So far, the route has been easy to plan – the start had to be the start, and Ormskirk made a natural finish for the first day and start for the second. From now on, both starts and finishes will need to be travelled to. For the next few legs, familiar public transport options will make handy nodes on the route (and I’ve even been invited for a cup of tea.) But once I cross the Mersey, the logistics will become trickier, requiring me to cross-reference walking routes, transport options, accommodation possibilities, and the likelihood of (me being able to sell the idea of) weaving in holidays and weekends.
So routeplanning will be fairly rough and ready until I come to each section. At the moment I’m planning to turn ‘right’ at Runcorn and pick up one of the many walking routes through Cheshire into Shropshire, with Wolverhampton the next place I have to stop at if I’m keeping to the ‘visit everywhere I’ve lived’ plan. I daresay I’ll wander into Staffs at some point.
I do plan to use long distance paths as the backbone of the route, partly out of convenience, and partly out of enthusiasm for pedestrian rites of way (spelling deliberate.) The persistence of a network of footpaths is a minor miracle, and the fact that they join up in an arterial system spanning the country a major one. The action of keeping them alive by walking them has a sort of poetic, ritual power. They’re like a slower, dreamier highway system – neural pathways for the immemorial thoughts of shires and regions.
Although I cannot be precise yet about which paths I’ll use, I’m hoping to walk a bit of the Monarch’s Way in Shrops or Staffs, and to pick it up again way down in Shoreham. This insanely meandering route follows ‘the escape of Charles ll after the Battle of Worcester in 1651’ when ‘For six exciting weeks, and hotly pursued by the parliamentary forces under Oliver Cromwell, he travelled first north through what is now the Black Country, then south through the Cotswolds and the Mendips to the South Coast, and finally along the South Downs to Shoreham where he made his escape to France.’ Sampling bits of this 610-mile path appeals to me, for some reason. Perhaps, in Shoreham, I’ll visit Roy Chuter’s pub and sit contemplating my own Charles-like retreats, defeats, evasions, exiles and strange moustaches.