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Actually experiencing a walk – being in nature, seeing spectacular scenery, exercising – these things are all very well, but what really matters is having the right kit. I’m sure you’re wondering what kind of gear I wear for this epic journey. Wonder no more…

Boot-wise, I have a pair of Berghaus Explorer V, bought shortly before the start of the journey. (I note that they’re for ‘Performance Trekking’ – a hybrid of performance art and walking – perfect!) I’m hoping to stick to these throughout so that they become part of the record of my travels. This pair came in fetching black and grey, giving them a kind of Goth/industrial look that helps me fool myself that I’m still one of the cool kids. I had a pair of Karrimor KSB prior to these, which lasted over 10 years. They never fully recovered from a walk across the sands to Lindisfarne, made at the end of St Cuthbert’s Way on the day of Princess Diana’s funeral. (KSB owners please note: prolonged exposure to seawater at times of extreme national mourning may be detrimental to the fabric.) However both they and I kept going for a few more years, and I finally abandoned them in a bin at the back of the Old Inn, Gairloch, in about 2005. Not quite a Viking funeral, but not a bad place to end up…
oldinn

Pretty much everything else I wear is from the Paramo range. Alta jacket, Cascada trousers and gaiters are my basic equipment, for most seasons of the year, low-level or high. I am a fan of Paramo – simply because I always feel comfortable in their stuff. I have walked all day in driving rain and remained dry and comfortable, while my membrane-shielded companions (unable to wean themselves from GoreTex and the like) have been soggy and miserable. The articulated designs mean that when I clamber up a steep bit the clothes aren’t dragging anywhere – I feel like a playful animal, secure in its own pelt. And there’s no flapping of stiff, sail-like material in the wind.

Some of my mates mock me for having a ‘heavy’ coat – so much so that I once took one of those hanging scale things with a hook on it along on a trip to the lakes, to prove that my coat weighed the same as the fleece-and-waterproof ensembles of my companions. You would think I was wearing a Victorian diving suit to hear them go on – and, yes, there are lighter waterproofs available. However the Paramo coats have been designed lighter since my first one, and based on experience I wear my stuff in all kinds of weathers and seldom feel the need to change or put layers on and off.

paramo ho

‘…and I’ll fight anyone who says this coat looks ‘heavy”

Perhaps, like Pringles, Paramo clothes contain an evil addictive substance. I would certainly like to have more – the shirts, fleeces and cargo trousers all look great – and, with their various roomy pockets, may help me achieve my ambition of being able to buy a dozen paperbacks and a couple of rare hardbacks in the dealers’ room at a science fiction convention and carry them all without needing to be encumbered with a bag of any kind (or alert Jennie to my profligacy). And I’m sure my journey towards Brighton will be enhanced by even more comfortable, breathable clothing (in black)…

All that remains is for them to bring out a workwear range and I will be able to close the gaps and be 100% Paramo, 24/7. Please consider a reversible Parameter tie as a fixture on my wish list.

The fact that we get Paramo and other outdoor stuff from an exceptionally nice shop helps keep the addiction going. Whalley Warm and Dry (WWD) is always a pleasure to visit – the staff are knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and it’s always friendly, with cups of tea offered and no sense that bizarre questions are unwelcome. I see they do online too – though online customers probably don’t get the cup of tea (?)

A couple of years ago we bought a tent from WWD (the Wynnster Venus in Furs model, now discontinued) – hopefully having its first outing next week – when it will be a sort of basecamp for my further travels through Shropshire. More then. Meanwhile, stay breathable…

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Desire paths

‘Desire paths’ – what a great concept! As well as being a two-word poem, it is a term from landscape architecture describing the paths people actually want to take to get somewhere, which often differ from those that have been planned and built. The Flickr photo pool dedicated to the phenomenon has many examples – paths worn in grass by the people’s footfall, holes in fences removing unwanted interruptions to the desired route, springboards to unsanctioned vistas.

maghull

An example from Maghull. The mighty engine of walkers’ desire has made a space in the fence and flattened the spikes. A scramble up the bank creates a logical route up on to a main road. Once there, you’ll be lucky to see ‘herds of wildebeest sweeping across the plain’, but a Matalan outlet and Vue Cinema are in easy reach…

Maybe all journeys are like this. I haven’t read it yet, but a book called Paths of Desire: The Passions of a Suburban Gardener broadens the ‘desire path’ metaphor beyond its technical meaning: ‘how people actually move from place to place, whether in physical space or emotionally and psychically.’

Maybe all our significant journeys are on desire paths, with occasional detours into the wheel-ruts and bowling-alley gutters of official routes.

One thing I’ve noticed on my walk: sometimes a path is defined by the wispiest shadows, the faintest signs of tread – one feels like a pioneering Western tracker spotting ‘sign’ and hunting… something.

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Awake early having slept since 8pm, having had strange dreams perhaps caused by reading Alan Garner’s Thursbitch, a powerful novel of overlapping time, set in Cheshire, deep in the language, mythology and geology of the place. Morning reading somewhat lighter – ‘At Your Leisure with Premier Inn’, a free magazine left in the room. Although produced ‘In association with the Daily Mail’, it doesn’t focus exclusively on the interests of Mail readers (‘The Dover Premier Inn is a great place to relax and thrash yourself into a moral panic about immigration…’) but does offer a copywriter’s view of Britain, divided into tourist zones where ‘whichever attraction you choose, there’s always a Premier Inn close by’. Written for people in the (to me inconceivable) position of entertaining children as well as themselves, it’s full of hyped up, accelerated statements: ‘For the ultimate North West experience check out some of these great attractions: Belle Vue Greyhound Stadium…’

In this scheme, the North West is a place to ‘Do something different’, whereas the Midlands promises ‘Novel ideas for great days out’, (‘novel’ referencing the literary connections, ‘the fascinating worlds of Robin Hood and William Shakespeare, Ivanhoe and DH Lawrence’. The phrase ‘walk back through fossilised time’ brings me back to Alan Garner territory, and the track of today’s walk…

twirl

First in the pub as soon as it opens, that’s my policy – in this case 8am for breakfast in the Twirl of Hay. The plan is to stoke up on the all-you-can-eat options, enough to avoid the necessity of a lunch stop, but not so much that I become an immobilised Mr Creosote figure. It’s a friendly place and the breakfast is nice. I enjoyed sitting there as people drifted in. Background music started with a Kraftwerk track, but sadly strayed from a promising krautrock theme into more easy-listening territory. I ate porridge and looked at the motley walls of reclaimed brick, traces of paint and staining indicating the diverse origins of each brick, wondering idly if events of the past might be imprinted on objects in the environment, as suggested in numerous ghost stories such as Nigel Kneale’s The Stone Tape. If so, what happens when the bricks are dispersed – the outhouse wall that witnessed a fevered betrayal now divided between new-build replicas of converted barns, strategically-sited copies of olde worlde pubs, commuter-belt garden walls? Is the recorded experience replicated in all of them? Does each new construction become a massive cutup text of hauntings, or do they all blend into a supernatural emulsion?

If ghostly consciousnesses linger here, I hope they enjoy the endless music (‘Just like Starting Over’), the workaholic wifi breakfast emails, the alcoholic afternoon chasers, the daily dust settling on dried flowers, the slowly evaporating condiments…

vinegar

But don’t be put off by my entropic whimsy. This breakfast gets 4 stars, the staff are great, all is forgiven on the Fayre front. I’m stoked up, like James Bond ready to ski away from Blofeld’s mountain headquarters. Hang on, that makes me George Lazenby – oh well…

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Commenting on this blog, Jack Sargeant (the Charles Manson of academia) says ‘ i like the mix of psychogeography and autobiography – will now feel like i am cyberstalking everytime i read it.’ (Bear in mind this was just a Facebook note – Jack’s many books feature all your favourite capital letters, correctly deployed.) It’s an interesting take, and one I’ll keep in my wampum bag. Perhaps this is a kind of consensual cyberstalking – in which case, bring it on…

The WordPress stats package gives lots of useful information, including a list of search terms used by people who have arrived at the site – momentary cyberstalkers, lured by linguistic breadcrumbs I have accidentally scattered into the interweb. Here’s some of the things people came here to find (poor, deluded fools)…

old photos of maghull – sorry, no real local history here.

chinese take away maghull – nor catering advice.

a kid walking home – er… maybe?

dru t liverpool – never met her, honest.

walking home the long way round book – no that was another bloke (it’s quite good and I hope they found it.)

what is lydiate like as place to live – my passing comments based on a walk along the canal may have been some help.

spaghetti junctions, infinity sign – obviously an airborne semiotician, decoding the symbolism of the transport networks – welcome, friend.

pictures of giros with anorexia - a specialised interest for which I cannot cater (there is a post combining mention of the National Giro centre and, later, a comparison of myself with an anorexic gymnast - but I fear this visitor may have left disappointed.)

pier to pier networking (three times) – heh, yes that was funny wasn’t it. A quip well worth seeking out.

child walking with father golf club pict – I like the Picts as much as any prehistoric tribe, but they can intrude on a family moment – best go armed with a golf club to fend them off – that’s my advice, for what it’s worth.

sentence using “detritus” – possibly a satisfied customer as most of my sentences include this word.

Keep stalking folks, you’re all getting invited to the party on the pier at the end…

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I’m still at the planning stages but hope to post soon.

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