This DVD is for connoisseurs of Alfred Wainwright only. The colors are faded, the sound is not always clear (though subtitles are available), and the five half-hour shows of which it consists were first broadcast on the BBC almost 30 years ago. Nevertheless, these are one-of-a-kind videos featuring rare footage of Wainwright himself, in the company of Eric Robson, re-visiting some of those sites in Lakeland and Northern England which he loved and where he had walked for more than 50 years in the process of writing his famous guidebooks.
"AW" was a great man, a gentle giant, and it is infinitely rewarding to see him here in easy conversation with Robson (especially since Wainwright had established such a reputation for liking animals more than people). For this series, each man had something to offer the other: The reclusive Wainwright gave Robson the broadcast scoop of a lifetime, allowing him--and a BBC film crew--the opportunity to accompany him on some of his favorite walks. But Robson and his crew gave Wainwright (as his widow Betty acknowledges in another video, the "Wainwright Memorial Walk") the opportunity in his old age, when his vision was failing, to re-visit for the last time some of the places he loved best--the fells of Lakeland, including AW's own favorite (where his ashes lie scattered), Haystacks; the Pennine Valley of Teesdale, the Howgill Fells; Orrest Head (where in 1930 AW first saw the beauties of Lakeland); and the limestone country around Penyghent.
There are memorable moments in every episode: Wainwright recounting his impoverished childhood in Blackburn, Lancashire; Wainwright on never accepting the metric system ("an insult to Great Gable"--no longer almost 3,000 feet, but less than 1,000 meters); Wainwright in his adopted home of Kendal visiting (for the first time!) the publishing house that for 30 years had printed his guidebooks; Wainwright's drawings of 19th century Kendal, based on contemporary photographs; Wainwright at Kapellan, the shelter for homeless animals that he and his wife Betty established with the profits from his books. As Liza Minnelli once said, "Thank God for film!" because without it, we'd never have had this revealing close-up view of a unique man surveying his life's work and reflecting on what it has meant to him--so that we can more fully appreciate what it has meant to us.
Larry B | Ventura, California | October 2018