A Remembrance Day pilgrimage and a walk in the Lake District: walks inspired by Britain’s greatest poets
A century ago, with the smoke of the Great War just clearing across an exhausted Europe, a pacifist poetry writer was fast becoming Britain’s most celebrated poet. But sadly, he wasn’t alive to see it.
The author of the best-selling book, simply called ‘Poems’ and costing six shillings, was Wilfred Owen, a 25-year-old lieutenant in the Manchester Regiment, killed in northern France seven days before the Armistice was signed. His poems are among the most vivid and terrifying descriptions of war ever written. Take his description of the trenches in Dulce Et Decorum Est (Latin for ‘It is sweet and appropriate’) …
‘Bent in two, like old beggars under sacks, Tock-knee, coughing like witches, we cursed through the mud / Until in haunting flames we turned our backs, / And towards our distant rest we began to walk …’ Words have missed none of their hideous terror during the intervening century. In Remembrance Day week, we look at how the first lives of six great British poets, including Owen, are remembered across the country.
FOLLOW IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF WILFRED OWEN
Shrewsbury Abbey, pictured above, is one of the stops on the Wilfred Owen-inspired Tracks To The Trenches hike
The Tracks To The Trenches walk begins at Shrewsbury Station, where Wilfred’s father worked and where a young Owen went to war after joining the Artists Rifles. The last words she said to her brother, Harold, were from the window of an engine that was leaving here.
The three-mile walk then winds through the Underdale Road villas where the Owen family lived and, as a child, Wilfred grew potatoes in the garden. Then head to the grounds of Shrewsbury Abbey.
It was while the bells were ringing to declare peace here in 1918 that Owen’s parents were informed of his death by telegram.
Now there is a granite sculpture dedicated to his memory; its inauguration was marked by the release of 25 pigeons.
Download the route at shropshiresgreatoutdoors.co.uk.
Wander with the word
Captivating: Grasmere in the Lake District, which was the home of William Wordsworth
Wordsworth, pictured, is buried in St Oswald’s Church in Grasmere, listed on the Walking With Wordsworth route
The future Poet Laureate moved to Grasmere in 1799 after a trip to Germany made him long for the Lake District he remembered as a child.
This six-mile hike begins at Dove Cottage, where William and his sister, Dorothy, lived.
It has been modeled to look exactly like it did in the early nineteenth century, including the (wild) garden that Wordsworth wrote about: ‘This garden plot is ours; They are my trees, my sister’s flowers; Here rest your wings when they are tired; Stay here like in a sanctuary!
From the cottage, the hike takes you through caves and narrow paths that William and Dorothy would wander through, offering views over the vast Rydal Water and ending at St Oswald’s Church in Grasmere, where Wordsworth is buried.
See the Walking With Wordsworth route and book Dove Cottage tickets (£ 9.50 adults) at wordsworth.org.uk.
THE LITERARY LIFE OF PHILIP LARKIN
The downtown Larkin Trail guides poetry lovers through the streets of Hull, pictured above.
“Deprivation is to me what daffodils were to Wordsworth,” Larkin once wrote. It is unclear if he was referring to Hull, the city he called home for the last 30 years of his life (he rarely left the city while working as a librarian at the University of Hull, until his death in 1985), but the East Riding The center is in a much rougher state of health today than it was in Larkin’s time.
Hull was even the UK City of Culture in 2017.
The city center Larkin Trail, which takes about two and a half hours, begins near the looming statue of him at Paragon Train Station and encompasses many of the places that inspired his best works, including the Hull Royal. Hotel, described as a place. where ‘The light spreads darkly downward from the tall groups of lights above the empty chairs’ in his poem Friday Night At The Royal Station Hotel.
Finish the walk at the trendy Hull History Center, home to its huge collection of jazz records and original poetry notebooks.
Download the route at thelarkintrail.co.uk.
ENJOY A WALK AND A BURN HAGGIS
Brig O’Doon, in the background photo, is the 15th century bridge that Robert Burns included in his poem Tam O’Shanter.
The four-mile Burns Trail begins at the cabin Burns lived in until he was seven (pictured)
Born into dire poverty in the small town of Alloway, a leafy suburb just two miles from the Ayr spa, this walk begins at the cabin where Robert (the oldest of seven children) lived until he was seven.
From here, it’s an easy walk to the Poet’s Path, which features ten different weather vanes, all of which reference Burns’s poems, such as the ‘little, graceful, cowrin, shy beastie’ rodent described in Ode to a mouse. .
From here, walk to the Burns Birthplace Museum, which houses his handwritten manuscripts and has a cafe serving haggis, neeps, and tatties. The Great Burns Monument and Memorial Gardens is the next essential stop.
When it’s open, you can climb the stairs to the top of the monument, where you can look out over Brig O’Doon, the 15th-century bridge that Burns included in his poem Tam O’Shanter as the place where Tam’s horse, Meg , lost. his tail as he attempts to escape Nannie the witch. Or, as Burns so singularly puts it, “the carlin grabbed her behind and left Meg without a stump.”
See the four-mile Burns Trail at walkinghighlands.co.uk.
THE ROLE OF TED HUGHES
Pictured is the Ferry Boat Inn, where an older Ted Hughes could often be found having a pint of Mackeson stout beer. Image courtesy of Creative Commons
It’s hard to imagine this gruff and fiery poet doing something as mundane as a round of paper. But a young Ted Hughes (whose parents owned a newsstand) did just that on weekends in the south Yorkshire town of Mexborough in the early 1940s.
This two-mile trail is inspired by your previous route and will take you past the canal where you went fishing, the patch of land where you were chased by a wild horse (which inspires the poem The Rain Horse), and the Ferry Boat Inn, where an older Ted could often be found nursing a pint of Mackeson stout. The last stop on Hughes’s newspaper round was Old Denaby, home of the Manor Farm. This rural location inspired many of his poems, including the ‘front like masonry, deep keel neck’ of a cow in his piece The Bull Moses.
Follow the path in tedhughesproject.com/the-trail.
WINCHESTER GIFTS FROM LOVELORN KEATS
John Keats walked every day when he moved to Winchester, starting at the imposing Winchester Cathedral (pictured)
When poets fall in love, it tends to hit them more than most. Irish poet WB Yeats never really got over his love for Maud Gonne, while John Keats’s anxiety over the countless other men’s party invitations delivered to his beloved Fanny Brawne seemed only to exacerbate the tuberculosis that would kill him so prematurely in 1821, with only 25 years. .
In an attempt to recover, John moved to Winchester, where he took daily walks from the imposing cathedral along the water meadows and medieval asylums of St Cross. The walk in his footsteps lasts two hours, during which you can see what inspired him to write his poem To Autumn, where his love for Fanny was accommodated, in an unforgettable way, with the pathos of the season with the lines’ you sitting careless in a barn. ground. Your soft hair lifted by the blowing wind.
You can download the Keats ride at visit-hampshire.co.uk.