Walking Away by Simon Armitage, abridged by Libby Spurrier

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Walking Away by Simon Armitage, abridged by Libby Spurrier. Prod. Joanna Green. Perf. Armitage. BBC Radio 4, 15-19 June 2015. BBCiPlayer

In the footsteps of the old-style troubadours, poet Simon Armitage embarks on a walk along the coastal fringes of Britain's south-west through Somerset, Devon, and Cornwall, taking no money and living instead on the money earned from poetry readings, as well as the charity of those he encounters along the way.

The narrative contains several familiar tropes of any travel narrative, including vivid descriptions of some of the places he visits and the people he encounters. He is very much taken by Ilfracombe's fading Victorian charm, and Clovelly's eccentric ambiance (most people have to pay an entrance fee to visit the place, except for walkers such as himself). He performs in a variety of venues to audiences large and small; sometimes he has to compete with over-zealous drinkers and serving staff more concerned to provide their clientele with suitable provender; on other occasions patrons sleep during his readings or choose to turn on their IPads instead. He fields occasionally maddening questions ("Do you actually write your poems?") and copes with one person who tells him that she used one of his poems in a creative writing competition at university, and only received a B grade for it. So much for Armitage's status as a poet.

We also learn about Armitage's contrasting feelings: on occasions he is transfixed by the beauty of the landscapes he encounters; on others he suffers from backache, tiredness, aching feet and walking-boots that fall apart. Yet the experience seems worthwhile, if only for the fact that there are so many eccentrics pursuing their idiosyncratic existences peppered throughout the country.

Read with dry wit and considerable sympathy, "Walking Away" paid tribute to Britons and the environments they inhabit.