By Simon Armitrage
In the summer of 2010, English poet Simon Armitrage, 47, decided to walk the Pennine Way, a 256-mile trek along the watershed of a range of mountains running from the Scottish Borders to the English Midlands.
Armitrage has a keen eye for detail and brings alive the weather, surrounding vistas, his moods and physical discomforts. He offers snapshots of his hosts, the fans who join him for parts of the walk, and the strangers passing on the path.
Although not without dangers, this is no life-threatening physical adventure. Armitrage is not afraid to discuss his fear of getting lost in fogs or on unmarked slopes. There’s little suspense to this tale; he has a set itinerary and people who know when to expect him where.
WALKING HOME is a lovely armchair adventure through an interesting part of northern England. Armitrage makes it sound accessible to the average person with a good streak of determination. The final chapter describes three possible endings for his long walk, none of which I’ll reveal here. His honesty about the challenges of the last five or six miles of the trail are easy to relate to.
I discovered Armitrage while reading Raynor Winn’s THE SALT PATH, Winn and her husband Moth walked the majority of the 630-mile South West Coast Path the year after WALKING HOME was published. On several occasions, Moth was mistaken for Armitrage, although the two men don’t look alike.
Unlike Armitrage, the Winns slept “wild” outdoors in a tent they bought off of Ebay. They had just lost the farm that was their home and source of income. Adding to the challenges they faced, Moth had been diagnosed with a degenerative brain disorder shortly before they started out. The Winns’ story has more suspense because of their lack of money and support system, rough accommodations and Moth’s condition.
Both are great stories by talented writers. They make you want to reach for your rucksack and hiking boots and walk out your own front door.
About the Author: Simon Armitrage CBE, FRSL (1963 – )
He grew up in the village of Marsden in Yorkshire, where his family still lives. His father, Peter, a former electrician, probation officer and firefighter, is known in the area for writing plays and pantomimes for an all-men group of actors, The Avalanche Dodgers.
Armitrage wrote his first poem at the age of 10. He studied geography at Portsmouth Polytechnic and was a postgraduate student at the University of Manchester. He wrote his master’s thesis on the effects of TV violence on young offenders. Without a job, he decided to train to be a probation officer. He held that position in the Greater Manchester area until 1994, even as he began to write poetry more seriously.
In addition to collections of poetry, Armitage has written two novels: LITTLE GREEN MAN (2001) and THE WHITE STUFF (2004). In 1998, he wrote a collection of essays on Northern England, ALL POINTS NORTH. He also writes for radio, television, film and stage.
He is married to radio producer Sue Roberts. their daughter Emmeline is also a poet. A lover of music, and a college friend founded a band, The Scaremongers, and he is also a DJ. His stint as Poet Laureate will end in 2029.