'A FATHER figure of British outdoor writing' has been fondly remembered following his death at the age of 88.

Walt Unsworth, one of the founders of Milnthorpe-based Cicerone press, died on June 6 following a short illness.

Mr Unsworth was on December 16, 1928, at Ardwick, Manchester, and his family evacuated to Abram, near Wigan, during the war.


It is here where he met his wife, Dorothy, and they married at Abram Parish Church on June 2, 1952. They had two children, Gail and Duncan.

"My father was outgoing and forward-thinking, a true entrepreneur. He was very proud of all his family and their achievements," his daughter Gail Sheals said. "He inspired generations to walk and climb, through his writing and as a teacher."

Mr Unsworth had a career in teaching but took early retirement to pursue his love of writing, moving to Harmony House, Milnthorpe, with his wife.

Specialising in walking, climbing and travel writing, Mr Unsworth had 20 books published across four decades, including several climbing guides, Portrait of the River Derwent; Encyclopaedia of Mountaineering, andthe definitive histories of Everest and Mont Blanc.

His trilogy of children's books – The Devil’s Mill, Whistling Clough and Grimsdyke – became recommended reading as part of the National Curriculum.

He also acted as the editor of Climber (later Climber and Rambler) magazine, naming and helping to launch the revamped magazine as The Great Outdoors (now TGO).

Mr Unsworth was also one of the founder members of Milnthorpe Men's Forum, the Outdoor Writers’ Guild – now the Outdoor Writers’ and Photographers’ Guild – in 1980, and later became its first president.

"Walt’s quietly-spoken Lancashire burr always communicated good, no-nonsense, northern common sense, and he was immensely supportive of me when I became chairman of the Guild in 1990," his friend, Roly Smith, said. "He was the mentor and guiding light to many prospective outdoor writers, and will be sadly missed by the entire outdoor community."

In 1969, Mr Unsworth founded Cicerone press together with his friend Brian Evans and their wives.

With the first published books being climbing guides to the Lake District and Cairngorms, the business quickly expanded its trekking, mountaineering and walking niche.

Under Mr Unsworth's leadership, Cicerone produced more than 250 guides for walkers and climbers 'written and produces by walkers and climbers' before he took retirement in 1999.

The publishing house has subsequently expanded to a large successful business, still based in Milnthorpe, and is now run by Jonathan and Lesley Williams.

In his later years, Mr Unsworth ran the annual Milnthorpe Art Festival from Harmony Hall, raising thousands of pounds for local artists and charities.

He had five grandchildren and two great grandchildren.