Documentary recalling the life of Alfred Wainwright, the eccentric Lancastrian who created a series of iconic fell-walking books in the 1950s, and his love for the Lake District.
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This is the strange, unlikely story of a humble Blackburn man who fell in love with a landscape
and transformed himself into an artistic legend.
It's the story of an obsessive accountant who, 50 years ago,
became so passionate about the beauty of the English Lake District
that he dedicated his life to capturing it on paper.
Entirely driven by his obsession, the reclusive Alfred Wainwright
embarked on a 13-year odyssey to map his beloved Lake District.
So began an epic journey that not only changed the life of one man,
but changed the whole experience of Lakeland for millions of readers
who've worshipped his guide books and have followed in his footsteps.
I've always liked walking myself, and my husband does, too.
And I think it was he who said, "You ought to do Wainwright."
Well, Desert Island is a national programme and you need national figures,
and there was never any doubt in my mind that Wainwright was a national figure.
He would not come to London. He'd only do it if I would go to Manchester.
He'd been to London once since the war, didn't like it, and he wasn't going down there again.
And said the only reason he was doing it was because he liked a woman with a nice pair of legs.
'...My castaway this week is a writer and an artist, but first of all a guide.
'He is the constant companion of any serious walker in the Lake District.
'Indeed, a man would be a fool to set out without him...'
It's not a north-south thing, it's not a class thing,
but half the people will say, "Oh, I love him. I love all his books.
"I've gone up..."
You know there's a woman who's climbed the 214 fells 13 times?!
Then there's the other half of the people who say, "Who?
"He wrote guidebooks? Why's he so famous?" It's very hard to explain to people.
There's this dichotomy with people who know nothing at all about him, and people that love him.
There's something which captures the essence of mountains.
And compare those with any photographic guide you want,
and I defy you to find one that will explain the mountain better,
or make the mountain accessible to people better.
They were places where a man could go in safety
if he took reasonable precautions.
' ..The guides, which have sold more than a million now,
'are a walker's passport to pleasure.'
The thing about his books, unlike all the guidebooks that went before, nobody uses those books today.
They're boring and they're inconsequential, and they're out of date.
And you would never plan a walk with those guides. But with Wainwright's ones, you can.
That was his genius. You can use the Wainwrights to plan a walk.
You can sit down and read it and work out where you want to go.
You can use it while walking, because they're shaped to fit in your pocket.
Or you can sit and read them without ever going on the fells.
You can sit in California and read them and imagine. I've got friends in America who read Wainwrights.
They just sit there and imagine it.
It wasn't until the age of 81 that this famous recluse finally spoke publicly, and very personally,
about his intense relationship with Lakeland's fells.
Mr Wainwright, you've got a reputation for being a bit of a recluse, not liking publicity.
Why is that?
I suppose it's true to some extent because,
with one or two exceptions, I do prefer my own company to that of other people.
It wasn't just to his readers that Wainwright was a mystery.
He kept his personal life completely private,
had few intimate friends, and always preferred his own company.
Writer and walker Hunter Davies only discovered the secret truth about Wainwright's internal life
when he gained access to hundreds of personal papers and letters whilst researching his biography in 1994.
What people knew about him... One, he was a fairly dour person, this was the image, this was the myth.
He wasn't really sociable.
He liked walking on his own.
He was fairly grumpy.
I'd heard he was a bit of a misogynist and wasn't very keen on women.
Who liked animals better than people.
They knew that he was a bit of a...
-What's the word I want?
-Well, he was a loner, wasn't he?
And I think most people, if you lived in the Lake District,
or walked in the Lake District, you knew Wainwright.
Everyone used his books. We used his books for years, didn't we?
-But people didn't know Wainwright as the man, did they?
Yes, I am anti-social, and getting worse as I get older.
It started as shyness.
It isn't shyness now.
I can face anybody now and not feel inferior to them.
Yes, he suddenly said that he didn't feel inferior any more, which was a strange statement.
But then, gradually, you learned about his background, which was very poor.
Well, he was born 1907, in Blackburn,
in amongst the mills and in amongst the factories.
You never felt that you were poor, because everybody was in the same boat.
People accepted their position. That's the way they were born.
-They had to go in the mill and work for a living.
-The cotton mill?
He didn't have a very easy childhood.
He was born with red hair and nobody else in the family had red hair.
He told me his mother used to hide him in a drawer, as a baby, when visitors came!
He adored his mother.
I think his mother was a saint in his eyes.
As a child, he was fascinated by drawing.
He loved maps. He would copy out maps and colour them, and create his own maps.
He loved writing. It was the physical thing of putting things on paper.
He liked not just the content, the words, he liked the shape of writing and doing things.
His destiny was the mill.
It would certainly be a pretty hard working-class life.
And he raised himself out of that.
He worked hard at school.
As I understand it, the young Alfred Wainwright was a bit of a clever clogs,
and destined not to go to the cotton mill. Is that right?
I think I must admit that is right.
I did extremely well and came first in every subject.
There wasn't much money coming in at home.
At the age of 13, there was an advert in the local paper
for an office boy in the town hall.
I applied for that and got it,
whereas everybody else that I knew was going into the cotton mill.
I wouldn't have liked that.
When he became a young man in the council offices,
he did these hand-drawn and hand-written little magazines,
which he stapled together, six or ten or eight pages.
And there'd be jokes and quizzes and gossip and cartoons, all to do with the office.
Long before he did the pictorial guides,
inside him was this yearning to write.
When he was in his early 20s, he went to the Lake District, and he saw...
He'd read about the lakes and the scenery, but he'd never seen it.
When you were aged 23, you took your first holiday away from home.
By that age I'd saved up £5,
and I'd heard a lot about the Lake District which, until then, had been a world away.
I did as everybody told me, went up to Orrest Head,
which overlooks Windermere.
It was coming up that hill, and seeing the view of Windermere, that changed his life.
It was a moment of magic.
A revelation so unexpected that I stood transfixed,
unable to believe my eyes.
That glorious panorama that held me enthralled.
God was in his heaven that day, and I a humble worshipper.
I wasn't accustomed or entitled to such a privilege.
I was an alien here.
I didn't belong.
If only I could, sometime.
If only I could.
Those few hours on Orrest Head cast a spell that changed my life.
At the age of 23, while studying accountancy,
Wainwright married Ruth, a mill girl without the social aspirations
of her ambitious young husband.
Ruth was his first ever girlfriend.
He was trying to better himself socially,
intellectually and professionally.
After two or three years, quite quickly, it all fell apart,
and all the romance went out of it.
He realised he'd made a mistake.
Wainwright had never let go of his dream of living in the Lakes.
And his chance came in 1941,
when he was offered a position at the treasurer's office in Kendal.
Though it meant a drop in salary, he took the job,
and moved to Cumbria with Ruth and their young son, Peter.
Wainwright soon rose to the position of borough treasurer,
a role he relished, with his obsession for detail and accuracy.
But he longed to write more than accounts and ledgers, a desire he'd had since childhood.
When I came to the Lake District,
I had a golden opportunity of getting out, walking on the fells.
He would talk about the beauty of the Lakes,
and about waking up in the morning
when he'd spent the night in the fells,
and how beautiful it was, and the mist, as it moved off the valleys,
and that freshness as he woke up, and how there was joy in his heart because...
he had the fells to himself for at least five hours
before anybody else could reach where he was.
I think he just wanted to absorb that landscape around him, and the sounds of it and smells of it.
And it didn't matter if it was raining, if there was rain dripping off his nose end.
He was in the place he wanted to be.
I was always coming across people who were lost.
There were no guidebooks to the fells, and it was important that there should be.
So, more for my amusement than anything else, I started to write the guidebooks.
I thought, "When I'm an old man and I can't walk the hills, these will be memories for me."
And that's how the books came into being.
One November night in 1952, at the age of 45,
Wainwright embarked on his epic, 13-year guidebook odyssey.
A strange, obsessive journey that would soak up all his spare time
in his rigid routine to map 214 fells in 7 books.
On 9th November 1952, he sat down and began what became the pictorial guides.
It had obviously been bubbling up in his head for a long time, but that was the day he first started.
Wordsworth used to say that the Lake District
was like the spokes of a wheel, radiating around.
He didn't actually divide it up.
But Wainwright did that.
He worked out the seven areas he was going to do,
the seven geographical divisions of the Lake District National Park.
He must have sat there, working out how many fells...
I think at that early stage he must have decided, 214 fells...
And he worked out that evening, "I'll finish in 13 years' time."
Imagine anybody being so controlled and organised!
And imagine people thinking, "Well, the wife might want taken out.
"I might fall ill, something else might turn up."
But he was totally cold-blooded, in a way, giving him this self-imposed task.
"Surely there is no other place in this whole wonderful world quite like Lakeland.
"All who truly love Lakeland are exiles when away from it.
"Many are they who have fallen under the spell of Lakeland.
"And many are they who have been moved to tell of their affection
"in story and verse and picture.
"This book is one man's way of expressing his devotion
"to Lakeland's friendly hills.
"It was conceived and is born after many years
"of inarticulate worshipping at their shrines.
"It is, in very truth,
"a love letter."
I was able to illustrate with drawings.
I was able to give the natural features of the mountain.
The routes of ascent.
The ridge routes to the next one.
The view from the summit.
I have dealt with them all like that, one after another.
I really got obsessed by what I was doing.
He would go to his job every day as borough treasurer.
He would come home.
Ruth would give him his tea.
And he would work on his pages, his notes, write up what he had done the previous weekend.
Year after year, Wainwright kept up the same, unbroken weekend routine through sunshine and rain.
He would get the very early bus to wherever he was going.
He would usually organise his day
so that he'd have fish and chips somewhere.
He would climb all day long and come back on the last bus.
And he'd spend the rest of the week writing up his notes.
Anybody who spends every weekend in life out on the hill,
and every evening when you finish your day job
in the attic, drawing up what you did the previous weekend -
that's obsessive in anybody's terms.
After about 100 pages, he was not happy with how he was drawing it.
He decided to justify the type on either side.
Justified means a straight line that side and a straight line the other side.
Somebody is obviously obsessive who chucks away 100 pages of work -
God knows how long that took him -
because he was obsessed by perfection, as he saw it.
And somebody is obviously obsessive who works out what they will be doing for the next 13 years.
Self-imposed. It wasn't a job, nobody was paying him.
"I started the book determined that everything in it should be perfect.
"So let me be the first to say it.
"This book is full of imperfections.
"But let me dare also to say
"it is free from inaccuracies."
He could never make a mistake.
Making a mistake didn't come into his language.
He would be right in his mind before he wrote it down.
I think, at the back of his mind, almost from the beginning,
he was vaguely thinking of publishing it, because very quickly he WAS thinking of publishing it.
I finished the first volume after two years of working every night on them.
I thought these might be useful to other people, too.
Having handwritten the book himself,
Wainwright was equally independent and determined to bypass interfering London publishers,
by taking the financial risk to publish himself.
But could he find a willing printer?
I went to a local printer
and asked what it would cost to have 2,000 copies made.
He couldn't believe it was all in handwriting.
He couldn't understand that somebody had done page after page of this immaculate work.
He said that he didn't think anybody had done a handwritten book like this
since the monks of medieval time.
And he gave him a quote for 2,000 copies for £900.
I said I have only got 35.
"Well," he said, "never mind. This book will sell.
"Pay me off as you sell them."
Despite facing a £900 debt, equivalent to £18,000 today,
the self-sufficient borough treasurer accepted the huge financial risk
and published his first book.
Having seen the reaction to that first one,
he knew that book was too good to just be on one person's bookshelf.
"When this last sentence is written, Book One will be finished
"and in the same moment
"Book Two will take its place in my thoughts."
"The author carried out his explorations surreptitiously
"and without permission, not caring to risk a refusal.
"He was not detected, but this may, possibly,
"have been due to his marked resemblance to an old stag."
He walked on the fells the way he would walk to go into Kendal.
There weren't cagoules, there weren't climbing gear that you have today.
And he wouldn't speak to people while he was walking.
He didn't want any distractions. He would ignore people and he certainly didn't want anybody walking with him.
I thought it would be rather nice if I could go there with him, follow him.
I asked him if I could do that, and he said,
"Yes, if you don't talk!"
But he was a trudger.
He would have taken a very dim view of the sort of power walkers
that you see on the hill now, wall-to-wall lycra.
Who come past you at a great rate of knots, looking at their toe ends, because they are powering their way
to the next summit because they got to do five summits today come hell or high water!
Wainwright would rather drown.
It is what you do when you get to the end of the walk that's the interesting bit.
When you get to this viewpoint or that viewpoint or this place where you can suddenly look out
over the promised land.
And that was what Wainwright was going for.
It was taking time to absorb that landscape.
"There have been offers of hospitality, of transport.
"I have no car nor any wish for one,
"for I am stubbornly resolved that this must be a single-handed effort.
"I have set myself this task and I am pig-headed enough
"to want to do it without help."
Wainwright knew his instincts were right.
Without professional marketing or publicity, Book One was an instant success.
By the time Book Two was finished, he'd sold enough copies to clear his debt.
His big risk paid off and now he could complete his 13-year guidebook odyssey.
"The highest point is a pleasant place for a halt
"and quiet contemplation of the scenery.
"Sheep think so, too."
Actually, he was in no hurry to come home.
He didn't want to see Ruth, he didn't want any connection with Ruth.
He wanted to come home absolutely knackered,
absolutely shattered, but having been up a fell, done all his drawings and then come home and flop into bed.
In 1957, at the age of 50, and after 27 years in an unhappy marriage,
Wainwright met a woman who was to change his life.
She was 15 years his junior
and an attractive, separated, mother of two.
Her name was Betty McNally.
She was running some sort of charity thing and they'd hired premises belonging to the council.
Apparently, they'd hired it for X number of hours but they had run over by an hour.
So he called her into his office and said, "You stayed extra in that hall and we want the money.
"Are you going to pay it?"
He really told me off quite fiercely,
but in a gentle sort of way.
Anyway, it was all all right in the end.
But it was a severe... quite a severe ticking-off.
And it sort of stuck in my mind
that he had been gentle and nice,
even though he was cross at the same time!
And that never went out of my mind again. It was always there.
I remembered that.
I don't think she knew then, and most people didn't, that he was also a writer of these pictorial guides.
Don't forget, he kept a low profile, no publicity. Nothing was known about him.
It was to be eight years before Wainwright and Betty's paths would cross again,
by which time his books would be widely read.
In the early couple of books, he is much more serious,
but as he progresses through the seven books, he reveals more and more about himself.
"Why does a man climb mountains?
"Why has he forced his tired and sweating body up here,
"when he might instead have been sitting at ease
"in the deckchair at the seaside, looking at girls in bikinis?
"Or sucking ice cream, according to his fancy?
"On the face of it, this thing doesn't make sense."
His thoughts, for example, addressing the reader, talking to the reader.
"The author decided on this summit to share his hard-won royalties with one of his faithful readers
"and placed a two-shilling piece under a flat stone.
"It awaits the first person to read this note and act upon it."
He has one or two topical references. He mentions women.
"Long legs are needed to avoid mishaps.
"Ladies have shorter legs than men - this is hearsay -
"and should mind their bloomers, or whatever they call them nowadays.
"A man whose only passion is for the hills cannot be expected to be well-informed in such matters."
And he has some quite good jokes, some quite funny remarks.
"Take care, do not start fire
"and so waste the effort spent in drawing all the trees on this map."
The thing that fascinates people
who are reading quite a serious bit of instruction,
how to get up a fell, and then suddenly you get...
He makes some strange remark, he draws a rock with a particularly savage face on it,
and then he writes beside that, "Some men have wives who look this."
Well, when you're reading a guide book, you don't suddenly expect that, do you?
Yes, he found that he could express himself
and reveal himself on paper more than he could in real life, face to face.
He couldn't be bothered with social intercourse.
Well, I wrote to him because he had one very bad error about a footpath,
and I got a letter back from him - a very polite letter, he wasn't a bit put out about it.
And so one thing led to another, and it worked into this correspondence
that lasted for 10 years without us ever meeting each other.
At one point he asked me, erm, he said he did not like women with meagre thighs,
and he asked me if I had meagre thighs,
and I said, well, as I did so much walking and climbing, obviously I had rather muscular thighs.
And he wrote back and he said, well, he rather doubted
whether he could be attracted by a woman with muscular thighs, but he thought he ought to build me up,
and then he started leaving bars of chocolate for me hidden in various walls around the neighbourhood.
And he used to draw beautiful maps, these lovely maps, showing me how to find these chocolate bars.
You got to like him very much through the books, and you always wanted to get onto the next walk
with him and buy the next book and so work up a relationship with him.
"Cindy is showing absolutely no sympathy whatsoever
"with my efforts to write a classic.
"Her persistent pokings and tuggings at critical moments of concentration
"must have resulted in inferior work, for which I am sorry."
"This, then, is Skiddaw...
"a giant in stature...
"but an affable and friendly giant."
People started to look for him
on the hill, but by the time the book was out, he was off to the next bit of the Lake District,
so they never found him.
You know, there were sightings, you know.
Rumours would suggest that he was going to be at Sty Head Pass on a particular day.
People would gather, you know, it was like sightings of the great white whale.
And he was never there, because he was in,
as Shakespeare would say, another part of the forest.
I mean, if you meet a lone walker on top of a fell and you're walking, you've got to say something.
No, you haven't, really. You can strike off in another direction.
There are boulders you can get behind.
My pet hate, of course, are school parties.
When he and I were... He used to come up here to see me,
and we used to sit here on the steps, on this seat, talking,
and he always wore a very white shirt. I think he bought one every time he came here.
He used to sit there like a great big marquee, because he was a very large man,
and people used to walk past, all reading his books, looking just at his books.
And as he said, "They'd give a fortune to see me,"
but they just walked past within yards along that yard, right past him,
reading his guide books, never looked up and never took any notice of him at all.
That used to amuse him mightily, as you can imagine.
"These were glorious days for me,
"days of absolute freedom, days of feeling like the only man on earth.
"No crowds to dodge, no noisy chatter, no litter.
"Just me and the sheep and singing larks overhead."
By 1962, after a decade of early morning buses, fish and chips,
and burning the midnight oil, 40,000 pictorial guides had been sold.
But despite this success and adulation,
Wainwright stuck to his rigid routine, remaining borough treasurer
and still the ever solitary fell walker,
hiding from publicity and his curious public.
"These ugly black holes and pits are not merely dangerous but damned dangerous.
"Sons should think of their mothers and turn away.
"Husbands should think of their wives,
"after which gloomy contemplation many no doubt will march cheerfully into a possible doom."
He had some very bleak times in his life.
I think he lived in considerable turmoil,
er...for part of his life, because of personal relationships
and, you know, his inability to cope with them,
his inability to come to terms with his own failings, perhaps.
It wasn't his obsessions which had ruined the marriage
and made the wife get fed up. It was the other way round.
It was a bad marriage and not talking to each other
that led to his obsession for going out on the fells, which was interesting. He was getting...
exorcising himself, physically exhausting himself
by going on the fells and staying out all day and all night.
Well, his first wife and he had become estranged,
so he was...quite lonely.
He was an innocent person.
Do you know that picture of him as a baby?
In a high chair?
And he said he felt exactly like that all his life,
feeling...lonely and bereft
and wondering where that nice soft breast has gone to.
And that is what he said. And he is a little child, little baby, sitting there waiting for something.
Was this a man in silent agony,
seeking to escape his deeper anxieties?
Loneliness, frustration and despair were the themes
in an autobiographical short story he'd written and kept secret
since 1939, when he was just 32.
When his biographer uncovered this manuscript,
three years after his death,
it shed a whole new light on the mysterious Wainwright enigma.
The only thing he made fictional was Michael Wayne, the name.
But in this marriage, "I have a boy, who is Peter, one child,"
and he has a woman, who's... I think she's actually Milda in the book,
and he describes this awful life with her.
"He realised that his marriage had been a ghastly mistake.
"He had married someone who had been his equal.
"Now he had changed for the better, he thought.
"Certainly his aspirations were far nobler,
"but his wife had not changed with him."
And then he has this fantasy of...
he will one day meet a beautiful, marvellous, amazing woman who will somehow come to him.
In fact, he imagines she already is with him from time to time.
He imagines when he's sitting by the fireside that she's there, this lovely woman, his beloved.
He even imagines her coming to his bed
and coming when he's sleeping and being with him.
"He turned to her, resting his aching head against her sweet breast.
"She was with him, comforting him, soothing him.
"He was not perplexed and frightened any more."
After 12 years of working non-stop,
Wainwright embarked on his final pictorial guide.
"First time we've seen him with a cap on.
"He must be going bald or something."
Though Wainwright was by now used to receiving fan letters, there was one in particular that caught his eye.
It was from Betty McNally, the woman he'd called into his office eight years earlier.
I wrote and said how wonderful they'd been
and how much I'd appreciated
all the knowledge that I'd picked up from those books
and the fun they'd given me.
And, to my enormous surprise, he wrote a little thing
a little note saying...you know, thanking me for thanking him
and, um, "I hoped I'd see you again some time."
And that just made me think,
"Well...I might meet him again sometime."
After a few short meetings at the town hall and a brief flirtatious correspondence,
Wainwright fell for Betty.
Taking a huge risk, he decided to open his heart
to this relative stranger and presented her with the manuscript he'd written 26 years earlier.
Was she the woman of his dreams?
He gave Betty his 1939 short story and let her decide.
"Just read the book first
"and make sure it is not a case of mistaken identity with me and mistaken impression with you.
"Wait a fortnight, please,
"then let me know."
"There was the girl he'd dreamed of.
"How close he seemed to have come to her latterly.
"She had taken his mother's place as the guiding influence in his life.
"She dominated his thoughts, his actions.
"She had lifted him up,
"shown him the better way - such was the power of his imagination."
Wainwright did mention occasionally that he'd met somebody,
and, of course, I didn't tease him or anything like that,
because we didn't behave like that, but I said, "Oh, that's very nice."
She was able to give him a lift here and there,
and that was a great addition, because he hadn't had lifts before.
All of his adult life, Wainwright had been waiting
to find a passion to match his love for the Lakeland fells.
Now, aged 60, he seemed to have found her.
I mean, you were very different people, weren't you?
We were different people, yes.
It was a real...case of opposites attract, both sort of physically
and in all sorts of other ways.
Mum, very vivacious, lively and talkative,
-and AW was very taciturn and...
And you were very practical. You did all the practical things in the house.
Yes, he wasn't at all practical, he was absolutely useless.
When this romance was going,
she was in her mid-40s and he was about 60, this is a 15-year gap.
The torrent of love letters to Betty were outpourings of emotion
displaying passions that had been absent from his 37-year marriage.
He'd found a new joy in life,
but there were dark clouds closing in.
He was worried about being seen in the streets, walking with Betty, who was a separated woman.
So they tended to meet, once the romance got going more strongly,
further afield, where nobody would identify them.
Ruth, his wife, eventually finds out there's something going on.
Some kind neighbour had told her that this neighbour had seen Wainwright
several times getting out of a car with a woman.
From this, suspicions were arisen.
She found something in his desk, we don't know what it was -
Ruth had died by the time I did the book, er...
It must have been a letter perhaps referring to Betty,
or a letter he was writing or a letter from her, when she realises something is going on,
he's fallen in love with another woman. That's it, I'm off.
You've got to feel sorry for Ruth.
She'd been his faithful wife for all these years, 30-odd years.
She cooked and cleaned for him, been absolutely loyal and helped him.
I imagine if she was alive today and had a good divorce lawyer
she would say, "Your career was based on me being a faithful wife."
She could probably, like film stars today, have got half his money.
Because he's totally undomesticated - doesn't know how the cooker works, the fire works, the oven works -
she leaves him these notes on how to run the house
and I think they never meet again.
"Sheets and pillowcases and towels in the top drawer of the dressing-table.
"Coal will come once a fortnight unless you cancel it.
"Papers are five and four a week at Kendal Green Post Office."
"Don't worry about me.
"I'm doing all right.
"I crunch around the kitchen amongst the spilt cornflakes
"and the bed is lumpy, because it hasn't been made for seven weeks.
"And I've stopped wearing underclothes because I have no clean ones left,
"and I don't know how to use the washing machine."
In the Christmas of 1965, after 13 years of painstaking work,
Wainwright finally completed his extraordinary Lakeland odyssey.
Finishing his last pictorial guide just one week ahead of his original 1952 schedule.
"So, this is farewell to the present series of books.
"The fleeting hours of life for those who love the hills is quickly spent.
"But the hills are eternal."
It was as if his life was a long, slow ascent
up a path to the summit that he saw quite early on and intended to get there.
And slowly but surely, and obsessively, he did get there.
At the age of 63, Wainwright had finally found the close relationship he'd been dreaming of all his life.
In 1970, after a difficult divorce, he and Betty got married.
He was very, very contented
and he seemed to put on weight because she was cooking for him.
But even though he and Betty had a marriage,
he was still self-obsessed by his work.
He always had a new project on, didn't he?
He always had something in mind, yes.
Right up until the end he used to...
Until his last illness he used to go upstairs
every day and try and work, didn't he?
He didn't take Betty on world tours to Venice. He didn't treat Betty.
He still put his life and his work first.
With Betty's help researching and editing,
Wainwright went on to produce more than 40 books,
including guides to Scotland and his ever-popular coast-to-coast walk.
But as more book royalties poured in,
Wainwright remained his typically independent self.
He decided to give away most of his new-found wealth to animal charities.
He and Betty shared this love of animals.
It started off with trying to help animals - they tried to help those
existing animal refuge places and he gave money from his books to these animal places.
In the end he and Betty decided to start their own animal refuge at Kapellan.
And every penny from all these books went into this animal refuge.
I said, "How would you like to be remembered?"
"Well," he said, "No doubt it will be those books
"but I'd like to be remembered
"for Kapellan and what it is."
"An absolute model, that's what we want, that's what we've set off to do.
"Have a model of animal welfare."
By the mid-1980s the hundreds of thousands of pounds of book revenues
matched Wainwright's new status as a legend of the Lakes.
Finally, television managed to woo the great Lake District enigma to the screen.
Though the reluctant Wainwright had held off public fame until he was almost 80.
So he was getting more money for his dogs and cats so he was delighted.
But it was quite a battle for him to become a public figure,
and he had to up to a point because he had to promote his charity.
Are you going to eat them straight away? Would you like them open?
'I knew he was a grumpy old man who liked animals better than people.'
When the producer came and said, "Would you like to make his programme with Wainwright?"
I thought, "Oh, joy(!)"
In your guide you say "do not disturb the sequestered privacy of the hamlet of Oddendale.
"Keep outside its walls and turn right."
You are probably not going to go down into the hamlet yourself.
No, I won't.
One of his greatest qualities
was that he engaged his brain before he opened his mouth.
There was no gabble.
In rather the same way that he distilled
the essence of the mountains into those seven pictorial guides.
Every time we went out filming he distilled the essence of the place
he knew we were going to go to into about 10 sentences.
Having said those, he didn't want to say any more.
There is Castle Crag. On there are the remains of an old British fort.
-On this crag here?
-Yes. You can still see a wall surrounding it.
But it was a difficult challenge for him.
It made him come out of himself.
Excuse me, Mr Wainwright, isn't it?
-I've read your books and I've walked the fells.
Alas, I can't any more, but I certainly enjoyed some of the things that you've seen.
By 1988, when he agreed to appear on Desert Island Discs,
sales of the pictorial guides had reached one million,
and they had doubled by the end of the century.
His eyesight got rather bad latterly.
And I think it was partially due to all the eyestrain he'd had had over the years.
But the beauty of the imagination in Wainwright shone through.
When we went to Haystacks, the weather was bloody awful
and you couldn't see your hand in front of your face.
That detracted from the view for us.
It didn't for Wainwright, because Wainwright was imagining the view anyway.
he could stand on top of a mountain with the weather down
and he would point out every summit, 35 of them from left to right.
'He knew every viewpoint from every summit in the Lake District.'
Haystacks, the High Stile range behind you.
One of the loneliest places in the district and one of the most beautiful.
-SUE LAWLEY: You are 81-years-old now, do you still walk a lot?
Unfortunately my eyes have gone in the last two or three years.
The last time...
that I did a fell walk...
it was a pouring wet day, terrible wet day.
I was stumbling and slipping all over the place.
And it wasn't because my glasses were misted,
it were because I couldn't see where I was putting my feet.
And that's the last time I did a fell walk.
And the mountains...
wept tears for me that day.
He always said that he'd written the books so that when he ceased to be able to walk the fells any more
he would be able to look at the books and remember every nook and cranny and every detail.
That's why he wrote them, that's what he carried.
I doubt he needed to look at the books - I think they were all in his head.
And he was a very lucky man because he did everything he wanted to do.
He often said "My favourite mountain is Haystacks. I want my ashes there.
"And then when I'm gone my ashes will be still there."
He liked to think that nobody would go there because it was rather inaccessible,
but his ashes would be there.
-You've written in one of your books that you would like to end up here.
-Oh, I shall end up here.
Somebody will carry me up in a little box and just leave me by the side.
And I shall be in company because only last few months ago
a woman wrote to me and said her husband had died
and wanted to have his ashes scattered on Innominate Tarn.
And several others have written and said, "When the time comes we will join you there."
So I'll be in company, lots of company.
But could you wish a better place?
And I think it's a wonderful world, as Louis Armstrong used to tell us.
But it would be even more wonderful without a lot of the people that are in it.
That's what I think.
People who don't appreciate what they've got.
People have stopped counting their blessings.
His legacy is really very, very special,
and I doubt there's anyone who walks in the Lake District seriously who doesn't carry a Wainwright
with them, or hasn't looked at one or referred to him at some point.
And they'll last forever because the Lake District doesn't change, and he didn't change.
And he mapped it like it was and like it is.
Nobody has interpreted the mountains better.
Somebody might, there might be a new IT interactive CD Rom being produced as we speak
by somebody as talented as Wainwright who's going to interpret them in a different way.
We can't know that, can we?
But as we sit here in the shores of Wastwater today, nobody has interpreted the mountains better.
And we're talking about a 50-year-old series.
50-year-old books and nobody's done it better.
Either the rest of us aren't sticking in or he did it bloody well.
Alfred Wainwright died in 1991,
three days after his 84th birthday.
That spring, Betty climbed Haystacks to carry out his last wish.
"All I ask for at the end
"is a last long resting place by the side of Innominate Tarn
"on Haystacks, where the water gently laps the gravelly shore.
"Someone who knew me in life will take me and empty me
"on to the little rocks and leave me there.
"And if you, dear reader, should get a bit of grit
"in your boot as you are crossing Haystacks in the years to come,
"please treat it with respect.
"It might be me."
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd - 2007
E-mail [email protected]
Capturing the beauty of the English Lake District, a documentary which traces the life of writer and artist Alfred Wainwright, the eccentric Lancastrian who created a series of iconic fell-walking books which he hand-wrote, illustrated and published himself in the 1950s.
Celebrating the centenary of his birth, the film captures his passionate love affair with the Lakeland landscape and explores how his books have become guide-book classics for millions of fell-walkers.