Saturday, 8 June 2019

Walking Home: A Poet's Journey by Simon Armitage

Walking Home: A Poet's Journey by Simon Armitage
First published in the UK by Liveright in April 2013. Audiobook, narrated by the author, published by Whole Story in June 2013.

How I got this book:
Bought the audiobook from Audible

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One summer, Simon Armitage decided to walk the Pennine Way - a challenging 256-mile route usually approached from south to north, with the sun, wind and rain at your back. However, he resolved to tackle it back to front, walking home towards the Yorkshire village where he was born, travelling as a 'modern troubadour', without a penny in his pockets and singing for his supper with poetry readings in village halls, churches, pubs and living rooms. 

Walking Home describes his extraordinary, yet ordinary, journey of human endeavour, unexpected kindnesses and terrible blisters.

I hoped downloading a poet's journal of walking would give me a different viewpoint to my previous walking-related listens and reads. So I was pleased with Simon Armitage's recounting of his Pennine Way expedition as it does just that. He has a fantastic turn of phrase when describing the landscapes through which he passes. I particularly appreciated the "garrulous river" and "sticky toffee pudding track" amongst others. His approach to the Walk was refreshingly different too - he has actually prepared and researched so there is none of the forced humour of things that are bound to fail which I found a bit irritating in other books (Clare Balding take note!). Hearing Armitage read his own words is a bonus as, although he is not the most polished narrator, his remembrance of each day shines through the audio. The included autobiographical snippets are interesting and the interspersion of the serene and not-so-serene poetry readings adds a real contrast.

I liked that Armitage comes across as a real person rather than a manufactured celebrity. He is not always happy and smiley to 'his public', and his occasional discomfort at lodging in other people's homes, and therefore having to put on a good face after an exhausting day, is easy to empathise with. He often walks with genuinely interesting company, instead of the TV staple of entertaining eccentrics, so I also learned a lot about the geography and history of the Way.

I liked how each chapter was a day's walk and began with details of the start and finish, distance, and map pages. I have been almost completely discouraged from making my own attempt on the whole route. It sounds a wonderfully romantic venture, but the realities I listened to dampened my enthusiasm as fast as the rain soaked his clothing!

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by A Northern Sketchbook in
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Books by Simon Armitage / Biography and memoirs / Books from England


  1. I like when the characters come across as real people in books.

  2. I have read a poetry collection by Simon Armitage and really loved it. I do know I want to read more of his poetry but I didn't know about this one. It sounds like a great walking audiobook to listen to, and I like that he narrates it himself as well.

    1. I got quite carried away listening to Walking Home though I think I could only safely attempt the walk myself if I was in experienced company!