28 November 2023


I galloped through "Walking Home" by Simon Armitage, beginning it on the train down to London on Friday and finishing it this very afternoon. I guess that it was my kind of book, all about walking in the countryside and written by one of our country's best known living poets.

He is Simon Armitage, the current Poet Laureate who hails from Marsden near Huddersfield - just thirty miles from this keyboard. Back in around 2010, he conceived a plan to walk England's most gruelling long distance footpath - The Pennine Way. Almost 270 miles in length, it runs from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm at the Scottish border - but being a contrary sort of fellow Simon Armitage chose to attempt it the other way round.

He also had the idea that he would give poetry readings at venues along the way. With the help of his website, his friend Caroline  and others, arrangements were duly made and lodgings were also secured including breakfasts and evening meals. Plus - he needed volunteers to transport his bulky main rucksack between staging posts. He referred to it as "The Tombstone".

It was an arduous journey of sixteen days and though attempted in summer, the weather rarely played ball. He was not at all sure that he could fulfil his plan. Many before him have given up the walk after a day or two. It invariably involves moorland, rain, mist, boggy terrain, emptiness, map-reading skills, lost paths and self-doubt. As I say, not everybody makes it and most have to carry everything they require.

On page 249, Simon Armitage refers to the farm in the middle of the M62 motorway. He calls it Scott Hall Farm and earlier today this caused me to write an e-mail message to him via his literary agent:

Dear Simon,
I have just finished reading the paperback version of "Walking Home". It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and not at all as "high brow" as I half anticipated. However, I wish to point out a niggling error that occurs on page 249. Here you are referring to the farm in the middle of the M62 near Booth Wood Reservoir. You call it Scott Hall Farm but it is in fact Stott Hall Farm with a "t" where a "c" appears in the text. I make this observation in the name of accuracy and hopefully not because I enjoy nitpicking. Earlier this year, I walked under the M62 and crossed the strange "island" on which Stott Hall Farm stands. 
Best wishes,
Yorkshire Pudding (Mr)

This evening I had a reply from the literary agent, saying that they had already forwarded my message to Simon Armitage. Some of you may recall my walk past Stott Hall Farm in February. Go here.

I don't suppose "Walking Home" would be everyone's cup of tea but mostly I loved it. My main reservation  is that within five miles of Edale - a place I know well - he decided to abort the walk. It wasn't because he had run out of steam or had become physically incapable and it wasn't because of the weather either. It was hard to understand his motive but he was rather like an American anarchist, raising his middle finger and walking away. Refusing to do the expected thing. Over a decade later, I wonder if he sometimes regrets that strange choice.
Simon Armitage


  1. Somebody else walked the total length of the Britain I can't remember the guy's name but I read the book.

  2. I googled the Pennine Way because of course I like to google things that I know nothing about. The walk is beautiful and it must have been much easier for Simon, not having to carry his own rucksack. It would be so nice to have a partner who enjoys walking.

  3. That's a LONG walk! And carrying all you may need along the way too. I'm glad he had help. the book sounds interesting, but I don't think I'll track down a copy, I have so many already waiting to be read.

  4. This sounds very much like my kind of book! For years, I have been thinking about a long walk for a holiday, such as the one along Hadrian's Wall or something closer to home. So far, it has not come about, but the idea is not abandoned.
    If I had to carry more than just a typical day tour rucksack, I would definitely not be able to cover any kind of substantial distance!
    Sometimes people make strange choices, don't they. Myself included.

  5. An "American" anarchist? On the contrary, to me it seems very British to give two fingers up and do something unexpected. The days of British convention are long past, are they not?

    This sounds like an interesting book -- your description reminds me of both "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed and "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson. I have John Hillaby's similar book "Journey through Britain," but I haven't read it yet.

  6. I've heard of this farm in the middle of a motorway, I thought as I began reading this. It soon became apparent where I had heard of it. Our friend in London takes multiple day walks with a small group, staying in local accommodation along the way. She enjoys the walks very much, although her feet did not during the last one. https://60andthenext10.blogspot.com/p/around-uk.html

  7. I became interested in the word Stott. In Whitby we used to buy filled Stottie rolls, a sort of large flat bread it is described as coming from Scotland. The name Stott refers to either cattle or a bull, so the people who own the farm are well named. Though keeping cattle on an island in the middle of motorway takes some guts. I expect Simon Armitage just got tired of walking. One of the great Northern poets.

  8. I like walking long distance books. Perhaps my favorite of all time is "A Walk In the Woods" by Bill Bryson who coincidentally is an American who has several humorous books about his adopted home England. (He has since moved back to America.) Another favorite is "A Walk Across America" by Peter Jenkins who went on to pen many more long walk books but none as good as that first one IMHO.

  9. Would you ever "nitpick'?

  10. I can see why this book is one that caught your fancy. Have you ever thought about making the trip?

  11. Quite often I found errors in the books I read, but I have never told the author as I figure it is too late for them to do anything about it.
    By the way, I now have Covid and so will rest, relax and read until I am better which I hope is soon.

    1. Oh no, poor you! Get well soon, Ellen.

  12. The may be a vacancy for a Nit Picker Laureate.


Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.

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