Wainwright Walks: Lake District

| August 2, 2011

“Mountain climbing is an epitome of life. You start at the bottom, the weaklings and the resolute drop out on the way up. The determined reach the top. Life is like that.”
These are the words of Alfred Wainwright, late author, artist, and guide writer, who for three decades dedicated his artistic life to the creation of guidebooks of the Lakeland Fells in Northwestern England. From 1955 to 1964, Wainwright published seven guidebooks, collectively documenting nearly every path, lake, and sheep that could be found among the 214 various fells (mountains) through exquisitely written prose and intricately detailed sketches.
Wainwright died in 1991, and though authors such as William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter were inspired by the very same Lakeland views, Wainwright has, at least locally, remained a legend of unsurpassed repute. His works are one reason the region now attracts 19 million visitors a year, including the BBC’s own documentary film crew, which recently released Wainwright Walks: Lake District, a three-disc, five-hour traverse across ten of Lakeland’s 214 fells, each of the half-hour long films nimbly navigating a breathtaking expanse of England’s highest mountains and deepest lakes and guided by Wainwright’s own words as well as the documentary’s host, Julia Bradbury.
The photography is staggeringly beautiful, and aerial shots are cleverly utilized to mark the impending walk at the beginning of each episode, providing a necessary point of reference for the viewer. It is the cameras on the ground, however, that have the most to say. Mountain summits that served as Ancient Roman roads, abandoned quarries that transformed sections of Castle Crags into mine fields of slate, a lake formed after the last ice age that now contains Wainwright’s own ashes. Huge swaths of time pass with nary a passing hiker, and this fact is taken advantage of in long, savory shots of Ms. Bradbury along the landscape, and it becomes difficult not to fall into self-reflection, the type one experiences when you’re the one on the mountain.
Ms. Bradbury is the perfect presenter for such an excursion, an everywoman with a true reverence for Wainwright’s work and the land itself. She lacks the dash of saccharine found in so many travel hosts, and her unwillingness to force feed her own personality to the camera allows the Fells to consistently remain in the foreground. In her stead, it is quite simple to imagine oneself along the lonely paths of rock and grass, the sounds of silence broken only by the crunching of Gortex and hiking boots.
The only true problem is the voice over by Nik Wood-Jones. Having Wainwright’s own words spoken is a natural addition to the production, and for a time it works. However, the intermittent voiceovers of Wainwright eventually cast somewhat of a ghostly shadow over the walks, so much so that a tonal shift begins to develop each time he speaks. Intermittent is the key word here, though, and it is a small feature that is easily tolerable.
This DVD is a must for anyone who intends to travel to the region, with invaluable insight given by Wainwright historians and friends, climbers, archeologists, and locals alike. Every soul that loves England should know this region, and anyone with a heart for hiking and the outdoors would be remiss to not take in this stunning production.

About the Author:

Filed in: Video and DVD

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.