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Historic Hillwalking

Discussion in 'The Great Outdoors' started by H.Johnson, Oct 1, 2008.

  1. H.Johnson

    H.Johnson One Too Many

    There is a nucleus of an interest in historic hillwalking (or vintage hiking) on the forum, but I don't think it has ever had its own thread. If I am wrong, Bartenders please move this thread.

    Here is a "short" from one of Claude Friese-Greene's films made around Britain in the 1920s. It is in Cumbria (the Lake District) in 1926 and includes many scenes that will have people shouting, "I recognise that place!" (it's various parts of Borrowdale of course).


    Note the dress, particularly of the man on the right at breakfast. He is wearing a headscarf (or bandanna as we would call it today) which my father told me was common hiking wear in the 1920s (from the Romany habit, I believe). Now, I habitually wear a bandanna for hiking and on recently turning up to a vintage hike event wearing one was asked to remove it. I later offered this film clip in support of my choice of attire (I was also wearing an almost identical jacket, breeches and boots) and received an apology from the walk leader.

    More contributions on the subject of "Golden Era" hiking gear and experiences are encouraged.
  2. "Creeping past" should step in here.
    H.Johnson, are you a member of THE Historic Hillwalkers?

  3. H.Johnson

    H.Johnson One Too Many

    Indeed he should.

    I am not a member of the 'official' Historic Hillwalkers as I tend to eschew organisational norms. I like to think of myself as a rebel, in rambling terms en homage to Jack Kerouac, who is my role model for rebellion. Indeed I am thinking of producing a 'stream of consciousness' novel acount of my rambling experiences zig-zagging backwards and forwards across Derbyshire provisionally entitled 'On the Footpath'.

    Seriously, in the UK in the 1920s when the Friese-Greenes films were made, ramblers and cyclists were seen by the establishment (often the land-owners) as radical and subversive. My father and his friends took part in the Trespasses organised by the nascent Ramblers Association (the most famous being the first Kinder Trespass of 1932) when hikers faced the police and (armed) gamekeepers.
  4. I look forward to your "rambling novel".

    When you first mentioned the Bandanna, I guessed you meant a neckerchief
    but now I understand- just steer away from the stars and stripes and eagles, I guess. The neckerchief and beret is a bit of a rambling look.

    I am trying to assemble a practical vintage walking/hiking outfit-
    I really should stop looking for new stuff and check all my boxes and suitcases...

    A nice tweed jacket may be on the shopping cards today, though.

  5. H.Johnson

    H.Johnson One Too Many

    I know where there is a half-Norfolk 'going spare', just like the chap is wearing in the film. What size are you?
  6. Of course you do.

    Just what the Dr. ordered.
    You seem oddly familiar... in the deja vous sense,
    rather than being forward in a peculiar way.

    I don't think many Danes will respond to this thread- no hills.
    Sweden and Norway, on the other hand/s...

  7. Mike1939

    Mike1939 One of the Regulars

    That was a wonderful short H. Johnson. There is also a reference to handkerchiefs being worn by hikers in The Long Weekend : A Social History of Great Britain 1918-1939 By Robert Graves and Alan Hodge. ' ...dressed like pirates, with coloured handkerchiefs around their heads.'

    Other gear and clothing mentioned are berets, open necked shirts, shorts, water proof rucksacks, aluminum cooking utensils, primus stoves and oilskin tents. I've been fascinated by the history of hillwalking in the 1920's and 30's for some time , but have found no books on the subject. Does anyone know if such books exist?
  8. carter

    carter I'll Lock Up

  9. H.Johnson

    H.Johnson One Too Many


    Thanks for reminding me of this book - it is THE Robert Graves! (Goodbye to All That, The White Goddess, I Claudius, etc). His collaborator in this (and other works) Alan Hodge was the husband of Graves's mistress Beryl. It's how they did things in those days... The Long Week-end is an interesting read, which I must revisit at the soonest opportunity.

    I have a number of photographs of my parents rambling in the 1920s and 30s, and the clothing is quite striking. The men's cycling shorts are shorter than one would expect and the womens' shorts are positively skimpy! In the 1970s they would almost have passed for hot pants.

    I (and others on the forum) share your interest in walking inter bellum.

    If a history of equipment is what you seek, I assume you know of 'Invisible on Everest' by Mike Parsons and Professor Mary Rose? The title is misleading, it is much more about hillwalking than comquering 'monsters'. Parsons's father started Karrimor, by the way.

    Confused text, but a good read!


  10. Gave it away there.

  11. [​IMG]

    From my Great Uncle Walters collection, somewhere in the Midlands, just after the '39-'45 war. Sorry I don't have a better scan to hand, I'll try and rectify that tonight.

    A mixture of civilian and military clothing, a lot of slacks tucked into socks in a plus four style. The tall chap in the Denison smock (and upside down war trophy German belt) is another Great Uncle, Barry, who served as a Sapper in the Airborne in 44/45.

    I'm not sure what activity they are involved in though... I would guess hiking. I'm paying him a visit this weekend so I'll pick his brains.
  12. H.Johnson

    H.Johnson One Too Many

    You have to spell it out for some people. Shhh!

  13. H.Johnson

    H.Johnson One Too Many

    Kinder Trespass 24th April 1932.


    Similar mixture of sporting, 'casual' (was that term used IRT clothing?) and military gear.

    I think this photo is originally from a local newspaper and was taken on the way back to Edale village just before the arrests - the subjects don't look particularly desperate and dangerous, do they? The guy 4th from the left appears to be wearing the Post-WW1 pattern army SD tunic and cap. Afew Boy Scout belts and (probably berets). Note the zipped jacket (possibly a Grenfell) with teh knit cuffs 2nd from right on front row. The jacket worn by the next guy (to his right) is interesting. Anyone like to hazard a guess what it is?
  14. Mike1939

    Mike1939 One of the Regulars


    I did not know about 'Invisible on Everest'. I just ordered a copy. Thanks for the lead. My only reference to gear of the time in detail is 'Mountain Craft, by Geoffrey Winthorp Young, which has no drawings or photos.

    I am also a fellow fan of Kerouac and even more so, Gary Snyder, AKA Japhy Ryder from Dharma Bums.

  15. A few more pics from Uncle Walter

    I'm guessing these are all from the same outing?

    Uncle Barry again, in his Denison, plus a couple of BD tunics.

    Looks like Large Packs were the backpack of choice! Plus a nifty little knapsack on one young lady, looks similar to an ATS issue one...



    A beret clad Great Uncle Walter, cheeky as ever... Wearing his army boots and anklets. The pack is some sort of army surplus Bergan (I have it upstairs in the loft)
  16. [​IMG]


  17. And finally...



    Hope these are of interest. I will interogate Uncle Walter when I see him at the weekend a find out more about them - Are these just a collection of friends? A Youth Group? A Cycle Club?
  18. Mike1939

    Mike1939 One of the Regulars

    Great photos Mike! :eusa_clap You've given me ideas for putting together my own kit.
  19. Mike1939

    Mike1939 One of the Regulars

    More Indy than Mallory but here's my latest hillwalking trip from last weekend.

  20. H.Johnson

    H.Johnson One Too Many

    Excellent photos. Mike 1973!

    I was going to post some of my late father's and mother's hiking and cycling club 'snapshots' from the 30s, but yours are so similar that I feel it would be redundant.

    The location in your shots is tantalisingly familiar, but I can't quite place it. I suspect it's the Peak District, in the post-industrial area of villages and moorlands to the west of Sheffield. I think I recognise Hathersage, which serves as 'Morton' in Bronte's Jane Eyre and boasts Little John among its sons.

    You have commented on the mixture of '37 pattern gear (BD and packs) - note the dark blouse to the right of one of your photos - it seems too dark for an RAF - can it be ARP/CD? I love the Grenfell jacket on the right - that guy must have been well off!

    Some of the packs are probably proprietary models - pre-war Bergan (sic) and Slazenger were still popular in the post-war period. Personally, I think 1949 and 1950 pattern gear is valuable for post-war hiking re-enactment, as it's so cheap compared to WW2 and earlier stuff. Most of it is being converted to (bad) WW2 reproduction BD - a shame as IMO it has merit in its own right.

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