How Wainwright inspired local animal charities

PUBLISHED: 22:46 26 April 2015 | UPDATED: 10:52 11 January 2016

John Leadbetter (left) with his dog Skye and Roger Pickup with his border collie Ted

John Leadbetter (left) with his dog Skye and Roger Pickup with his border collie Ted

Sandy Kitching

The man who made hiking popular in the Lakes was also a great animal lover and his legacy lives on, writes Mike Glover

Hayley Stalker with RubyHayley Stalker with Ruby

Alfred Wainwright has three claims to fame: His iconic walking books, founding his beloved Blackburn Rovers Supporters’ Club and animal welfare.

There are those who say this curmudgeonly character’s shyness with fellow humans was counter-balanced by his love of four-legged friends. So it seems fitting that this year the Wainwright Society, founded in 2002 with the aim of keeping alive the things he promoted in his books, should raise funds for two animal charities.

The first beneficiary is Animal Rescue Cumbria, which was started in 1972 by a group of ladies in the Kendal area who read in the local Press that unwanted pets were being put down by the RSPCA. They started raising funds and taking animals into their own homes.

In 1974 A.W, as he was known, supported by his second wife, Betty, became the group’s chairman. Their generosity led to the group buying Kapellan, a bungalow near Shap, and it started operating as animal shelter 30 years ago - an anniversary The Wainwright Society is commemorating.

Langdale and Ambleside Mountain Rescue dogs Skye and TedLangdale and Ambleside Mountain Rescue dogs Skye and Ted

Although it was initially funded by the copyright of his guides, this ran out when he died and the charity is no longer so financially sound. Last year was the first Animal Rescue Cumbria received no legacies, and its running costs were £50,000 higher than its income. ‘We cannot have too many years like that,’ said trustee and fundraiser Kerry Hazelgrave.

They are launching their own lottery, recruiting sponsors and generally raising their profile through an e-mail campaign, a web-site and via social media site Facebook as well as receiving support from The Wainwright Society.

Apart from a small staff, the biggest cost is vets’ fees. The shelter neuters, chips and vaccinates all of its animals, and even though they get a heavily discounted rate from Westmorland Vet Group in Kendal, it still costs up to £3,000 a month.

The reputation of the shelter is such that there is a steady stream of animals through its doors. Twelve dog kennels house more than 100 animals a year. Cats are more sociable, to each other at least, so the 28 pens can house up to 52 at a time and last year 245 were re-homed.

Strays from all over Cumbria and Lancashire can also come to what’s known as the Wainwright Shelter. ‘People come to us because we have a good reputation. There is always a waiting list of about 40 cats waiting for accommodation,’ said supervisor Hayley Stalker.

Hayley, now aged 34, came to the shelter as a 19-year-old animal welfare student at nearby Newton Rigg College and never left. Now in charge, she runs a strict regime when it comes to the humans wanting animals.

‘We don’t let people window shop, we try to match the animal to the person,’ she said. Chairman of Animal Rescue Cumbria, Kevin Whalley said: ‘I am delighted that The Wainwright Society has agreed to support us in our anniversary year.

‘I think it is fair to say that ARC was the project closest to AW’s heart in his later years, and I am sure that he would be particularly happy to see this strengthening of the links between us and the society that bears his name.’

The second beneficiary is the Lake District Mountain Rescue Dogs Association. Seven years before the formation of SARDA (the Search and Rescue Dogs Association) in 1965, Wainwright dedicated Book Three, The Central Fells, of his Pictorial Guides to “The Dogs of Lakeland, willing workers and faithful friends, and an essential part of Lakeland life.”

Although Wainwright was not, at that time, thinking of mountain rescue dogs, he was clear that working dogs played a vital part in life on the fells.

Money will be raised for both the shelter and the rescue dogs through sales of The Wainwright Society’s 2016 Calendar as well as from donations by members taking part in the annual charity challenge.

This year’s challenge runs during May and involves members visiting 43 tarns and 43 waterfalls that feature in Wainwright’s guides, writing up a report and taking pictures which all appear in a limited issue book. The members make a donation and the sale of the books raise funds for the two nominated charities.

Even A.W. would smile at that.

Picture of support

All the pictures to illustrate this feature have been taken by Sandra Kitching who is a Cartmel-based artist and professional animal photographer. She recently joined Rescue Me, a group of animal photographers across Europe and the USA who offer their services free to their local animal shelters.

‘It’s all about giving something back and many of the photographers have found their own pets at rescue centres,’ said Sandra. ‘My cats, Cecil and Roger, came from a refuge and it is such an honour to be able to help find animals new homes through my photography.’

For more see: Rescue Me Foundation on Facebook:

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