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Glovin’ it

‘There’s a town and it’s not much to look at’

I’d never been to Yeovil before and hadn’t given the town much thought at all – one of the few things I associated with it was The Chesterfields’ song Last Train to Yeovil and particularly the lyric above. In fact if pushed it would mostly be music I would mention if I had to say what I knew about the place. (Although I do know that Yeovil Town FC used to play on a sloping pitch.) PJ Harvey was brought up thereabouts and Frank Turner is famously a Wessex boy. (One of my enduring memories of the dying days of New Labour is of Gordon Brown, still Prime Minister, appearing on the Andrew Marr Show in April 2010 and watching in utter bemusement as good old Polly Jane, playing her autoharp, performed Let England Shake.)

I now know that in the mid-19th century the town was the centre of the glove making industry and that in 2006 Yeovil became the first town in Britain to institute a somewhat controversial system of biometric fingerprint scanning in nightclubs. Individuals wishing to gain access to one of the town’s nightclubs were asked in the first instance to submit their personal details for inclusion in a central system. Me, I’d popped down on the Friday to sell some t-shirts for the Wedding Present gig at the Orange Box that evening and then do a bit of walking the day after.

I don’t know if the biometric experiment is still in operation but I wasn’t asked to submit any personal details at the Wetherspoons nor on the door at the Orange Box. And well I never, Simon Barber (of Chesterfields fame) was 2nd on the bill with his new band Design and sitting around in the almost deserted venue. The venue began to fill steadily and I guess the world probably doesn’t need any more singer-songwriters but a pretty decent one – Nick Parker – began the night. The Wedding Present were their usual entertaining selves and t-shirt sales were brisk.

Armed with the local OS map and fortified with a cooked breakfast that did its job and took the edge off of last night’s beer we headed out to explore the countryside around Yeovil. It’s probably a bit harsh to say there’s not much to look at but it is a fairly identikit sort of a town. A  Greggs, the average number of charity shops and all the other stuff you’d expect to find these days.  

Maybe it’s just me but I often find the most difficult thing is getting out of any town – hey it’s almost as if they don’t want you to visit the countryside. The weather forecast was predicting rain about 3 pm and there was a train, out of Yeovil Junction, to Waterloo about 2.30 pm so we headed for Nine Springs Country Park and then looked for the Monarch’s Way. Commemorating Charles I’s flight from Cromwell, this story can now be re-traced in one of the country’s most varied walks. I knew the creator and founder of this route, Trevor Anthill, and his sudden death in August 2010 was not only a terrible loss for his family and friends but also the walking community.

Maybe people don’t get out of Yeovil much because once out of the town some of the footpaths didn’t show much evidence of being walked and we hardly saw anyone else at all. I reckon it’s quite fun to do some walking on the fly – no real plan but just a map and the signposts when you’re out there. Just after leaving The Monarchs Way  near Coker Moor sewage works we needed to check the map quite carefully to see where we actually were. A few footpaths that were overgrown and a couple of missing signposts had put us about kilometre further east than we’d expected. We were soon back on track though, passing a llama farm – aren’t alpacas funny creatures? – and we made the train with 10 minutes to spare and despite the ominous black clouds that accompanied us for the last hour or so we beat the rain.

I used the 10 minutes at the station to buy some coke, crisps and chocolate from an old guy running the cafe who used to live in Putney and who knew my local in Kingston – The Boaters Inn. It was a good weekend of walking, music and beer and, you know, I don’t know who invented gloves but I reckon you’ve got to hand it to them.

More information:

OS Map used – Explorer 129 Yeovil & Sherbourne

Pay less when you order this map here: http://www.ramblers.org.uk/fundraising/shop/anquet-map.htm

 

Listen to:

The Chesterfields – Last Train To Yeovil

Bubblegum Splash – 18:10 To Yeovil Junction

Frank Turner – Wessex Boy

The Wedding Present – Don’t Take Me Home Until I’m Drunk – Acoustic Version

Nick Parker – Metaphor

The Smiths – Hand In Glove

Pulp – Pink Glove

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Northern Man

12 July 2010

From the sublime to the ridiculous – not only am I not in London for this blog I’m nearly as far away as you can be and still be in England. I’m 320 miles up north within sight of Hadrian’s Wall outside the hostel at Once Brewed. I’ve journeyed up here to walk a stretch of the Pennine Way – 11k (about 7 miles) from Once Brewed to Greenhead – with the poet Simon Armitage. The 429 kilometre (268 miles) Pennine Way National Trail chases the Pennine Mountain tops along the rugged backbone of England. Its route includes the Peak District through the Yorkshire Dales and over Hadrian’s Wall to the Cheviots and is amongst the finest upland walking in England.

The day started with a poetry reading in the visitor centre but me and Simon had spent the time before chatting about the previous evening’s World Cup Final (he’s a season ticket holder at Manchester United). We were both outraged at the Dutch conduct – total football to total thuggery if you ask me – and fairly happy that this approach didn’t reap any reward. I’ve no idea whether the reading was well attended – Simon seemed happy enough – cos I’ve never been to one before. The weather was great, nice ‘n’ sunny without being too hot but I was fooled into not applying any sun screen and so finished more than a bit ruddy faced in the afternoon.

We were joined by a local – Marjorie – for the first coupla miles. Simon had been saying that he’d seen very few other walkers so far on his journey but today while not teeming with people we saw enough to keep up a fairly regular ‘hi ya’ greeting along the Wall. Right at this point I can hear the more experienced of you walkers out there muttering ‘but he’s walking the thing in the wrong direction’. Well firstly that’d be reason enough for me but he’s doing it from top to bottom  – finishing in Edale – because he lives near there and he likes the idea of walking home. (The existing guidebooks suggest that to keep the weather at your back you should go south to north – aah that would account for my red face then.)

Simon and I have a mutual friend – The Wedding Present’s David Gedge – and although I’m not very familiar with the poetry I’ve read Gig. As a result when we’ve exhausted the football conversation – there’s really only so much a Man U and a Chelsea fan can agree on – we start on music. With its mile forts, funnily enough every mile, Hadrian’s Wall counts you handily along the route. Just outside Greenhead we finally get round to talking about walking (see what I did there – poetry huh?). Just why he chose the Pennine Way for his wandering minstrel begging act? Why walking is important to him and much more. All this will appear in a future edition of walk magazine. Here though in homage to Simon’s interviewing technique is the list of ‘or’ questions along with his answers (underlined) I asked:

 

Walker or Rambler

Right of Way or Right to Roam

Mountain or Moor

Lady Gaga or Madonna

Goal line technology or No Goal line technology

Shelley or Keats

iPhone or Blackberry

Serena or Venus

Beer or Lager

Town or Country

George Formby or David Gedge

He entered properly into the spirit of this only enhancing his answers twice – he was adamant that town did not include city and that Lady Gaga was chosen for his daughter. All in all it was a great day and I end by wishing Simon well for the rest of the walk especially as the weather forecast for the next few days isn’t as favourable as today. (His exploits from the whole walk – including some poetry – will appear in a new book sometime soon.) I blag a lift back to Once Brewed and begin the long drive south.

Listen to:

Detroit Social Club – Northern Man

Johnny Tillotson – Poetry In Motion

Laura Marling – Rambling Man

Morrissey – Sister I’m A Poet

The Wedding Present – Corduroy – Single Version

 The Fall – British People In Hot Weather

 

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