Many people dream of climbing Mount Everest; few are able to achieve it. In Everest England Peter Owen Jones proposes an alternative. Twelve days of walks up English hills, which collectively total a climb of 29,000 feet, the equivalent of Mount Everest.
The walks begin in Cornwall, and end at at Scafell Pike in the Lake District. Like Everest, the climbs become progressively more difficult each day. Throughout the journey the author refers back to Everest, comparing his climbs with base camp, mentioning the physical hardships, the quiet and the solitude.
Each walk has a description, with practical information about the route, where you should park and – all importantly – how high you will climb that day. There are hand-drawn maps with quirky annotation. One map notes that Kinder Scout is “desolate and wet”. Another marks the places where the author spotted a skylark, or a meadow pipit nest.
You start to get the idea that this is not a conventional hiking manual. Peter Owen Jones is unapologetic in sharing his personal journey. He describes his reactions to each place, and his reflections on the landscape inevitably lead to philosophical musing. There are cameo portraits of the people he encounters, and will never meet again. Sometimes he invents lives for those who have done no more than exchange a brief “good morning”.
The personal aspect is quite deliberate. For Peter Owen Jones hiking is much more than just “going for a walk”. In the preface he talks of our need for wild, untamed places, for the chance to reconnect with nature and the environment. For the solo hiker it is also an opportunity for quiet and contemplation. You could use Everest England as a guidebook, and follow in the author’s footsteps. Or as an inspiration, a reminder to dig out your walking boots and get out into the countryside. For me it was mostly a reminder of the beauty of the English landscape and of the many unassuming walks, or even climbs, that you can find wherever you go.
Everest England by Peter Owen Jones. AA Publishing, 2019, £12.99, 978‑0‑7495‑7923‑4
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