‘Charming book from 1926 reveals the joy of walking

‘Charming book from 1926 reveals the joy of walking


‘Real ramblers are never without a collar and tie’: Charming book from 1926 reveals the joy of walking and what gentlemen should take on trips

  • Journalist and writer Stephen Graham wrote brief and glorious volume in 1926
  • He offers advice to walkers including packing a hunk of tobacco and sketchbook
  • ‘Tramping’ to Graham was serious walking and allowing your mind to be free


by Stephen Graham (Bloomsbury £12.99, 208 pp)

There’s a lot to be said for charm in a book. After all, we read books in order to be told stories we haven’t heard, about things we don’t know, by people we’ll never meet. And if the person telling the stories is charming . . . well, then we’re really cooking.

Stephen Graham wrote this brief, glorious little volume in 1926. He was a journalist and writer, but above all he was a walker.

‘Tramping’ is, for him, serious walking for the sake of walking, breathing in fresh rural air, allowing your mind the freedom to think the thoughts it wants to think. 

Stephen Graham wrote The Gentle Art of Tramping in 1926. He was a journalist and writer, but above all he was a walker (file picture)

His book is impossible to read without imagining yourself on just such a walk, wrapped to the nines in waterproofs, with your B&B booked in the next village, as happy as anyone could be.

His joy is infectious. The opening paragraph of a chapter on Boots reads as follows: ‘You cannot tramp without boots. . . Two friends set out last spring to tramp from Bavaria to Venice, luggage in advance, knapsack on shoulder. 

‘But they had not the right sort of boots, and they lingered in the mountain inns quaffing steins of brown beer to take their thoughts away from their toes. They are in those mountains yet.’

Of course Graham is writing of a time when there was more wilderness to explore, and far fewer people willing to explore it. So a fair amount of his advice isn’t massively useful in the 21st century:

In the book, cover pictured, Graham advises walkers what they should take on their trips

‘We no longer wear cravats. In fact, a collar and tie may be secreted in a pocket of the knapsack to be put on when it is necessary to visit a post office or a bank, a priest, or the police. But otherwise we go forth with free necks and throats, top button of shirt preferably undone.’

What to pack in your rucksack? Graham suggests a hunk of tobacco, your favourite volume of poems and your sketchbook. Mosquito netting is useful.

Carry your toilet requisites in a little cotton bag, so your toothpaste tube doesn’t burst and ruin your sandwiches.

Some men like to let their beard grow on a long tramp and thus dispense with a razor. ‘Still, there are few things more refreshing than the cold shave at dawn, the rushing stream . . . the brandishing arm, the freshening cheek.’

There’s an earnestness about modern nature-writing that can get a little wearing, but this book was written before environmental issues became so all-consuming. This gives it a lightness of spirit that thrills the heart. And Graham is not a snob, and this, perversely, is what makes his book so readable in these more egalitarian times.

Although he recommends wearing a collar and tie to the post office, his sympathies are with the poor and the dispossessed, and he has a strong distaste for industrialisation. Then there’s the charm: oodles of it.

Sheer likeability can take you a long way — at least to the Rockies and back.


Source: Read Full Article