Posted 1st July 2008 | No Comments

Keeping the memory of Wainright alive

Peter Linney mans the Wainwright Society stand at the Keswick Mountain Festival.

PETER Linney never met the legendary Alfred Wainwright, a man elevated to iconic status among fell-walkers in the Lake District.

But that has not stopped Peter from playing a key role in helping to promote a love for the great fells of Cumbria, the late Mr Wainwright’s spiritual and actual home.

Peter, 77, a retired British Rail headquarters senior manager, is secretary of The Wainwright Society, founded in Ambleside in 2002 by leading fell walkers, including Eric Robson, who accompanied AW on his televised walks. Peter also walks with other retired senior railway managers in a group intriguingly named The Rowdies – Railway Old Walkers Doing It Exceptionally Sometimes. “We have a bit of fun,” he says.

Peter could be found on the AW Society stand during the recent Keswick Mountain Festival, which featured speakers such as Julie Bradbury, an AW Society member and now famous for presenting the two series of In the Footsteps of Alfred Wainwright on BBC2.

Peter joined the railway civil engineer’s organisation in York in 1948 – nationalisation year – and during a 40- year career went on to become head of rail business planning in the finance department of the British Railways Board.

On retirement in 1987, he headed up a charity called Transaid, which helped solve transport problems in Africa.

At the time, he had also been busy planning a Lake District gazetteer – the concept had been devised on a “wet and windy” day during a caravan holiday in the Keswick area.

While trying to get it published he met a “superb” freelance editor who suggested that a chapter on Lakeland mountain ridges be extended into two separate books.

Peter later worked with Cumbrian expert and photographer Bob Allen, and the two books were published. The Gazetteer was also published, selling 5,000 copies.

“The theme of it – unlike the Wainwright Pictorial Guides, which list each area of the district in fells order – was about how many fells you could do from, say, Grasmere,” says Peter, from Knaresbor-ough, North Yorkshire.

“There was also a section on the quality of a walk, describing the ascent and the fell top view – if you like, a value placed on the fell for the effort made.”

Since the AW Society was launched there have been several high profile events associated with the life – and death – of the man affectionately known as AW.
One of the most notable was the Great Wainwright Challenge in 2005 to mark the anniversary of the great fell-walker’s life.

The society invited members and their teams to climb every one of the 214 fells in 2005 and then submit a report for a book, which was duly published.

Peter climbed one of Lakeland’s highest fells, Skiddaw, along with Everest legend Sir Chris Bonnington and a BBC Radio 4 crew.

“We made a lot of new members with the challenge,” says Peter.

“Membership fluctuates but we hope to have around 750 by the end of the year.”

Now the society, which publishes a newsletter called Footsteps, is planning other events. “We have to continue to promote this wonderful area and to keep the memory of AW alive.”