For as long as I can remember there have been two constants in my life: walking and reading. Setting out on a long, bracing walk or losing myself in the pages of a book help me see the world more clearly, to breathe, to find solace, inspiration and the answers to life’s questions both big and small. So, what better way than to combine the two? Here I explore my favourite walks with a literary connection:
Featured in Sarah Waters’ 1998 novel ‘Tipping the Velvet’ this North Kent seaside town with its expanse of shingle beach, abundance of oysters and breathtaking sunsets is one of my favourite coastal walking routes. Visit in spring when the weather is fine but the beach hasn’t been lost to the summer crowds.
Slish Wood, Sligo
Immortalised by Yeats in his poem, Stolen Child, this labyrinthine woodland offers a chance to forget your cynicism and salute the fairies about whom the poem was written, for if you listen very, very carefully you may just hear their song.
The River Thames at Pangbourne
Follow in the footsteps of Ratty, Mole, Toad and Badger along this idyllic stretch of riverside where time slows down and lunch is a lazy afternoon picnic under the shade of a weeping willow.
Haworth to Top Withens
Leave the bustle of the town far behind as you set out to explore Bronte country and see the desolate farmstead reputed to have been Emily Bronte’s inspiration for Wuthering Heights.
Coastal Walk at Fowey
Explore the dramatic Cornish landscape that Daphne Du Maurier drew upon for novels such as Rebecca and Jamaica Inn. Taking in coastal fields, coves, woodland and clifftops this walk is sure to invigorate and inspire.
Covent Garden to Soho
I spent my early twenties living on Frith Street in Soho and would relish my early morning walks through deserted streets where the neon of the night before faded, ghostlike, in the light of the sun. In those quiet few hours before the crowds descended it was quite possible to imagine the ghosts of Woolf, Dickens, Stevenson and Orwell stepping out of the shadows as I passed their familiar haunts.
The author AA Milne, who lived close by, was thought to have drawn inspiration for Winnie the Pooh’s beloved Hundred Acre Wood from this enchanting forest with its spectacular views across the Sussex countryside. Be sure to bring a picnic and plenty of honey.
Lewes to Rodmell
This little pocket of East Sussex, where the river snakes it way through the landscape, inspired my latest novel Day of the Accident and is also the place where the novelist Virginia Woolf lived and died. The beauty of the Sussex countryside, the smell of meadowsweet that hangs on the air and the river, milky with chalk residue, that guides my way as I walk this route always fills me with an incredible sense of hope and wellbeing. As Woolf herself once remarked as she cast her eye across this landscape: ‘The Downs…too much for one pair of eyes, enough to float a whole population in happiness, if only they would look.’
Day of the Accident by Nuala Ellwood is published by Penguin, £7.99.
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