Mark Richards

Looking SW from the Ullswater Way terrace path on Gowbarrow Fell by Mark Richards

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I was brought up to be a farmer. Not I might add a fell farmer, as the first fifty years of my life were spent in west Oxfordshire. My mother was born in the high Pennines and moved south with her foster parents when they shifted their farming stock and chattels by train, to the Cotswolds, yes one could do that once upon a time. So, from my youngest days I knew about fell country, a far-flung romance that my mother imparted in me. Her few books all showed her nostalgic thoughts, back to the Yorkshire Dales and Lakeland Fells as the most endearing expressions of landscape beauty. Yet while my roots were embedded in the warm-toned Cotswold Oolitic stone, any holidays I had were to fell country where my mother’s cousins farmed. On one such day trip from Hawes we ventured into Great Langdale where my eyes were lifted to the Langdale Pikes in awe and wonder.


Strolling around Ambleside I purchased a copy of Wainwright’s Southern Fells guide, then newly published. That little purchase had a monumental impact. Loving the wonderful hand-dawn art in comic books of the time, including Black Bob the Dandy Wonder Dog, I had already picked up a delight in pen & ink drawing.

Kailpot Crag

The meticulous artistry that Alfred Wainwright displayed suited my rather agricultural hands. I warmed to his technique, the variety of lines all aimed at suggesting textures and an honesty to detail achieved without losing a sense of impact. Many still regard AW’s drawing as draughtsmanship, yet I saw in his work a strong feeling of a romantic connection that transcended such literalism. I have therefore long sought to find my own form built on his unique penmanship. I had the pleasure of walking with Wainwright in the early 1970s and learnt first-hand how to execute those delicate lines, how to draw lateral lines to represent sky and water with some measure of precision.

All my early guidebooks were hand-scribed, my first, The Cotswold Way (1973) my last Hadrian’s Wall Walk (1993). Living in Cumbria for over twenty years, wandering the fells preparing guidebooks for Cicerone has given me wonderful scope to develop my connection with the greater fell landscape. But it is only in the last five years have I been able to rekindle my core pleasure in linescape art working with David Felton on our joint podcasting venture ‘Countrystride’. Podcasting of itself generates no financial benefits, but preparing guides in concert brings royalties, even when we further donate a proportion of sales to the community and path care.

Aira Force

Having explored the whole fell domain for my eight volume Walking the Lake District Fells series for Cicerone wherein I had only licence to draw diagrams. Now I could express myself in linescapes. Our first such guide being to the Ullswater Way. There are so many wonderful locations all around the lake, but none express the picturesque setting better than when rounding the elevated corner on the Terrace Path above Yew Crag to behold the head of the lake. Beyond the sylvan environs of the Aira Beck delta rises St Sunday Crag, often called the Ullswater fell, while Helvellyn holds itself aloof over the shoulder of Sheffield Pike.

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