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Memoirs about Walking in the UK


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The Salt Path by Raynor Winn. Read article on The Guardian.
I loved this book. A middle age couple lose everything in a complicated investment deal and are homeless. They had lived a simple life on a farm in Wales. Then they find out the husband has a degenerative disease. No money, bad health. So what do they do? They hike the 630 mile South West Coast path that goes from Minehead in Somerset, through Devon, around Cornwall, back along the south coast of Devon, through my area in Dorset, to end at Poole. We have walked several parts of this path and I enjoyed her walking descriptions. They had very limited funds (very limited) and just walked and camped by the trail for months. The walking brought the husband back to better health (but not cured) and it gave them a sense of purpose when everything had been lost. She writes about the walk, about their previous life and about homelessness. Well written and published by a Penquin imprint. It was short listed for the Costa Prize.

One Woman Walks Wales by Ursula Martin. Her website.
I loved this book too but it is more for hiking nerds like me. After recovering from cancer she decides to walk all the rivers of Wales. What an idea! She walks 3700 miles, taking time off here and there to work and save up money to continue walking. She wild camps along the way, but built up a following on Facebook and people started offering her places to stay. This woman is determined. Now she is walking across Europe, starting in Eastern Europe and going to the Camino in Spain, then back across Spain and up to the UK. She posts about her current walk on Facebook.
I wrote to two of my friends in Chipping Campden who are wardens in the Northern Cotswolds. This is a very active volunteer organizations and of course there are a lot of walkers in this area. They felt this initiative was mostly focused on bridleways and that there likely weren't any lost paths in their area., where each of the footpaths are walked regularly by wardens.

But on some of our long-distance walks in more remote areas (Yorkshire, paths around the SW Coast path-- not the path itself, and paths around Offa's Dyke), I can remember gates or stiles that seemed to go nowhere or a path that seemed to dead end. Sometimes I wondered if these were paths created by sheep or cattle, not for people.

Just noticed this thread.
I suppose that fiction might not really belong here, but I enjoyed "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry", by Rachel Joyce. One of those outer and inner journey stories that are well-written and inspiring. The main character walks all of Great Britain from south to north.

The article from The New Yorker mentioned above is indeed interesting, thanks Jim, for the link. If it was me, I'd prefer the declaration that "Lost Footpaths to Stay Lost" : while I love maps, I believe there is value in keeping a bit of mystery surrounding ways of getting around. Not everything has to be mapped out, and there's pleasure to be had from just roaming about and knowing paths that can remain for the treading of the few.
Sometimes I wondered if these were paths created by sheep or cattle, not for people.
It is easy to end up on an animal path when walking around here. You think you are on the trail then take one wrong turn following a sheep path and end up way off the trail. Usually any gate has a trail marker on it if it is a path, so if you keep to the trail markers the paths go somewhere.
I suppose that fiction might not really belong here, but I enjoyed "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry", by Rachel Joyce.
I loved that book! It is a good walking “memoir”. The author is from Stroud, in the Cotswolds, where we used to live. The character didn’t use footpaths that much, if I remember right, but kept to lanes.

The problem here with letting paths be unknown is that you end up in a field where you can’t get out. Farmers have to keep fields open, with stiles or gates to let you walk through. Or you end up in a crop field with shoulder high corn to push through and deep mud around the field edges. Footpaths have to be registered so that walkers have the legal right to tramp over the farmers land.

You can roam here and we like to do that. We head out on a footpath not knowing which turn we will take, deciding as we go, so you have a day roaming around the countryside.


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