BORN in Blackburn in 1906, AlfredWainwright was the son of a stonemason.

A brainy boy who did well at school, he was top of the class in most subjects and also spent much time drawing, meticulously copying cartoons of his heroes from the comics of the day.

A passionate football fan, he was a founder of the Blackburn Rovers Supporters Club and a boy who got his first job in Blackburn Town Hall at the age of 13.

But it was a week spent in the Lake District ten years later which was to change his life.

He described in his book Fellwanderer how he felt as he gazed at the fells for the first time from the viewpoint at Orrest Head, Windermere.

"I was utterly ensnared by all I saw... here were no factories but mountains, no stagnant canals but crystal clear rivers, no cinder paths but beckoning tracks that climbed through bracken and heather to the silent fastness of the hills... that week changed my life."

In 1941 he got a job in the borough treasurer's department at Kendal Town Hall, allowing him to spend most of his spare time walking on his beloved Lakeland fells, and in 1947 he became the borough treasurer,.

It was in the early '50s that he decided to make a record of his many and varied walks and began work on his series of guide books, which he intended at first to be only an aide-memoire for his old age.

The first book, A Guide to the Eastern Fells, was published in 1954 and Wainwright spent some of his own money and went around the book shops himself to help sell the initial print run of 2,000.

He spent the next 13 years working on his series of seven original guides, walking the fells alone with just a raincoat, map, camera and a bar of chocolate for company – and always using public transport to get to and from his home on his travels.

The Westmorland Gazette became his publisher in 1963 and, following the success of his series of guides, came further books including the Coast-to-Coast Walk and a Guide to the Pennine Way – and the award of an MBE.

When he retired in 1967 – during a turbulent time in his life shortly after his first wife left him – the question arose of how The Gazette, his publisher for almost 30 years, should mark the occasion, but no-one could come up with the answer.

It was known that the now legendary author could be 'a bit of a funny old stick' and no-one could second guess his thinking. So Wainwright himself was asked what he would like.

The answer came as a shock to everyone – but his wish was granted when he was presented with four Cornettos bought from the corner shop near his home at Kendal Green.

He ate one on the spot and had the other three saved in a freezer to be enjoyed later.

The Gazette said: "There was nothing complicated about AW. He had his likes and his dislikes and wasn't prepared to negotiate too much. When he spoke his mind it was with a bluntness which said much about his humble Lancashire origins."

Wainwright remarried just over three years later and, together with second wife Betty, developed an overwhelming interest in animal charities – in particular the recently formed Animal Rescue.

The couple decided to devote all the profits from his guides to animal causes, raising around £500,000 for Animal Rescue over the course of the next few years to help it to build a sanctuary near Grayrigg.

He also gave £10,000 to Kendal Town Council to set up a special achievement award to be presented each year in the town.

Always a very private man who guarded his anonymity jealously, it was not until 1985 that Wainwright finally bowed to pressure and agreed to a clutch of interviews, including a TV documentary and an appearance on Radio's Desert Island Discs, which between them made him a nationally-known figure.

Following his death on January 20, 1991 – a quiet Sunday night in hospital – a funeral service was held in Kendal before Wainwright's ashes were spread, according to his wishes, at the side of Innominate Tarn, close to the summit of his favourite fell, Haystacks.

Wainwright wrote: "If you, dear reader, should get a bit of grit in your boot as you are crossing Haystacks in years to come, please treat it with respect. It might be me."