A Remembrance Day pilgrimage and Lake District walk – walks inspired by Britain’s greatest poets

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A century ago, when the smoke of the Great War barely dissipated in a worn out Europe, an anti-war poetry writer was quickly becoming Britain’s most famous poet. But, unfortunately, he was not alive to see it.

The author of the best-selling book, simply called “Poems” and costing six shillings, was Wilfred Owen, a 25-year-old lieutenant in the Manchester Regiment who was killed in northern France seven days before the signing of the armistice. His poems are among the most vivid and frightening depictions of war ever written. Take his description of trenches in Dulce Et Decorum Est (Latin for ‘It’s sweet and suitable’) …

“Bent over like old beggars under sacks, Kneeling, coughing like witches, we cursed through the mud / Until we turned our backs on the haunting rockets, / And towards our distant rest began to trudge… ”Words have lost none of their ominous dread over the intervening century. During Remembrance Day week, we take a look at how the early lives of six great British poets, including Owen, are commemorated across the country.

WALK IN WILFRED OWEN’S FOOTSTEPS

Shrewsbury Abbey, pictured above, is one of the stages of the Tracks To The Trenches walk inspired by Wilfred Owen

The Tracks To The Trenches walk begins at Shrewsbury Station, where Wilfred’s father worked and where a young Owen left for war after joining the Artist Rifles. The last words he said to his brother, Harold, came from the window of a locomotive leaving here.

The three-mile walk then winds past the villas on Underdale Road where the Owen family lived, and as a boy Wilfred grew potatoes in the garden. You then head to the grounds of Shrewsbury Abbey.

It was when the bells rang to declare peace here in 1918 that Owen’s parents were notified of his death by telegram.

There is now a granite sculpture dedicated to his memory; its unveiling was marked by the release of 25 doves.

Download the route from shropshiresgreatoutdoors.co.uk.

wander with words

Captivating: Grasmere in the Lake District, home to William Wordsworth

Captivating: Grasmere in the Lake District, home to William Wordsworth

Wordsworth, pictured, is buried at St Oswald's Church in Grasmere, which is on the Walking With Wordsworth route

Wordsworth, pictured, is buried at St Oswald’s Church in Grasmere, which is on the Walking With Wordsworth route

The future Poet Laureate moved to Grasmere in 1799 after a trip to Germany made him homesick for the Lake District he remembered as a child.

This six mile walk begins at Dove Cottage, where William and his sister, Dorothy lived.

It was modeled to look like it was in the early 1800s, including the (half-wild) garden of which Wordsworth wrote: “This patch of orchard is ours; These are my trees, my sister’s flowers; Here rest your wings when they are tired; Here lodges as in a sanctuary!

From the chalet the walk will take you through caves and along narrow paths that William and Dorothy would walk, offering views over the vast Rydal Water and ending at St Oswald’s Church in Grasmere, where Wordsworth is buried.

Check out the Walking With Wordsworth route and book Dove Cottage tickets (£ 9.50 adults) at wordsworth.org.uk.

THE LITERARY LIFE OF PHILIP LARKIN

The downtown Larkin Trail guides poetry lovers through the streets of Hull, pictured above

The downtown Larkin Trail guides poetry lovers through the streets of Hull, pictured above

“Deprivation is to me what daffodils were to Wordsworth,” Larkin wrote. It is not clear if he was referring to Hull, the city he lived in for the last 30 years of his life (rarely leaving the city while working as a librarian at the University of Hull, until when he died in 1985), but the East Riding hub is in much rougher health today than it was in Larkin’s day.

Hull was even UK City of Culture in 2017.

The downtown Larkin Trail, which takes about two and a half hours, begins near the impending statue of him at Paragon Station and encompasses many places that have inspired his finest works, such as the Hull Royal Hotel, described as a place where “The light spreads darkly downward from the high beams of light on empty chairs” in his poem Friday Night At The Royal Station Hotel.

End the walk at Hull’s Modern History Center, home to its huge collection of jazz records and original poetry books.

Download the route from thelarkintrail.co.uk.

ENJOY A WALK AND A HAGGIS WITH BURNS

The Brig O'Doon, pictured in the background, is the 15th century bridge that Robert Burns included in his poem by Tam O'Shanter

The Brig O’Doon, pictured in the background, is the 15th century bridge that Robert Burns included in his poem by Tam O’Shanter

The four-mile Burns Trail begins at the cabin where Burns lived until he was seven (pictured)

The four-mile Burns Trail begins at the cabin where Burns lived until he was seven (pictured)

Born into abject poverty in the small town of Alloway, a leafy suburb just three kilometers from the seaside resort of Ayr, this walk begins at the cottage where Robert (the eldest of seven children) lived until l age seven.

From there it’s an easy walk to the Poet’s Trail, which features ten different weather vanes, all of which refer to Burns’ poems such as the rodent “pee, smooth, cowrin, beast tim’rous” that he described in Ode To A Mouse.

From there, walk to the Burns Birthplace Museum, home to his handwritten manuscripts and home to a cafe serving haggis, neeps, and tatties. The great Burns Monument and Memorial Gardens is the next essential stop.

When open you can climb the stairs to the top of the monument where you can admire the Brig O’Doon, the 15th century Burns Bridge included in his poem Tam O’Shanter as the place where Tam’s horse , Meg, lost her tail in her attempt to escape Nannie the Witch. Or, as Burns puts it, “the pug grabbed her by the rump and let Meg stink” barely a stump “.

See the four mile Burns Trail route at walkinghighlands.co.uk.

THE TED HUGHES PAPER TRAIL

Pictured is the Ferry Boat Inn, where an older Ted Hughes could often be found feeding a pint of Mackeson stout.  Image courtesy of Creative Commons

Pictured is the Ferry Boat Inn, where an older Ted Hughes could often be found feeding a pint of Mackeson stout. Image courtesy of Creative Commons

It’s hard to imagine this gruff, smoking poet doing something as mundane as a round of paper. But a young Ted Hughes (whose parents owned a newsagent) did just that on weekends in the town of Mexborough, South Yorkshire, in the early 1940s.

This three-kilometer trail is inspired by its old route and will take you past the canal where he went fishing, the patch of land where he was chased by a wild horse (inspiring the poem The Rain Horse) and the Ferry Boat. Inn, where you could often find an older Ted feeding a pint of Mackeson stout. The last stop on Hughes’ paper round was Old Denaby, home to Manor Farm. This rural location has inspired many of his poems, including a cow’s “forehead like masonry, deep-keeled neck” in his play The Bull Moses.

Follow the route at tedhughesproject.com/the-trail.

LOVELORN KEATS WINCHESTER TREATS

John Keats took daily walks when he moved to Winchester, starting with the imposing Winchester Cathedral (pictured)

John Keats took daily walks when he moved to Winchester, starting with the imposing Winchester Cathedral (pictured)

When poets have love sickness, it tends to hit them harder than most. Irish poet WB Yeats never quite got over his love for Maud Gonne as John Keats’ anxiety over countless party invitations from other men to his beloved Fanny Brawne only seemed to exacerbate tuberculosis. who would kill him so prematurely in 1821, at only 25 years old. .

In an attempt to recover, John moved to Winchester, where he took daily walks from the imposing cathedral along the water meadows and medieval almshouses of St Cross. The walk in her footsteps lasts two hours, during which you can see what inspired him to write his poem In the fall, where his love for Fanny went to bed, unforgettable, with the pathos of the season with the lines ‘you sitting casually on an attic floor. Your soft hair lifted by the winnowing wind.

You can download the Keats Walk from visit-hampshire.co.uk.

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