Patronising advice by a doctor at a retirement course to ‘walk a couple of miles a day’ challenges architect Sean Rothery to take a proper walk and so, at the age of sixty-five, he sets out to walk the GR5, the Grande Randonée Cinq. From the steely grey North Sea to the intense blue Mediterranean, Sean’s 2,300km-long route follows a network of old trails, forest paths, canal banks, Alpine valleys and passes.
Along the way, he recounts some of his youthful enterprises, including cycling from Dieppe to Rome in the ruins of post-war Europe and a climbing accident in 1967 that saw him challenge another doctor’s prognosis. Ghosts of the past are revisited, most poignantly in the Alps where two friends died in climbing accidents, but also alongside the ruins of First World War trenches.
Sketchbook in hand, Sean savours the landscape, history and culture as he passes from one country to another. Every day he looks out for the distinctive red-and-white waymarks of the GR5 – not an easy task, especially when change in the name of progress has cleared swathes of trails.
This enthralling diary of a long walk south will have the reader urging the author on to the last step of the way.