10 things we never knew about Wainwright

He's perhaps the best-known name in walking, but there are some things we never knew about the legendary Kendal curmudgeon...

1 He hated the name Alfred

"It's a nice name for a little boy but it doesn't suit a man. I tried to keep it anonymous for a very long time. I failed in the end."

2 His dad was a stonemason

"I would call him an itinerant because he travelled about the north of England looking for work. Every member of the family was born in a different town in the north of England. But he was very largely out of work, couldn't find work."

3 He was a star pupil

"I did very well at the board school and the teachers all said you ought to go to the central school in the middle of the town, which I did with considerable apprehension because I had no decent clothes to wear and no shoes. But I came first in every subject in the first year."

4 He was in full-time work at 13

"There wasn't much money coming in at home, I wanted to help out and at the age of 13 there was an advert in the local paper for an office boy in the town hall and I applied for that and got it. Everybody else that I knew was going into the cotton mill. I started at 15 shillings a week and I was only 13 years old. I remember running all the way home to tell me mammy."

5 He loved Westerns

"I got very fond of the wild west after playing cowboys and indians as a boy and I became very fond of westerns in the cinema and I still am. I'd still rather see a western film than any other."

6 He never intended to publish his guides

"I was always coming across people who were lost, there were no guidebooks to the fells. So more for my amusement than anything else I started to write them for myself. I thought when I'm an old man and can't walk the hills these would be memories for me. I finished the first volume – 200 pages – after two years of working every night on them."

7 His first wife took the dog for a walk and never came back

"Nothing mattered to me except getting the guides done. I had a single track mind and it ended finally with my wife walking out and taking the dog and I never saw her again. I don’t blame her. I don't know how she stuck it for thirty odd years."

8 He loved wild camping

"It’s a marvellous experience. All around the mountains are just black silhouettes and then gradually you get the grey dawn and invariably in the Lake District at dawn the valleys are filled with a white vapour and you watch it gradually dissolve and reveal the fields and pastures below. Wonderful experience."

9 He never set foot overseas

"I've never been on a ship or an aeroplane. I hate going south from Kendal."

10 He was a frustrated hipster

"I've always had an ambition to grow a beard but I have never been able to face people and their comments."


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