Drawing 401: In conclusion

There is no drawing 401, of course. Instead, Wainwright switched his attention to the Scottish Highlands, with 450 sketches spread over six volumes of “Scottish Mountain Drawings”.

It took seven years for me to track down all the viewpoints for Wainwright’s Lakeland sketches, and take what I considered to be acceptable photos of those scenes. So these photographs of mine are not a “snapshot” of Lakeland at a single given time. Neither, of course, were Wainwright’s sketches, or the photographs from which they originated. The best that can be said is that Wainwright created a record of Lakeland as it was in the middle of the 20th century, and I updated the record for the second decade of the 21st century.

These were times of great change in Lakeland.  In 1951, just before Wainwright started work on his Pictorial Guides, the Lake District was designated as a National Park.  In 2017,as I worked on this photographic record, it acquired the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  One might think that these developments would lead to a greater emphasis on conservation and protection: of the landscape, the flora and fauna, and the built heritage.  But in fact, at least as powerful a driver has been an increasing number of visitors, and the provision of facilities and entertainment for them.

Yet most of these changes are not apparent when one takes a modern look at the views chosen by Wainwright for the sketchbooks.  From his viewpoint, Lodore Falls looks as it always did, though the hotel just behind you as you stand at that viewpoint is twice the size it was.  Street scenes – such as How Head in Ambleside – may now be choked with parked cars, but cars are (in principle!) ephemeral: they come and go.  A view across Honister Pass reveals a landscape too large for a via ferrata or a a zipwire to register.  Out in the hills, there are more popular footpaths than formerly, yet some tracks which were in the past badly eroded now have much less visual impact, thanks to initiatives such as “Fix the Fells”.

When one now goes to Wainwright’s viewpoints, the biggest changes are likely to relate not to buildings, vehicles or highways, but to trees.  Some shown by Wainwright have been chopped down, or have died naturally.  But even more noticeably, young trees have sprung up to obscure views.  Over 40 years, I have seen Wainwright’s view from the southern end of Thirlmere gradually disappearing from sight.  But other views, from the lakeside road, have appeared where there were none before.

Wainwright often worried about Lakeland, and the danger of its beauty being despoiled by development.  So do I worry about that, and so do all who love this unique area.  But, some 67 years after he first penned these words, it is still true to say that “surely there is no other place in this whole wonderful world quite like Lakeland”.  I hope that my project helps to tell it’s continuing story.

Richard Daly,  November 2020.