Project Wainwright 2007 – Update

Early last year I began ‘Project Wainwright’, which was my way of officially beginning the collection of all 214 Lakeland fells classified by Alfred Wainwright. This is a bagging list that many thousands of people are probably working through and many more thousands have already finished. In fact I’ve met dozens of people who fall into both categories. This normally happens when you find yourself on the top of an obscure Lake District hill and you bump into two or three other folk, all looking for the tiny cluster of stones that mark the summit.

Unrealistically I thought I could probably complete the project in two years, but it soon became obvious that it was more likely to take four years to bag all 214 summits. I am now two years in, well almost, and I’ve bagged 99 of the 214.

The point of this post wasn’t just to provide an update of this pointless task, but to record an observation. I have come to hate this task – well alright, perhaps hate is a little strong, but I’ve come to find it more of a burden than an aid to walking the Lakes, which is what it was intended to be.

I though that if I had a goal – like walking the Wainwrights – it would make it easier for me to find a new and interesting walk every time I go to the Lakes. At the start this is exactly what happened. I found myself with dozens of potential locations to choose from, hundreds of tops, thousands of unexplored footpaths and the choice was liberating and fantastic. Every walk I picked was in a new location, with new hills to walk and I found new favourite places all the time.

These last 12 months however, things seem to have changed. I still have hundreds of virgin fells to explore, and new routes mapped out in Memory Map to walk them with, but I find myself compelled to walk them, rather than excited to walk them. I’m not sure if this makes sense as I write it down.

The bagging list is now pushing me, driving me to walk new locations and new hills, when sometimes all I want to do is walk an old favourite, somewhere like the fells around Mardale. I’ve walked it to death in the past couple of years – I’ve done all the Wainwrights, some of them 5 or 6 times and I love the place – absolutely love it – but the pressure from the bagging list keeps drawing me away from it. It drives me.

This is never what I intended when I set out to walk the Wainwrights and I’m close to the point where I say “to hell with it” and return to just walking for walking’s sake – rather than to tick off hills on a list. I won’t stop bagging them, but I will probably abandon any sort of time target associated with finishing them, which should allow me to take an amble up High Street, Kidsty Pike, Mardale Ill Bell or Harter Fell whenever I feel like it.

3 thoughts on “Project Wainwright 2007 – Update”

  1. I reluctantly admit to having something of an obsessive personality – I’ve always been into collecting things – from the silver coins you used to get at Esso petrol stations with Football League teams on them, through real coins, stamps for a while and now trig points and Wainwrights. I put it down to a mild form of OCD 🙂

    But you’re right, it’s time to lay the list aside – it served a purpose but now it’s taking on a life of its own and that’s not good. So back to High Street and Haweswater at the weekend I think 🙂

    I’m not sure I can afford to take as long as Wainwright (13 years), I doubt there’s that long left in my legs for the big hills of Cumbria.

  2. Forget the list and just do what you want to do and what makes you happy. I must admit to not fully understanding the bagging habit, other than that there must be some basic human drive to collect sets and collections of things. I get fed up of the announcement of who is the fastest, youngest, oldest to do certain rounds or lists. That’s what makes the TGOC so great. Just get on with it if you have to but don’t make a big issue. If you don’t want to bother with lists, then that’s great and just as valid.

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