Monday, 25 January 2010

Walking Home - the book

I'm thrilled that my book is now in print and available at for £9.90, plus delivery. All proceeds (over £3 per copy) will go to the Christian Aid charity.

If you're in the Oadby area on 27 February, we're holding a little launch party. If you'd like to come along to buy a signed copy and to save on delivery costs, please get in touch at

To whet your appetite, here's the blurb from the cover:

Simon Harvey, a Leicestershire vicar who describes himself as not much of a walker, sets out on a five hundred mile pilgrimage in reverse.
Perhaps a pilgrimage doesn't have to involve a package tour to a distant shrine. What happens if it is simplified and taken at walking pace, where the goal is not some unfamiliar holy site but home, the place of belonging?
This book describes an unlikely journey from the very heart of the French capital to a suburban parish on the southern edge of Leicester, in the English Midlands. Fifty-two days of solitary walking, punctuated by reunions with old friends and special places, lead Simon through an adventure in faith.
Keen observation, thoughts that are allowed to wander as far as his feet, a delight in the ordinariness of unspectacular places and a series of surprising encounters, all fill a travel story that is humorous, reflective and accessible.
Simon explores the Bible's metaphor of "walking with God" on unpromising tarmac roads and country paths. He discovers fresh insight into the possibilities of down to earth discipleship in a style that isn't preachy or too keen to persuade.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The route as I walked it

It was easier than I thought to retrieve the entire route of my walk from my phone, and get it onto Google Maps, via Memory-Map and Google Earth.

I've updated the Routes page of the blog, so follow the link to see where I actually went. You can also view the whole route in Google Earth.

Sunday, 14 June 2009


Thanks to the amazing community of St Paul's Church, I didn't creep back unnoticed. It was a fabulous homecoming and something I'll always remember.

540 miles walked and I'm back where I belong.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Day 52 - Stoney Stanton to Oadby

View 20090614 - Day 52 - Stoney Stanton to Oadby in a larger map

Thoughts to begin a last day on the road

I'm so much looking forward to being home later today. The closer I am, the more intense the longing.

I've been asked several times if there have been moments when I wished it was all over. Honestly, there haven't.

It's been an adventure unlike anything I've done before. I've seen so much, met many interesting and inspiring people. There have been thrilling moments, times of elation and of exhaustion, I've walked happy and afraid. And for every mile of it I've been in solitude, but never lonely and never in despair.

Jennifer, Jon and Phil have been in my thoughts and my hearts all the way. Through this blog, Twitter and Facebook I've felt that I'm still stitched into the communities to which I belong.

And in a strange, mysteriously quiet way, I've always known the company of God. The image of the perfect completion of creation in Genesis is of a man and woman walking with God in the garden on a cool evening.

In Jesus, the possibility of a restoration of this relationship was given as a gracious gift. I've known the reality of this for the second half of my life, and the last fifty-two days have confirmed it. There's no pithy bible verse today - the gospel story which feels most fitting is told in Luke 15 but just a sentence from a favourite post-communion prayer says just enough:

"Father God, when we were still far off, you met us in your Son, and brought us home."

Day 51 Part 3 - To Leicestershire

(continued from Part Three)

I was getting tired by now and the narrow verge of the busy road to the M69 made for frustration. After the motorway roundabout, it was easier to relax into the 'simply walking' zone and to trek mindlessly towards Stoney Stanton.

Keith and Linda let me in to The Dive Inn, a reference to the nearby Stoney Cove diving centre. I'd expected a pub but the Inn turns out to be a guest house, with overflow accomodation in the form of a caravan in the back garden.

I set off for the nearest pub for dinner but the smell from the fish and chip shop was irrestistible. I sat on the bench outside, eating my dinner with a small wooden fork, for a few minutes before three lads came out with their food. They sat with me and we got talking.

After a while we introduced ourselves and Adam, Will and Alex fired questions about my walk. "What you doing it for?", "How much money are you carrying?", "Where's your luggage?", "How many clothes have you got?"

They told me about Stoney Stanton, that there's a lot to do, there aren't any real chavs here and that it's better than Earl Shilton.

They insisted I should stay until Saturday afternoon when the Stanton Carnival takes place. I had to apologise and explain that I want to be home.

They wanted the address of my blog and a picture. I promised them a mention in my book.

My walking verse was from almost the end of the Bible, in which a vision of a new Jerusalem is described. Revelation 21.24, "The nations will walk by its light and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it."

Day 51 Part 2 - Seems like a nice place

(continued from Part One)

With a few more miles walked I paused for a breather on a short flight of steps at Bridge 33. A man with a dog turned up the same path and we fell into conversation. Dave is a retired local planning officer and knows this land. I confessed my ignorance and low expectation, which happily had been confounded.

Dave added his opinion to the claim for the Battle of Bosworth which locals have. He told me that while no archeological evidence has been found for any site there is a letter in which the king promised recompense to four parishes around Mancetter "for my recent battle".

We talked railways and roads, watched activity in the fields, and wished each other a good walk.

As I entered Nuneaton, I left the canal at the moment when a radio on a construction site blared "Gangsters' Paradise". It made me smile and this was broadened when one of the first cars to pass me had "A town called Malice" blasting through its open window. Nuneaton had introduced itself.

The sign marked "Abbatoir" led to a dead end, perhaps appropriately. So I dog-legged back to the main road. This featured one of the best pieces of 'roundabout art' of my walk. A tall pole was crowned with pipes which left it at all angles. Each was capped with a flat nozzle and the whole thing was showering water under high pressure. The effect was create a huge dandelion-head, which shimmered and shed in the sunshine. Quite beautiful.

The centre of Nuneaton was anonymous. I wondered why a local bus carried the name 'Larry Grayson' in large letters. Sure enough, Wikipedia confirms that he grew up in the town as William White. Perhaps the buses are each named after a Nuneaton celebrity - how many are there? I wondered what it was like to drive the Larry Grayson bus and how many times each day passengers would shout "Shut that door!"

I'd remembered Grayson's never-seen friend Everard. Was he named after the Leicester brewery, whose signs were everywhere in Nuneaton?

The posher end of Nuneaton, I discovered, is the east. This is contrary to most towns, where the prevailing west winds priveleged the western roads of houses with cleaner air in the coal-burning era. I wonder why Nuneaton bucked the trend.

I finally walked into Leicestershire as I crossed Watling Street for the first time. Hinckley sits across the border and I wondered if there's a rivalry with Nuneaton.

(continues in Part Three)

Day 51 Part 1 - The quiet waters by

On Day 49 a missed turn caused a rerouting that led me into a tangle. But Day 50's change of plan paid dividends.

I had thought of walking through Atherstone and then Fenny Drayton and Stoke Golding. But as I approached the Coventry Canal on a perfect day for walking, I chose to go off road.

Canal walking has been one of the wonderful surprises of this walk and I had thought that I'd done the last of it in Staffordshire. The map showed the Coventry Canal twisting along the contours and sure enough, the scenery was attractive.

It must be the height of the gnat season. On the previous day, every stride through the undergrowth raised scores of them. On the canal, they flew in loops across the water and back. Perhaps it was the angle of their wings in the bright sunshine that meant those flying from right to left were more visible. The effect was to make them look like a constant one-way stream, matched in speed and course like a shoal of fish.

At a lock among the notices I spotted British Waterways sign about fishing. In English, Polish and Russian, it warned that fish must not be taken away but must be returned to the water. I wondered what confusions had made this clarification necessary.

A single signet swam with its parents. It was still grey and fluffy but chicken sized. Like a schoolboy in shorts I imagined it wanted a grown up outfit soon. As it passed I noticed it was swimming with just one foot. It stretched its right leg behind like a limbering athlete and I thought it would resume two-legged swimming. But it stowed the right leg among its feathers and carried on. Curious.

I enjoyed a splendidly bittersweet pint of Everards Original at The Anchor, Hartshill. The table next to mine was occupied by two couples, whose canalboat holiday was apparently coming to an end. They laughed and teased and shared their in-jokes.

(continues in Part Two)

Friday, 12 June 2009

Chip shop conversations

The last time I ate fish and chips sitting on a bench I was in Blandford Forum, Dorset. I fell into conversation with a couple of soldiers training in the Royal Signals.

This evening I ate cod and chips on a bench once again, this time in Stoney Stanton. Three young men by the names of Adam, Will and Alex came and joined me.

I promised I'd give them a mention on my blog so thanks guys, for your interest in my walk and for what you told me about Stoney Stanton.

I like the way that chip shop benches can easily become truly civil spaces, where even a couple of generations can be spanned under an aroma of salt and vinegar.

Murder scene?

In 500 miles of walking I've not quite seen anything like this pavement scene on the outskirts of Hinckley. A dead pigeon lies beneath a broken branch under a tree. I wonder what happened?