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Evergreen

54 EVERGREEN Autumn

54 EVERGREEN Autumn Wainwright’s Ratty Walks Afew years ago I was asked to write a chapter for a book celebrating the achievements of Alfred Wainwright, the pen-and-ink bard and artist of Westmorland and Cumberland. Wainwright (1907-1991) was a local authority accountant, but between 1955 and 1966 he scoured the Lake District fells (by bus, as he never learned to drive) writing, drawing and recording. The result was his seven-volume Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells which showed walkers how to reach all the major summits of the region, but with every map and illustration handdrawn, all the text in immaculate manuscript. The books are all still in print and sell extremely well — they are beautiful items to read and handle, even if you never set foot on a fell. Eskdale viewed from the Blea Tarn path. After completing this series, Wainwright published many other volumes, and my chapter in the book was intended to focus on his work after the classic seven. One lesserknown publication that I was keen to highlight was a work of very local interest that’s no more than a small pamphlet; Walks from Ratty. Walks from Ratty was Wainwright’s first book not to be published by the Westmorland Gazette; it was published directly (and still is) by the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway Company and originally appeared in 1978. Wainwright was commissioned to do the job by Lord Wakefield of Kendal who had been vital in securing the future of the railway and who then headed the railway company.

2017 EVERGREEN 55 Wainwright’s book and (below) the busy platform at Dalegarth Station. The Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway — known affectionately as La’al Ratty — is a 15-inch gauge line that runs seven miles from Ravenglass on the Cumbrian coast to Dalegarth, deep in Eskdale and surrounded by soaring Lakeland fells. It has operated as a preserved railway since 1960 though its origins are as an industrial line. Walks from Ratty has the same page size and design as Wainwright’s classic seven but it only has 32 pages, is unbound and the pages are merely stapled together. It sits in the hand like a racecard or an order of service, but it’s very pleasant to hold, particularly in its earlier editions. As you’d expect from the master, it gives a comprehensive list of suggestions, 10 of them, for walks beginning and ending at Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway stations. Most start from Dalegarth Station at the head of Eskdale but others use the stations at Ravenglass, Irton Road and Beckfoot. The most adventurous walk is the ascent of Harter Fell from Dalegarth, with material cribbed from the appropriate chapter in Wainwright’s The Southern Fells, Book Four in the Pictorial Guide series (which doesn’t actually mention the railway). The other routes offer gentler options on lower fells, in valleys or to picturesque tarns. Walks from Ratty recognises something important about the railway, something that distinguishes it from many of the

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