Travel

The Road to Hull is Paved with Good Intentions

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I’ve read most of the internet. And what I haven’t read, Mrs. Blog has read out to me when I was trying to watch television. It was ok but it needs a beginning, a middle and an end. Like a proper book. And more maps.

I’ve decided that I’m going to write my own. Book, that is, not my own worldwideweb. With a beginning, a middle and an end, and maps.

I’ve always fancied the idea of being a travel writer – all expenses paid trips to Mauritius or that place in the Caribbean where they make Death in Paradise. Nothing too cold or scary – I suppose that rules out the Death in Paradise island then, although the murders there seem quite civilized, rarely messy. But you have to start small as a travel writer, I guess, and local. Somewhere where you can get a decent pint and pop home if you don’t like the pillows.

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The author contemplates the next day’s walking on the South Downs Way

 

I’d read about people who did coast to coast walks and wrote about them – across the Lake District and the North York Moors or, once they had the hang of it, their boots were worn in and they could afford a bigger rucksack, across the U.S. or Australia or the Pacific.

All the obvious nice places had been taken but, so far as I could tell, there hadn’t been any books written about walking from the Irish Sea to the North Sea through post-industrial Britain. (As Mrs. Blog helpfully put it, “And there are very good reasons why not.”)  But I say this, “The beer will be cheap, I won’t need subtitles like in Denmark or Sweden, and it’s got to be less dangerous than that P&O cruise we went on with all the Zimmer frames.”

Mrs. Blog pointed out that I’ve done so little walking in the last few years that I get short of breath when changing TV channels, but she greatly underestimates my sense of purpose and my determination, being a man, not to admit to having made a poor decision. Mark Wallington said, somewhere near the beginning of his book 500 Mile Walkies, that he decided to walk the whole of the south west coast path “to impress a girl that he met at a party”. I suspect I’m beyond impressing more or less anyone these days, and I don’t stay up late enough to get to many parties, but there’s an orthopaedic surgeon in Brighton who will be deeply surprised if all of me makes it to Hull.

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The author tries out one or two gentle pilates exercises in advance of his coast to coast walk

The Great Trek, as absolutely nobody will call it, is due to get underway at the beginning of April from New Brighton on the coast of Wirral. It’s very much like the real Brighton here in Sussex, but newer, obviously. I have family photo albums with pictures of my brother and me in black and white, taken with a Box Brownie, rock pooling on the shore at New Brighton in the 1950s. I was so thin in those days that I used to hold onto the top of my shorts to prevent them falling down; this is not a problem for me anymore.  For reasons that escape me, I thought it would be nice to start my walk from a place with childhood memories. By lunchtime on that first day I plan to be in a grown up dockside pub in Liverpool and put all that nostalgia stuff behind me. I will keep you posted, whether you like it or not. And you will be expected to buy the book.

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Preparing to head north. Merseyside holds no fears…

 

Last weekend Mrs. Blog and I headed to the north west, primarily for the football at Anfield but also to check out some of Liverpool’s attractions for possible incorporation into the walk. With the state of Liverpool FC at the moment, the enjoyment usually peaks five minutes before the actual kick off with a full throated rendering of You’ll Never Walk Alone, which has me on Strepsils for the remainder of the week.

 

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LFC fans are renowned for their grace and generous humour

 

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…though Mrs. Blog rarely experiences the passion of the game as the author does

 

This match included its own highlight when between 10 and 15 thousand fans walked out in the 77th minute, protesting at increased ticket prices (£77 was to be the new top price ticket.)  Mrs. Blog and I used to “walk out together” but never from a football match — we’d paid good money to be there and travelled a long way. The price increases were rescinded by the club during the week that followed. The footy may be a bit rubbish at the moment (the team is “in transition”, where it has been since around 1992) but we do an inspirational walkout.

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“The 77th minute walkout” by LS Lowry.  Liverpool FC fans show their disapproval for the latest hike in ticket prices. 

 

The following day Mrs. Blog and I headed to the Lowry Centre at Salford Quays. I’d been a few times but it was a first for Mrs. B.  I prised her out of the “factory outlet” shopping mall opposite and we took in the permanent Lowry collection. I’m not good at describing paintings, and anyway you’re all familiar with them and you like them or you don’t – I don’t care. Mrs. B and I are both fans. I couldn’t help but notice that, almost without exception, the figures are walking. Or just leaning into the wind. You don’t see many driving about. Now, what’s that about? Can you not get those little figures into vehicles, or is Lowry saying something about pedestrianisation schemes in urban areas? Or the high cost of bus travel? Or – and I favour this – is he quietly saying “Look Blog, you can do this. Walk yourself thin….”

 

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Postscript

Blogdaughter invited us up to her flat in London for dinner a couple of weeks back. The journey, being Sunday, was something of a lottery – are there any more chilling words in the English language than “Replacement bus service in operation”?  But the dinner and the company were excellent. By my reckoning, that’s just another 15,000 or so hot meals and we’ll be quits.

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Southern Rail: Haywards Heath to Three Bridges replacement service Sunday 7 January

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14 thoughts on “The Road to Hull is Paved with Good Intentions

  1. Elaine says:

    Where north is has always been a mystery. Even further north it is still sign posted “The North.” As is well known North does not have to be at the top. We always have to check where it is and not take north for granted. Satnav has no respect at all for northness which is very confusing. This is why it is still a good idea to have a compass in one’s handbag (knapsack).

    Although no subtitles will be needed in the mid-north, apparently you will have to speak in an American accent if you have cause to contact Siri, should you lose your way. Siri’s most frequent response in my experience is ” I do not understand the question.” This, I think, is because I have not perfected my American accent. It may be prudent if you did a course in American English before you leave.

    If you walk “500 miles” you may miss your mark and end up in Scotland like The Proclaimers. A compass is essential !

    Lowry was born in 1887 pre car/ bus so the painting is probably one of his early ones.

    Why is The Pacific Ocean not an option?

    Happy Pilates and good luck !
    🍀

    • Hi Elaine. I knew my art appreciation skills were deficient — I think I missed the class on transport modal shift when I was occupied in the college bar voting to get the Yanks out of Vietnam. And many thanks for the helpful hints on what to carry in my handbag. If I reach Hadrians Wall I know I’ve gone the wrong way…

    • Hi Vicky! Who said anything about “and back”?? I knew you’d be jealous… Perhaps, when I’m no longer working for a living, I’ll become a more exotic travel writer but it’s harder to pop back from Oz when you run out of clean socks.

    • Hi David. I did explore a more northerly route via Wigan but there are good things to see between Liverpool and Manchester along the Mersey, and far less road walking! It’s not so easy to divert by a dozen or more miles on foot…

  2. Phil Thomas says:

    Great plan Steve – have fun. Have you read English Journey (JB Priestley) and Two Degrees West (Nicholas Crane) – good books for your journey.

  3. AlistairR says:

    As an ex-Harrogatonian, I must protest at its labelling on the map! Where does Yorkshire Tea come from? Good luck with your trek – look forward to the blog.

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