Here are some views and discussion points laid down by members of the OFC some of who are also members of the Wainwright Society. There is no real need to write a definitive review of the guides as we all really know that story but it is interesting to see a critique of the updated guides as well as find out about small niggles that might just annoy the connoisseur!
The revised guides are quite a bit different (I have spent some time comparing them), and are advisable for actual walk planning. The changes range from minimal (usually addition of parking places etc) to revisions of paths which have appeared/disappeared moved from intermittent to clear or vice versa. In some cases there are massive changes, e.g. Coniston Old Man, where the old guide would have you walking over the parapet of a quarry. The red paths are a huge improvement. I enjoy the older ones I inherited from my father but always refer to the new when walking. Alex Leach
I think that Chris Jesty has done a terrific job in undertaking a revision of the Guides. For him, as it was for AW, it has been a labour of love – out every day in all weathers and under the weight of a much shorter deadline than AW!
Congratulations should also go to the publishers for rescuing the Wainwright brand just before it was consigned to the history shelf! But, of course, it was a hardheaded commercial decision to republish Wainwright, not just nostalgia for the man and his work. Publishers, after all, are not philanthropists.
I am also sure that without the Revised Guides there may have been no long-term future for Wainwright. Michael Joseph had taken the decision to pull the plug on Wainwright because of falling book sales. Luckily, for AW, John Nicholl had the vision to see that with the Revised Guides, a new generation of Wainwright enthusiasts could be encouraged to buy his work. After all, the Guides were nearly fifty years old and in many ways were seriously out of date for anybody new to fellwalking. It was fortunate that Chris Jesty was in the right place at the right time.
But, a note of caution must be sounded before we all get too carried away. For whilst the Guides have now been updated and are, once again, `free from inaccuracies', as AW claimed, I ask myself, if anything has been lost in the process. Are we in danger of losing the essence of AW by revising the Guides? True, they describe the routes on and off the fells in accurate detail, but Wainwright's style, his quirky approach and his humour have begun to be eroded.
For example, in the chapter on Great Mell Fell, AW writes: "Each entrance is guarded by red danger signs. Prudent pedestrians will heed the warning and take no further interest in this page. What follows is therefore exclusively for the walker who (a) holds his life cheaply, or (b) reacts to such signs as a bull to a red rag." Eastern Fells Great Mell Fell p. 3
In the Second Edition this passage now reads: "The danger signs that formerly guarded the entrances have been replaced by National Trust signs proclaiming this to be Mell Fell without the Great." Eastern Fells (Second Edition) Great Mell Fell p.3 Completely accurate but so prosaic. The humour has gone and therein lays the danger of revision. Of course, it would also be wrong to try and overlay a different style of humour. No, it is a double-edged sword, this business of revision. We want to update the information but not lose the essence of the original or replace it with something else.
If we look forward another fifty years, we would find that the revisions have been revised. Perhaps the Hanging Stone on Base Brown will have fallen and we will no longer read that: "People with bad coughs should keep out of the line of fall." Western Fells Base Brown p. 4
Furthermore, if a further revision does not return to the source material, but merely updates the revisions, this process of degradation of the original work will accelerate.
My hope is that having achieved commercial success with the revision of the Guides, the long-term future for Wainwright will now be secure, but please, not without the continued publication of the original work. We all know the game of Chinese Whispers and realise what can happen when the person at the end of the line reveals what they have heard. Surely we cannot let that happen to the work of Alfred Wainwright? Derek
In this image (click for a larger view) taken from Book 4, Coniston Old Man 9 there are several changes in just one small corner of the book. Of course the railway has gone complete with the miniature steam engine on the track. Apart from the relabelling of the station the farm buildings are now converted into a private home and the former 'muddy lane' has to be circumnavigated by way of the track neatly added in by Chris Jesty.
I have all the old ones and all the revised ones so far and love them both. As for planning actual walks I always refer to the Lakeland trio (www.leaney.org
). Where the guides are particularly is post walk when back in the fens. Reading them aids the memory and helps to relive the fell experience. David Mould
One small geographical error I have noted is the reference to a slag heap in Book 4, Coniston Old Man 7. Quarry/miners and iron workers will know that slag comes from a foundry and that spoil is the waste from a mine or quarry. It's only a small detail but one I noticed. Perhaps Frances Lincoln might give us Chris Jesty's work before it goes to print next time or better still, in 2100 A.D. members of the OFC and AW Society can revise it for them! Peter Burgess
We shall not be buying revised guides. I first started walking the fells with our young girls with maps plus Wainwright guides in the early seventies and still read them for the fell memories and also love the humour which makes them so much more than just guides. The fells do not change, some rights of way and paths do, but with common sense and a map, it seems most obstacles can be avoided. Personally, we check out our routes with our Wainwrights (especially for new routes for and 'unfrequented routes' as John Paterson is fond of doing) and print out the relevant Memory map to stick in our pocket. Ann Hiley
Although I have loads of Lakeland guidebooks my first point of call is still always my set of Wainwrights. Andrew Leaney