In the summer of 2010, Simon Armitage, writer and poet, decided to walk the gruelling 256mile Pennine Way the ‘wrong’ way, north to south, towards his home village of Marsden. As a Yorkshire man of ‘average fitness, poor map reading ability, a lower back problem and small lungs’ this proves to be an entertaining challenge.
Celebrity as a poet means that volunteers organise poetry readings and a bed each night for this modern day troubadour. The ‘Tombstone’, a suitcase of deadweight slim volumes of poetry, transported by car between venues mystically gains weight as he trudges southward. There is little here of the romantic solitariness of walking and time for self-discovery, as he is accompanied by well wishers, family and friends on various sections of the walk, each with their own story to tell. At night, he meticulously lists his takings, collected in a walking sock from readings in village halls, churches, pubs and living rooms.
The description of his journey moves between serious descriptions of beautiful and bleak terrain, across lonely fells and into the howling wind, to the fate of countless Mars Bars! This is not a traditional travel book but more a uniquely charming, droll British account of one man’s journey through a landscape which affects him both physically and emotionally.