What’s it all about?:
In summer 2010 Simon Armitage decided to walk the Pennine Way. The challenging 256-mile route is usually approached from south to north, from Edale in the Peak District to Kirk Yetholm, the other side of the Scottish border. He resolved to tackle it the other way round: through beautiful and bleak terrain, across lonely fells and into the howling wind, he would be walking home, towards the Yorkshire village where he was born.
Travelling as a ‘modern troubadour’ without a penny in his pocket, he stopped along the way to give poetry readings in village halls, churches, pubs and living rooms. His audiences varied from the passionate to the indifferent, and his readings were accompanied by the clacking of pool balls, the drumming of rain and the bleating of sheep.
“Walking Home” describes this extraordinary, yet ordinary, journey. It’s a story about Britain’s remote and overlooked interior – the wildness of its landscape and the generosity of the locals who sustained him on his journey. It’s about facing emotional and physical challenges, and sometimes overcoming them. It’s nature writing, but with people at its heart. Contemplative, moving and droll, it is a unique narrative from one of our most beloved writers.
What did I think?:
I’m not familiar with Simon Armitage’s work, but I was drawn to this book when my favourite book shop Waterstones recommended it as a good read, and I was curious about the epic journey he had undertaken, something I would love to do myself, but don’t know if I would have the strength or the determination it requires. It certainly is an awe-inspiring journey, the Pennine Trail is described as being 268 miles along (from the National Trail website) from the Peak District through the Yorkshire Dales and over Hadrian’s Wall to the Cheviots. It is sometimes described as “the backbone of England” and encompasses the most beautiful parts of England’s countryside with changeable and unpredictable weather, as Simon Armitage was to find out. The Ramblers Association describes it as “one of Britain’s best known and toughest” walks.
On the whole, I enjoyed Simon’s tale, and appreciated the descriptive way in which he described some aspects of his journey i.e. his surroundings, local landmarks passed along the way, the evocative language probably helped along by his profession as a poet. There was even an occasional slice of dry humour which made me smile, and interesting tidbits to absorb like the following:
“After the poems, the conversation turns firstly to the dangers posed to walkers by horseflies, or ‘clegs’ as they are sometimes known, which can bite even through heavy fabric and are only dissuaded by Avon Skin So Soft, the repellent of choice not only with foresters and trawlermen but also with British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, apparently.”
Definitely something to remember if you’re caught in the middle of a horsefly invasion I think. I’ve been bit by one of those little blighters before, and it wasn’t particularly pleasant at all!
I loved the fact that the author completed this journey with no funds except what he could make at poetry readings along the way (earnings were taken in an old sock), and his self-depracating and humble mannerisms made me warm to him as a person. It was nice to get a glimpse into his “other life” as a poet with the occasional poem he made up along the way, and certainly sparked my interest about his other works. After some “googling” I have discovered that he was awarded a CBE in 2010 for his services to poetry, and more recently in 2012 he was short-listed for the T.S. Eliot Prize. Definitely worth a closer look, I think!
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):