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:
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.
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.