JOURNEY HOME by John Hillaby


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Hillaby (Journey through Britain, Journey through Europe), now white-bearded and a recently remarried widower, undertakes a slightly less ambitious walking-tour this time: from England's northwest Cumbrian coast, across to the Yorkshire moors, then south through the coastal fens, into Lincolnshire, Norfolk, and Suffolk. . . to home near Hampstead Heath in north London. As before, however, there's no limit to the density of observation along the way, to the far-flung digressions and ironic, bemused meditations. Throughout, the search is for footpaths, not roads--a somewhat easier quest in the bleak north (the hills, the lunar landscapes, the Wolds) than further south. Historical associations are mused upon--from Roman ruins in Cumbria to Viking Way in the east, from an escape route for the future Charles II to the demise-locale for King John. Literary links are sparse: a bit of Wordsworthiana, of course, while still near the Lake District (as for WW's married life with sister in tow, ""Decorate it as you will, the mÉnage à trois is a dismal house""); a glance at Tennyson's unheralded birthplace. Substantial interaction with the locals--e.g., a shrimping expedition in The Wash--is infrequent. But Hillaby's curiosity bubbles when it comes to wildlife (""I don't think toads are given the respect they deserve""), geology, forestry. And virtually anything can trigger an autobiographical reminiscence: the town of Scarborough summons up boarding-school horrors; a Ministry of Defence forest brings WW II exploits to mind; a rainstorm recalls similar weather on an Italian walk; and a glance at two ""bosomy"" clouds in the sky leads to (tasteful) references to first sexual exploits. The pace here, then, is leisurely, to say the least--with moments, too, to celebrate the virtues of new wife Katie (""Madam""), who joins in some of the hiking but also (endearingly) takes off in a car from time to time. So while readers who share Hillaby's rangy, outdoorsy interests will find this a grand, vigorously informative, often-eloquent ramble, others may prefer the people-and-places approach of Frank Entwisle's Abroad in England (1983).

Pub Date: Sept. 4th, 1984
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston