Poet plans to travel from Minehead to the Scilly Isles this summer, giving poetry readings in return for food and shelter
The award-winning poet Simon Armitage is preparing to throw himself on the hospitality of the people of south-west England this summer when he sets out to walk the coast path alone, paying his way with poetry.
Armitage, recovered from the challenge of walking the Pennine Way in 2010, will set out from Minehead on 29 August, intending to arrive in Land's End on 17 September, a distance of around 260 miles. He hopes to barter his way "from start to finish", giving poetry readings in local pubs, schools and village halls in return for food and shelter.
"The whole idea is that of the barter. All I've got to offer is my work, and the reading of it," said Armitage, who was awarded the CBE for services to poetry in 2010. "Will that be enough for people to say I can stay at their home, or that they'll give me some sandwiches? I'm looking for anyone who can tolerate me … In the Pennines there was never a night when I didn't have anywhere to stay, even if it was in someone's front room."
Armitage's Pennine walk gave rise to the book Walking Home, and he is planning to write a follow-up, Walking Away, about his journey through Somerset, Devon and Cornwall.
"The first book turned out to be about people and their stories, and that's what I'm hoping to find this time," he said. "I don't imagine as much jeopardy as there was in the Pennines, where I got lost quite a few times; but the south-west coast path has its own peculiarities and tricky sections: a lot of valleys and ravines. And it'll be a completely different rhythm – the rhythm of the tides, rather than the rhythm of the rain clouds in the Pennines. And there'll be this constant companion of the sea on one side."
Armitage also hopes that locals will be keen to walk along with him. "On the Pennine Way, quite often people turned up to walk with me, so I'd get unexpected expert analysis," he said. "That idea of the companion was my most valued aspect of the Pennine Way, although I was on my own a lot too. You do want those Wordsworthian moments of tranquility, although in this case it will be Coleridgian, but you also want the person from Porlock to interrupt you."
Once he reaches Land's End, Armitage will travel across to the Scilly Isles, where when the tide is lowest he hopes to walk between the islands of Tresco, Bryher and Samson. "The idea is to get there at the lowest tide on a full moon, which in theory means it's possible to walk between two or three of the islands," he said. "I hope they like poetry."