Walking the Great North Line

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What to expect

Robert Twigger, poet and travel author, was in search of a new way up England when he stumbled across the Great North Line. From Christchurch on the South Coast to Old Sarum to Stonehenge, to Avebury, to Notgrove barrow, to Meon Hill in the midlands, to Thor’s Cave, to Arbor Low stone circle, to Mam Tor, to Ilkley in Yorkshire and its three stone circles and the Swastika Stone, to several forts and camps in Northumberland to Lindisfarne (plus about thirty more sites en route). A single dead straight line following 1 degree 50 West up Britain. No other north-south straight line goes through so many ancient sites of such significance.

Was it just a suggestive coincidence or were they built intentionally? Twigger walks the line, which takes him through Birmingham, Halifax and Consett as well as Salisbury Plain, the Peak district, and the Yorkshire moors. With a planning schedule that focused more on reading about shamanism and beat poetry than hardening his feet up, he sets off ever hopeful. He wild-camps along the way, living like a homeless bum, with a heart that starts stifled but ends up soaring with the beauty of life. He sleeps in a prehistoric cave, falls into a river, crosses a ‘suicide viaduct’ and gets told off by a farmer’s wife for trespassing; but in this simple life he finds woven gold. He walks with others and he walks alone, ever alert to the incongruities of the edgelands he is journeying through.

Critics Review

  • Robert Twigger’s travelogues have always had a wonderful globetrotting sense of adventure. Here, he attempts something closer to home; walking the “line” that connects Stonehenge and Lindisfarne and other ancient landmarks… An extended ramble, literally, which becomes a consideration of life, family and the nature of beauty

  • There are some non-fiction books which are held together by the sheer force of the author’s personality alone. Robert Twigger’s new volume is one such. Its spine, both literally and metaphorically, is a walk from Christchurch in Dorset to the island of Lindisfarne in Northumberland, a more or less straight line at 1 degree 50 west along the major watershed of English rivers … His mind goes everywhere, but a certain levity and self-deprecating humour is marbled throughout it. Self-deprecation seems quintessentially English and somehow a Zen Buddhist loss of self at one and the same time here. I doubt there will be published a book so manic and pensive, so cheerful, so able to polish your eyes to see things anew (why are most houses built around right angles rather than circles?)

    Stuart Kelly
  • A fascinating meditation on ancient wisdom wrapped inside an adventure across modern Britain, this marvellously entertaining book offers a challenge to travel writing and a casket of treasures to readers

    Nick Jubber, author of 'Epic Continent'
  • Twigger is an errant knight, who uncovers a hidden sense of England on his walk along this mystical route. A masterful conjuror of images and ideas, he can describe a blistered toe with the same enthusiasm he brings to the wistful call of the cuckoo. He turns his bright gaze on all manner of shamanic shapes and shifting ghosts in the land and reveals much about his own innermost thoughts on writing and the journey through life itself. This is a rare book with much wisdom spun around a seemingly well known set of places

    Tim Ecott, author of 'The Land of Maybe: A Faroe Islands Year'
  • Twigger has found a narrative voice all too rare in contemporary travel writing: clear-eyed, unaffected, deadpan, slyly witty and unobtrusively erudite

  • Robert Twigger is not so much a travel writer as a thrill-seeking philosopher


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