One of my ‘go to’ Lake District books. Informative and well written.

Lakeland – A Personal Journey. Hunter Davies. Head of Zeus Ltd 2016.

Lakeland – A Personal Journey

I picked up this great little book in Ambleside a couple of years ago and it quickly became one of my favourites. In part it serves as a detailed history and reference book so is a recommended purchase if you want to understand more about the Lake District, its history and traditions. This isn’t about hiking routes, its about the place, and more importantly, the people. First published in 2016, it is a local perspective of the Lake District drawn from the best bits of many years of research and writings.

The author, Hunter Davies OBE, grew up fairly local in Carlisle and has an impressive literary career spanning many decades. He wrote ‘Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush’, and acclaimed biographies on subjects as diverse as Alfred Wainwright, Beatrix Potter, and the Beatles. He has spent his summers with his family in the Lake district for the last 50 years. I have the 2020 paperback edition. It is easily readable with plenty of images (black and white) to support the narrative.

‘Lakeland – A Personal Journey’ starts with an outline of the how the Lake District was discovered and recognised as a place for tourists to visit. The early writings of those visiting the area giving a mixed reaction to their experience. Famous Lake District dwellers obviously get a mention and I love the dit about William Wordsworth being appalled about the visitors and ‘new’ development in the area of Grasmere when he moved there in 1799. Nowadays we would look at a late 18th century Lakeland house with awe.

The Physical Environment

The rest of ‘Lakeland – A Personal Journey’ works as an informed reference book for me. There’s a chapter on Lakes and Tarns which goes into the fascinating detail missing from many Lake District tour guides. Each Lake and Tarn has its own section and the writing helps the reader to reach beyond the aesthetic beauty of the locations. The chapter on Fells, Dales and Waterfalls allows a good understanding of the Lake District mountains. There are no routes to follow here, just a detailed outline that allows the reader better understand and engage with the features, rather than simply following paths and ticking off summits.

The final chapter that focuses on the physical aspects of the Lake District is about the Towns and Villages. Here you learn more about the history and development of the key residential areas that we all love to wander around. Also about the impact of the tourist industry, has anyone heard of Birthwaite for example?

People and Traditions

The continuing chapters focus on the people and traditions who have made, and do make, the Lake District character. Poets, artists, literary geniuses and locals all get a feature here, as well as an interesting miscellaneous A-Z. Oh yeah, in the famous song John Peel’s coat is ‘grey’ not ‘gay’ (brightly coloured) by the way. to be precise it was probably Hodden Grey made from the wool of the local Herwick Sheep.

Before each of my Lakeland adventures I’ll pick up this book and refresh myself with the detailed information about the places I intend to visit. I feels it really adds some colour and depth to my explorations, and a better understanding of the landscape. This is also a book that sits by my bed as you can pick it up, open it in a random place, and learn something interesting about the place I love.