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Walking Home by Simon Armitage

Walking Home (2012)

by Simon Armitage

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2431870,848 (3.71)33



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Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
I liked that this book about a long walk began with "A Preamble." I hope the humor of that was intentional; it does seem in line with the typically dry, self-deprecating, British humor (humour?). Poet Simon Armitage is a pleasant guide along the Pennine Way, the UK version of the Appalachian Trail. He was quite prepared in some ways, under-prepared in others, but the overall idea was that he would walk north to south, giving a poetry reading every evening for free (pass-the-hat). He (and an assistant) worked out ahead of time who he would stay with each night and who (if anyone) would walk with him each day. It mightn't've worked with an unknown poet, but Armitage seems to be well-known enough to have a surprisingly large following, with plenty of people attending his readings, offering a bed for the night, and accompanying him on parts of the walk.

See also: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, Wild by Cheryl Strayed


Can I actually walk the Pennine Way? ...from my father I have inherited a stubborn streak. Some people have interpreted this as 'ambition,' but it isn't, it's just a pig-headed refusal to give up or accept failure, particularly when the chances of success are microscopically small or when defeat would be a far easier and more dignified option. (9-10)

The whole project is based on the kindness of strangers, the entire itinerary held together by nothing more than a loosely connected chain of names and addresses and telephone numbers of people I've never met and who don't know me from Adam...bu the weakest link in that chain...is me. (19)

...in some ways, [it's] more essential to know where you've been than where you're heading. (50)

...the only other cartographical features for the foreseeable future are curricks, cairns, sink-holes, shake-holes, hushes and shafts, the first two being piles of stones like unmarked graves, the other four being things you can fall down and die. (116)

...[spare] rooms...are nearly always reliquaries or shrines, museums of past lives or mausoleums devoted to a particular absence...objects which have no function or place in the everyday world...but whose significance to family lore borders on the sacred. I am sleeping in a memory vault, and none of the memories are mine. (174)

...sunlight seems always on the point of breaking through and where brightness and clarity seem always within reach, just beyond the next veil of fog, just a few steps ahead, feeling that at any moment, particularly while ascending, you might emerge....it's a cruel trick. (190)

Distance, I've come to realise, is not the determining factor in terms of travelling time - it's all about terrain. (195)

Be careful what you wish for, especially if that thing is THE END. (264)

In many ways, the Pennine Way is a pointless exercise, leading from nowhere in particular to nowhere in particular, via no particular route, and for no particular reason. (278) ( )
  JennyArch | Jan 22, 2019 |
A delightful and enjoyable breath of fresh air sort of book. Simon Armitage appears to give his readers enough honesty about the reality of walking the Pennine Way to feel you are following not far behind. Simon Armitage decides to travel as a troubadour, reading to groups of people every night of the three week walk, when every other walker is putting their feet up and relying on helpful strangers to carry his luggage, rather than a company. This is not a constant wonder at the natural world of the Pennines, although there are glimpses of this. Simon Armitage tells us about the fear of the mist and getting lost, the consistency of the mud and the often horror of the north of England weather. He also tells us about people we meet and the poetry readings, some of which he is more present at than others. I have seen Simon Armitage read and he seemed to be having a lovely time but wonder now whether that was true. He made me laugh out loud in a number of places which is a gift not to be sniffed at and he has a way with words that made me re-frame my views of the countryside at times. An enjoyable and always interesting read. ( )
  Tifi | Sep 10, 2018 |
This is a lovely book - combining the humorous travel book structure of Bill Bryson etc, with the lyrical beauty of Robert Macfarlane. I am sure all its readers will grow to like Simon Armitage as he wends his way south from Kirk Yetholm to Edale [almost]. I learned lots, like the redundancy of Kielder Water; I enjoyed the few poems reprinted [and I have since purchased a collection]. I am too old to know to attempt the Pennine Way but it made me wish I had done it earlier in my life. It brought back memories, particularly of that magnificent waterfall at High Force. I confidently expect to receive "Walking Away" as part of my Christmas present. ( )
  johnwbeha | Jul 6, 2016 |
I hate to say this, but I just didn't enjoy reading this. 300 pages of what the rain was like when someone was walking. This is not a bias review, as I like Armitage, but this seemed like an excuse to write a nothing book and it'd sell because of who the author was. I mean, that's exactly why I read it. There's bits of Simon's humour, which I like, in this book, and that's why I gave it more than 1 star. ( )
  MrLloydSpandex | May 18, 2016 |
I have never walked the Pennine Way but I am a keen walker and so I still enjoyed the book mainly because Simon Armitage is such a good writer and an attractive personality. At times, it's just like he's telling you about it in the pub afterwards. ( )
  stephengoldenberg | Apr 6, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
...never will reading about a hot shower and some foot ointment be quite so enjoyable.
Walking Home riffs on the ancient correlation between itinerancy and story-telling, with embedded tales of varying tallness coming and going in an almost casual manner, complete with a Bunyanesque dark night of the soul (in Cumbrian daylight) when lost high up on the terrifying emptiness of Cross Fell.
added by geocroc | editThe Guardian, Adam Thorpe (Jul 6, 2012)
...Walking Home is neither scholarly meditation nor record of barely-human endurance. Armitage’s journey is more pedestrian than that; a manageable distance along a worn path through familiar faces.
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In the West Yorkshire village of Marsden where I was born and grew up, a peculiar phenomenon took place every year.
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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.… (more)

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