There’s a key scene in The English Monster (coming to a bookshop near you in, ooh, eight months or so!) where a character sails down the Thames from Wapping to Sheerness. It’s in the final third of the book, and is a bit of a narrative sit-down-and-put-your-feet-up before everything goes hell-for-leather towards the end. It’s probably the chapter I’m most pleased with in the book, and it was the result of a walk with friends.
Two years ago two friends and I drove out to the Hoo peninsula and wandered around, before driving back and around to Sheerness for another wander. None of us had done any yomping in that part of north Kent, and it was a bit of a revelation. The sky, the estuary, the fields, the churches – Turneresque and Dickensian all at the same time.
One of the friends I was walking with was transmedia componaut Tim Wright, who is doing some astounding stuff with “bookmapping” – taking a famous “located” book and revisiting the landscape it is set in. Two years ago he did Kidnapped (you can see the results here), and now he’s plotting something with Great Expectations.
So, Great Expectations, right? Where else are you going to go but North Kent? So yesterday we got the train to Gravesend, and started walking. Thirty-two kilometres, four pints and several pork pies later we got back to Gravesend, ancient muscles grinding, after seeing forts, “wild” horses, inspiring churchyards, South American workers, lonely portaloos and island-sized ships. An amazing day. Here are my pictures of it:
And here are Tim’s: