Bill Bryson, The Road to Little Dribbling, 2016
This summer my wife and I are taking a walking tour of the British countryside, from a village called Osmotherly and ending in the village of Robin Hood’s Bay, in York. The walk is only 65 miles in total, and we’ll have six days to complete the hike, stopping at B&Bs or small hotels nightly, and of course stopping by pubs along the way (even during the day) to learn as much as we can from locals. The consumption of beers and ales is really courtesy so as to not appear as ugly Americans.
While we’re away, I thought you, too, might like to take a tour of Britain, this one conducted by Bill Bryson, the American travel writer famous for such books as A Walk in the Woods and In a Sunburned Country. When I return, I’ll share stories about our travels with you, and we’ll compare notes on your observations gleaned from The Road to Little Dribbling.
You assignment is to be prepared to share one of your favorite anecdotes from the book during our eventual discussion, and any additional research that the anecdote may have prompted you to do because your curiosity was aroused by Bryson’s comments.
Here’s an example of Bryson’s writing from the book, which I hope further explains why I chose to share it with all of you:
“Nothing—and I mean really, absolutely nothing—is more extraordinary in Britain than the beauty of the countryside. Nowhere in the world is there a landscape that has been more intensively utilized—more mined, farmed, quarried, covered with cities and clanging factories, threaded with motorways and railroad tracks—and yet remains so comprehensively and reliably lovely over most of its extent. In terms of natural wonders, you know, Britain is a pretty unspectacular place. It has no alpine peaks or broad rift valleys, no mighty gorges or thundering cataracts. It is built to really quite a modest scale. And yet with a few unassuming natural endowments, a great deal of time, and an unfailing instinct for improvement, the makers of Britain created the most superlatively park-like landscapes, the most orderly cities, the handsomest provincial towns, the jauntiest seaside resorts, the stateliest homes, the most dreamily-spired, cathedral rich, castle-strewn, abbey-bedecked, folly-scattered, green-wooded, winding-laned, sheep-dotted, plumply-hedgerowed, well-tended, sublimely decorated 88,386 square miles the world has ever known—almost none of it undertaken with aesthetics in mind, but all of it adding up to something that is, quite often, perfect. What an achievement that is.
And what a joy it is to walk in it. England and Wales have 130,000 miles of public footpaths, about 2.2 miles of path for every square mile of area. People in Britain don’t realize how extraordinary that is….
So if there is one thing I enjoy and admire in Britain, it is the pleasure of being on foot and at large in the open air.”
Happy Summer Reading!