We recently chatted to Ron Scholes, 88, a long-distance trails books author and long-time friend of the great Alfred Wainwright, who’s not only devising his own sections of a ‘purely’ Pennine Way for his forthcoming book, A Pennine Odyssey – Walks and Ways, but is planning his next trek… across Wales!
Since he retired, life’s been busier than ever for Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and chartered geographer Ron. A keen lover of the outdoors since his youth, the former headteacher has completed numerous solo treks around the UK. One was a hike of more than 1,300 miles from Cape Wrath in the north-westerly tip of Scotland to Land’s End. He’s written about a dozen guides for Sigma Press and Landmark.
How did it all start, Ron?
I became fascinated by the countryside at an early age and when I was 14 I set off on a solo cycling tour around Wales, staying in youth hostels. My parents weren’t too happy that I went on my own! I joined Hanliensian Rambling Club in Staffordshire as it restarted its programme following the Second World War. Aged 16, I led a group of young adults from Denmark on a walking tour of the Peak District. When I married my wife Jeanette, we even honeymooned in the Lake District before following it up with a walking tour of the Yorkshire Dales!
Long distance solo walking has always greatly appealed to me. Choosing the area and subsequently planning the route is always part of the excitement before a single step is taken. I have often been asked if I get lonely – and, just as often, I get asked what I do about my dirty washing!
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently drafting chapters and hand-drawing maps for a Pennine Way guide inspired by my great friend Alfred Wainwright, which is due to be released early in 2019. Called A Pennine Odyssey – Walks and Ways, it’s a long-distance route based on Wainwright’s comments about a true Pennine Way. I have devised routes for purely Pennine Way sections, as well as a series of 10 alternative routes that link up with the existing Pennine Way. The Odyssey starts at two points at the southern end of the Pennine Range – at Leek in the Staffordshire Moorlands and at Ashbourne for the Derbyshire Dales – and ends in the Tyne Valley and Hadrian’s Wall.
Getting to Know AW
I got to know AW in the 1970s, at first through writing letters and then visiting his home in Kendal Green, and our conversations usually centred around long walks. We had long conversations about the Pennine Way and AW’s Coast to Coast Walk, and also talked about my walks, including the Cambrian Way from Cardiff to Conwy, and trek from Cape Wrath to Land’s End, which I completed in 1990.
How did your friendship with AW influence your work?
My ideas for my books Coast to Coast on the Ravenber Way and Walking in Eden were enthusiastically received by AW. Many of his observations and suggestions were used to improve the variety and interest of the walks. Sadly, he didn’t see them in print as he died in 1991. However, his wife Betty wrote the foreword to The Ravenber Way. A Pennine Odyssey will include AW’s Pennine Way start and finish points, as well as existing and alternative Pennine routes. I’m also including anecdotes and memories of our friendship.
Illustrating the Book
And you’re illustrating the book too?
Partly, yes. I hand draw the maps and vignettes, while illustrations are by Northampton-based artist Colin Bywater. We worked together on a pictorial guide written by my friends David and Heather Pitt, called A Pennine Journey, which recreates AW’s solitary walk through the Pennines in 1938. The route is 247 miles long and the book was a labour of love for all those who wish to follow in Wainwright’s footsteps.
The foreword to my new book, written by Hunter Davies, kindly describes me as ‘the ultimate long-distance walker’. The author and TV presenter Eric Robinson will also include his recollections and views.
What else have you been up to lately?
Officially naming a tarn in the Eden Valley in honour of Wainwright was a very proud moment for me last year. AW and I unofficially named Swarth Fell Tarn more than 30 years ago. It’s now going to be marked on OS maps! The water is located in Mallerstang parish, between Wild Boar Fell and Swarth Fell. It was good to see that it was officially named last year. This was the year when the Yorkshire Dales National Park was extended to incorporate Mallerstang. A commemorative walk to the spot was held last August.
Heading Towards the Big 90
What’s next in your busy schedule?
2019 will mark my 90th year and I’m planning a long distance walk across the breadth of South Wales. It’ll run from Abergavenny in Monmouthshire to St Davids, Pembrokeshire. I’m lucky; I’m slim and have long legs, which helps when walking! I can still carry a rucksack and I do about eight or nine miles a day if the weather’s good.
Ron Scholes lives with wife Jeanette in Staffordshire and has two sons and two granddaughters. Ron’s books are available to buy at https://www.sigmapress.co.uk. Follow him on Twitter @Scholes1Ron and Facebook @RonScholesWalking. Limited copies of his classic colour guide Yorkshire Dales, originally published by the now defunct Landmark Press, are also available. Contact Ron on social media or email firstname.lastname@example.org to order them.