I should love this book. I adore long distance walking although I have never attempted anything on this scale. I have walked half the Thames path (Greenwich to Windsor) and Oxford to Cambridge, and St Paul's to Canterbury, and the Lea, and Brighton to Folkestone, each walking lasting about a week and travelling about eighty miles. Shally and John regularly walked twenty mile days. They lost a lot of weight. They each used three pairs of shoes. Whereas I insist on a B&B they did rough camping. So I admire them so much and I would love to do something epic like this. But...
I know how intense a walk can be. Even though your sore feet and your aching shoulders often distract you, because you are travelling so slowly, you have the opportunity to observe more. And she doesn't. I understand her problem. A three hundred day walk cannot be adequately described in three hundred pages. And this frustrated me immensely because I lost that feeling of intensity.
I learned a little about the places they passed through. She describes the Pocahontas statue in Gravesend but she doesn't explain why it is there. To be fair, I felt she would have liked to learn more about the places but their demanding itinerary meant they could rarely spare the time. (And I know how it can be when your flagging energy means that you can't be bothered to find out something that at any other time would be fascinating.) But I often felt that she actually didn't like the places she walked through or the people who lived there.
I learned more about the bird life of the coast. Her husband is a keen ornithologist and she describes birds very well.
I learned a great deal about the frustrations and near-disasters they experienced. I learned about the campsites that were poorly equipped, and the many times she felt ill, or exhausted. There was a lot about the rows they had as John walked ahead and she limped behind. A lot of the book seemed to be a long complaint.
April 2013; 312 pages
Other great travel books in this blog:
- The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron: Samarkand etc
- Walking through Europe: A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor and its sequel Between the Woods and the Water
- By milk float: Three men in a float by Dan Kieran and Ian Vince
- By bike from Lands End to John O'Groats via a lot of pubs: Mud. Sweat and Gears by Ellie Bennett
- Watling Street by John Higgs