Right to Ramble
From Paddington to
Penzance: In the Footsteps of C.G. Harper
These are my notes based on a close reading of C.G. Harper's book,
published in 1893, From Paddington to Penzance: The Record of a Summer
Tramp from London to the Land's End.
They are, at present, a virtual trip. While I was born in England, have
lived there on and off and have family ties that connect me to
have little familiarity with this trip. It still awaits. As with other
virtual trips, I have not adorned it with contemporary photographs.
There will be none until they are my own.
Harper's book is not, to my knowledge, online. It is long out of print.
If you want it, you'll have to walk to your local
second-hand/antiquarian dealer and have him or her find it for you.
Okay, you can check out Abebooks,
the second-hand organization that has hundreds of international
booksellers on its lists. Last time I looked there were five listings
of Harper's book, running from about $45 to 390 (US).
(October 2013: 300 Cdn = 289 U.S). In 2013, you can get a pdf. of
the book for about $10.00 from a bookseller on Abebooks or about
$22 at Amazon.
If you want to look at digital versions of some of Harper's other
books, have a look at the
(1843-1943) was an English writer and illustrator, mostly of travel
books. He was born in London. I have not been able to find any
information beyond what he reveals in his books. From them, I imagine
him as a gentleman of some independent means that allowed him to travel
the countryside with a companion, sketching and writing as he went. His
writing can sometimes be suspiciously modest and sometimes his
"gentleman" status shows through.
In our travels, we shall draw upon Harper's extensive travel knowledge,
revel over his fine drawings and take him to task whenever his class
presumptions overcome him. At the same time, I have a confession. As a
long-time left-wing activist and writer, I harbour a secret liking for
the image of the idle gent rambling the countryside whither his fancy
takes him, merrily swinging his walking stick and clad in a long
weather-resistant coat with a well-worn fedora. Even Thoreau, never so
much the English gent as Harper, has that air about him
even when he speaks for the people.
not the most emancipated traveller. Frontispiece
from his reactionary book Revolted
That said, we should acknowledge Harper's embarrassingly backward
pieces, such as the
Women. We travel, thankfully, in his footsteps, not with
Harper says that if you draw a straight line from Paddington to
Penzance on an ordinance map, it looks like the trip is 265 miles. The
most direct coach road is 297 miles. Harper then pleads that he and his
companion (who we know only as "The Wreck") were so swayed by impulse
and circumstance that they could not possibly estimate the actual
distance travelled. They ask the reader to refer to the map (p 3, 4).
Today, putting in the appropriate start point and end destination,
Google maps will tell you the walking distance is 281 miles (452 km),
travelling along some fairly major A-type highways. Like Harper, I will
have to defer a definitive distance until I actual put my GPS to
service on the route. (By the way, I usually stick to kilometres as my
major measure, but as Harper refers to miles, I'll be switching back
(October, 2013 update: Google says the distance is 276 miles. and it can be done in 92 hours.)
Google instructions for walkers read "at the roundabout, take the first
exit..." No, I think we've established Google is only a very rough
guide for walkers.
By car, Google estimates it's 306 miles and you can do it in 5 hours
and 22 minutes, belting down the M1 and the M4.
a walker goes (say) three miles an hour (or almost five km) on the
flat, walking ten hours a day would take about 10 days with no breaks.
That sounds like no fun. For a comparison, the Thames Trail is 184
miles long from near the mouth to the source. The Thames Trail website
14 days, including a couple of days to rest. That's more like it.
Suffice to say, we'll take a lot longer than the Google folks estimate.
"Dreadful tourists" and "prigs." H. snipes at those who have gone
Paddington to Richmond
4. Richmond, Ham
House and thereabouts including a pub or two, Petersham
Church, Fanny Burney and more.
5. New Forest
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