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Wainwright: A Love Letter to the Lakeland Fells



A major exhibition for all those who love the English Lakes, exploring Wainwright’s world; his walks and unique method of recording them; his enduring challenge to us… as well as celebrating the sheer beauty of the fells!

This is a fun and informative exhibition with hands-on exhibits for all and trails for families as well as plenty of original archive material and personal memorabilia.

  • Show us your favourite walking spot by leaving a footprint
  • Walk the Lakeland Fells in 30 seconds
  • Draw with a dip pen and ink as Wainwright did
  • Fly over 10 fells in 10 minutes
  • Explore Catbells with our interactive touchscreen
  • Share your #wainwrightmoment
  • Follow the pre-school animal trail
  • Enter our art competition
  • Find out how the guides were planned and completed

The exhibition is presented in three sections:

  1. Beginnings
  2. The Guides
  3. Challenges

Each has been planned to contain something for a wide range of audiences – from those who already know something of Wainwright’s work through to families with young children – with original objects, graphic and audio visual interpretation and hands-on activities.

There is also a mini cinema where visitors can explore six amazing ‘Wainwrights’ from the air in ten minutes (courtesy of Julia Bradbury and Skyworks) and watch archive footage of Eric Robson interviewing Wainwright in his later years (courtesy of Striding Edge Productions).

1. Beginnings

Here we present the story of Wainwright’s early life in Blackburn and an insight into his passions and pastimes.

Visitors can get kitted out with replica Wainwright gear at the original Cumbrian bus stop and check out the timetable to travel to the Lakes for a weekend’s walking -1930s style. Follow his journey out of the brick walls of Blackburn into the bright open spaces of the Lakes.

A video recreates Wainwright’s life-changing moment at Orrest Head, just outside Windermere, when he first recognised the beauty of the Lakes. This was in 1930 on his first holiday at the age of 23. You can enjoy our own special viewpoint from a comfy bench on the grass within the gallery, with the view interpreted by Wainwright’s own drawings.

2. The Guides

Wainwright moved to Kendal in 1941 and soon began to dedicate himself to writing the seven volumes of A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells, travelling from Kendal by bus each weekend and writing up his notes each evening during the week.  Every word and image was drawn by him with a dip pen and ink and each page designed by him too.

Have a go at using a dip pen and learn some of Wainwright’s drawing techniques as you sit at a replica Wainwright desk.

Clive Hutchby is creating a third edition of A Pictorial Guide to ensure Wainwright’s diagrams and instructions are up to date for current fellwalkers. His methods are very different to Wainwright’s, using design programmes on a Mac – the sort of “gadgets” Wainwright would have nothing to do with! The exhibition features a fascinating film by  Graham Kendall of Clive walking the fells and screen shots showing the painstaking work he is doing to update details on the computerised version.

Jocelyn Pye worked with Clive Hutchby to help explain the unique perspective Wainwright uses in his diagrams for each fell. Wainwright called it “A deliberate distortion”. It is intuitive to understand but seriously complicated to compose!

Guidebooks before Wainwright had not focused on the Fells but considered the whole landscape with towns and villages. They had also included photographs which cannot highlight paths and  interesting features as Wainwright does in his drawings.

3. Challenges

As soon as the full Guide was published, people took up the challenge to walk all of the fells covered – now known as ‘the Wainwrights’. Our Champions section highlights the first, the fastest and the youngest to have walked them. We also feature those who have explored them in other ways – paragliding and even painting all 214 peaks.

The team developing the exhibition (made up of Keswick museum trustees, staff and volunteers) were keen to hear how everybody has taken up Wainwright’s challenge and devised a method for doing just that: postcards advertising the exhibition also invite you to write about the moment you ‘fell for’ the Lakeland fells as Wainwright did at Orrest Head 85 years ago.


All day

Age Group

Included in admission

Not required