Alfred the Great
One of the things I spoke about in my Dad’s eulogy was the joy we shared in trips to the Lake District. We would go up two or three times a year and I could still talk about favourite routes with some small authority.
An integral element of our walks was a close study of the marvellous guidebooks of Alfred Wainwright. He was an unassuming civil servant who spent his weekends tramping the fells and producing his series of Pictorial Guides, describing in great detail every route up every fell.
Crucially, he also produced his own drawings and maps, and the books reproduced his own handwriting.
The text itself is, most importantly, informative, but is ornamented with a great appreciation of the landscape, a poetic turn of phrase and the occasional outbreak of gentle humour. The effect is one of tremendous charm, and the complete set of guides that I have now inherited is a cherished possession.
Here he is about Haystacks, a beautiful mountain and the one on which his ashes were spread:
“Haystacks stands unabashed and unashamed in the midst of a circle of much loftier fells, like a shaggy terrier in the company of foxhounds… For a man trying to get a persistent worry out of his mind, the top of Haystacks is a wonderful cure.”
(The various - notoriously unreliable - quotation websites credit AW with the classic “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing”, which I first heard in a Billy Connolly routine and have repeated often ever since. Did AW really originate this?)