Subtitled 'Travels with a Troubadour on the Pennine Way' this book follows Armitage as he walks the Pennine Way from north to south, giving poetry readings every night in whichever local settlement has agreed to host him. At the end of every reading he hands round a sock which invariably fills up with cash and odd little gifts . Given that on most occasions there's a fair amount of cash in the sock, the readings effectively pay for the walk, specially considering that he has found people to host him and provide his food for free along the journey.
But then Armitage is, in poetic terms at least, famous. (And deservedly so, I might add). I doubt most poets would be able to carry out such an expedition funded by the proceeds of socks handed out at the end of readings.
I often get annoyed with travel books, finding there to be too much cruel humour at the expense of people met along the way. This book though, while very funny (on more than one occasion I regretted my decision to read this book on public transport, given how much I laughed at some points) mostly avoids being at anyone's expense. Though some people seem to be annoying, I never felt that Armitage was specifically looking to do anyone down just to liven up his prose.
And this is fine prose too, with beautiful descriptions of the landscape and the wildlife:
"Down by the waterfall, before Keld village, a male redstart waits on the branch of a rowan tree just long enough for me to see the fire in its belly and the afterburn of its tail".
Armitage claims not to be a birdwatcher because he doesn't make lists, but he certainly knows his birds.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable book, entertaining and really rooted in the landscape, plus with added poems. However it didn't make me want to walk the Pennine Way. All that bad weather and more importantly all those impossibly steep tracks and vertiginous paths!
Walking Home by Simon Armitage published by Faber.