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 theYorkshire 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.
In the summer of 2010, award-winning poet Armitage decided to embrace the life of his forebears and take up the life at least for a short while of a wandering poet. Over 19 days, he resolutely, and mostly joylessly, marched along the Pennine Way in England, a 256-mile long "gantry running down the backbone of the country offering countless possibilities for perspectives and encounters" with new territories and new people. Terrified of loneliness, dogs, and weirdoes that he might meet along the way, Armitage trades his mess of pottage his poetry for a bed every night along the path, and before he sets out he makes arrangements to give poetry readings at various stops. In Uswayford, he reads in a lounge bar where every machine in the background hums to life, and where "in the presence of the spoken word, the scrape of the knife against plate or the opening of a packet of salted peanuts are nuclear explosions." As Armitage readily admits, "the Pennine Way is a pointless exercise, leading from nowhere in particular to nowhere in particular... but to embark on the walk is to surrender to its lore and submit to its logic, and to take up the challenge against the self." It's too bad that reading Armitage's dreary, cheerless, and pointless memoir leads from nowhere in particular to nowhere in particular, offering little insight either into his own journey, his life as a poet, or the ways that the walk challenged his life or his self-understanding.