  

I also love these: east ridge of Dollywaggon Pike from Grisedale; Fairfield via Deepdale and Greenhow End; Scafell Pike via Little Narrowcove and Pen; Great End via The Band; the south ridge of Esk Pike; Pillar via the High Level Route: and Thornthwaite Crag via upper Kentmere and Hall Cove.


Clive’s revised Walker editions of Book One: The Eastern Fells, Book Two: The Far Eastern Fells and Book Three: The Central Fells are available to buy now, with Book Four: The Southern Fells due for release in spring 2017.

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