Back in November me and my lovely wife went away for a week to the north east. One of the many highlights of the week was visiting Barter Books, the largest second hand bookshop in the UK (read about it here). Of the books that I picked up, one was by Simon Armitage (read about it here) and because I enjoyed it so much I picked up another of his; Walking Home, subtitled Travels with a troubadour on the Pennine Way.
Simon was brought up in the small town of Marsden, which is on the Pennine Way, and if you were walking from the south to the north, it is the first town you would come to after setting off. One funny story is how one man asked if he could camp in their garden and then sent a Christmas card every year for over 20 years.
The premise of Walking Home is quite simple. Walk the Pennine Way from north to south, finishing in his home town, but do it without spending money. He would rely on the goodwill of strangers for food and lodgings, as well as transporting his luggage each day, and in return he would perform a poetry reading, passing round a sock at the end for donations. As expected, Simon has a way with words, what with him being a poet, but what makes the journey more memorable is the mishaps on the way; getting lost, inclement weather, blisters etc. The Pennine Way also passes through an area I know quite well, from Keld to Malham. I always find it interesting to read about places that I know from another person’s viewpoint.
One of the high points of the book was when he stumbled upon a trail hound race, which is something that we also stumbled upon on a walk around Haweswater Reservoir (read about it here).
As Walking Home was such a great success, Simon wrote a sequel; Walking Away, subtitled Further travels with a troubadour on England’s south west coast path. He doesn’t walk the whole thing, ‘only’ the 265 miles from Minehead to Land’s End. Once again can a travelling poet survive on his poems alone. Many years ago I spent two weeks walking some of the south coast path. Not being walking fit I found if quite tough, especially as I didn’t have anyone to ferry my large and heavy rucksack each day, but I did stay in the town of St. Ives for two nights, which Simon also passes through.
If you enjoy travel books with a good dollop of humour then you’ll love both of these, and you don’t need to have read the first one to enjoy the second. Additionally, the only poems in the books are ones that he wrote on his walk, so don’t let that put you off.
There are plenty of walking books out there, but another book about the south west coast path that you should read is The Salt Path by Raynor Winn (read about it here).