I have a 28-year history with the Pennine Way, the UKs oldest and toughest National Trail. In the summer of 1990 my dad and I walked the last sixty miles of it, over four days, from Hadrian’s Wall to Kirk Yetholm. In the summer of 2007, my friend Derek and I walked the southern half of it – we had intended to walk its entire length, but I picked up an injury and we withdrew at the half way point. In the summer of 2017, Facebook reminded me of this aborted attempt, and I speculatively asked Derek whether he felt we would ever have another go at it, now that we each have young families and proper jobs (okay, it’s just him with the proper job, but the family part is true). A few days later, and after much WhatsApping between me and Derek, me and my wife, Derek and his partner, Derek and my wife, me and Derek’s partner, and all four of us together plus my mum, we managed to get our heads around the logistics of it all and a date was set for mine and Derek’s second attempt at the Pennine Way.
This blog is not designed to tell the story of our walk, but it is appropriate to set the scene. We completed the walk in seventeen days, and the sense of achievement I have felt – which took perhaps weeks to settle in – has been incredible. It is equalled only by the pride I take in my transformation from doorbell-dodging, phone-non-answering, street-blanking recluse to artist talk-giving, performance poetry reading, undergraduate lecture-giving pot-bellied bloke that sits on his sofa writing this today. It was that good. I think about it every day. The Pennine Way, not the other stuff. Well, apart from the pot-belly.
I saw, in my walk, the potential for some kind of artistic endeavour to take place. and so I announced myself as the Pennine Way’s Unsolicited Artist in Residence, and hoped something would emerge.