The Wainwright 'Pennine Journey' Long Distance Walk

On 24th September 1938 Alfred Wainwright, then a clerk in the Treasurer’s Department at Blackburn Town Hall, left Settle railway station on an expedition that he had been planning for some time. That expedition had as its primary objective Hadrian's Wall – something that had fascinated him for years – and to get there he had chosen to walk on the eastern flanks of the Pennines and to return to Settle on the western flanks. His journey northward would involve him in ascents and descents into the successive valleys of, from the initial Ribblesdale, Littondale, Wharfedale, Wensleydale, Swaledale, the River Greta, Teesdale, Weardale, Rookhope Burn and the River Derwent. After walking along the central part of Hadrian’s Wall his planned return journey southward was to involve a climb over Cross Fell (the highest point of the Pennines), the delights of the Eden and Rawthey valleys and Dentdale before rounding Whernside and Ingleborough to arrive back at Settle. Inclement weather brought about enforced changes but his journey totalled around 211 miles.

In the months following his return to Blackburn he wrote a description of his journey – initially calling it his Pennine Campaign – and after showing it to colleagues in his office set the manuscript on one side. In the 1980's he became somewhat of a celebrity following the publication of his Lakeland Fell guides, his Pennine Way Companion and his Coast to Coast Walk and he featured in TV programmes. Eric Robson, currently Chairman of the Wainwright Society, was given the task by the BBC to 'draw out' AW (as he became known) in several TV programmes – a medium which AW viewed with great suspicion. Several 'coffee table' books were published by his then publisher Michael Joseph and around this time AW gave them the narrative he had written about his walk to Hadrian's Wall. In 1986 it was published as 'A Pennine Journey – The Story of a Long Walk in 1938' exactly as it was written all those years earlier.

In late 1991 David and Heather Pitt were contemplating what was to be their next long distance footpath. David had become an enthusiast of long distance footpath walking following his initial 1978 walk along AW's Coast to Coast Walk and he was reminded of a comment in the introduction to the walk's pictorial guide urging people to 'devise with the aid of maps their own cross-country marathons'. As David had recently read, and been fascinated by 'A Pennine Journey', this seemed to be the logical basis for their first 'marathon'. Preliminary work was done but then the project was put on hold for several years whilst they digested a move to the Lakes but kept their annual LDP walks going with shorter local ones. 1997/1998 saw them return to the postponed project and in September 1998 they set off from AW's starting point at Settle railway station and returned there on 24th September – by an unplanned coincidence this was the 60th anniversary of AW's start to his journey.