Everest England, the new book by television presenter, vicar and environmentalist Peter Owen Jones, is billed as a unique hill walking guide for ordinary people who wish to embark on their very own Everest in the English countryside.
In this book, Peter Owen Jones provides a bit of a different take on the long-distance hike. Instead of travelling to the starting point, hiking for 12 days and camping or hostelling along the route, as you might do if completing Wainwrights’ Coast to Coast or the West Highland Way or something similar, this challenge is all about doing a series of shorter hikes in a few days and driving in between. The focus of the route choice is on ascent. A huge amount of ascent.
Scaling Mount Everest is said to be one of the world’s most physically and mentally demanding challenges humans can undertake; and it is hugely costly in terms of both finances and time. Here we have something that should be a bit cheaper; a 12-day hike from Cornwall to Cumbria that involves climbing 29,000 feet of English hills – a lot of English hills! I’ve never come across a hiking road trip before, but this is definitely what caught my attention about the book.
This isn’t a hill walking book in quite the same way as Phoebe Smith’s Britain’s Best Small Hills (which is a superb book, by the way, you should definitely get it), but rather it’s a book encouraging you to set yourself a single personal challenge and to do the whole thing in one go. On the first page of the preface the author even says you shouldn’t really have a rest day – this is a serious challenge. There is a lot of driving to be done in-between the hiking, the hikes are reasonably significant in terms of fitness required to complete them (Scafell Pike is not to be sniffed at), and you are going to have a tired body if you are going to do this as Peter did.
Without actually following the route myself (which isn’t out of the question, but not this month), I can’t tell you if every single one of the hill climbs Peter Owen Jones hikes to cover his 29,000 feet ascent in 12 days is a gem, but I do recognise a few of them and they all certainly sound good – he has made me want to tick off a few more of them, for sure. He starts by spending a bit of time in Dartmoor, stops off at Glastonbury Tor and Cheddar Gorge in Somerset, Crickley Hill in Gloucestershire, the Malvern Ridge in Worcestershire, Kinder Scout in the Peak District, The Cheviots in Northumbria, and finishes at Scafell Pike in Cumbria. The 12 days needed does not equate to 12 hikes, sometimes there is driving to be done in the middle of the day too.
Everest England is much more a story of Peter’s hike than it is a guide for others to recreate it. I think you could follow the route with a bit of additional planning, but it is first and foremost a bit of a self-indulgent diary of what sounds like it was a challenging but incredibly rewarding trip. There are a few notes on kit, but I recommend you do a bit more research on that before you set off, and a handful of recommendations on where to stay. Each hike has a few easy to locate pointers such as parking, timings, hand drawn maps (please make sure you take a proper map with you when you go), and a few other tips and suggestions.
You’ll also be subject to the moral musings and rambling thoughts that give you a bit of insight into who the author is (a vicar and presenter) – this text is written from the point of view of a pilgrim who’s mind wanders as he puts one foot in front of the other. I enjoyed this aspect of the book in the main, it made it much more readable when I was on my sofa at home, but would make it much more difficult to use the book as a guidebook as you need to get through all that to find the information you need.
I genuinely like the idea of a hiking road trip, it appeals as a great and very satisfying way to explore a lot of the country in a short period of time, combining my love of road trips and hiking. With the premise of walking the equivalent of Everest here in England aside, this does sound like the perfect set up for a solo trip, one that would give me some personal time to think and muse and rest my mind. But I’m but sure I’m about to book a couple of week’s off work to follow Peter’s exact route just yet.
Even if you are not planning on recreating this particular hiking road trip, there are a good few routes in here that might provide a bit of inspiration for you this summer, and it does make a lovely gentle read for a rainy day.
Get your copy of Everest England by Peter Owen Jones from Amazon.
I received this book from the publisher for the purposes of writing a review. My copy was an uncorrected proof, hence using stock photographs this time around. Links to Amazon are affiliate links – if you buy the book via my link I get a teeny bit of commission that I put towards my own next challenge.