Over twenty years ago, Bill Bryson went on a trip around Britain to celebrate the green and kindly island that had become his home. The hilarious book he wrote about that journey, Notes from a Small Island, became one of the most loved books of recent decades, and was voted in a BBC poll as the book that best represents Britain. Now, for his first travel book in fifteen years, Bryson sets out again, on a long-awaited, brand-new journey around the UK. (Goodreads)
Years ago I read Bryson’s Notes From a Small Island about his trip around Britain in 1995, and since then I’ve also read A Walk in the Woods about his hike along the Appalachian Trail, the longest continuous footpath in the world, both of which fascinated me. So I was keen to read The Road to Little Dribbling:More Notes from a Small Island, which was first published in 2015, 20 years after his first trip.
He decided to start at Bognor Regis in West Sussex on the south coast of England. He decided to try to follow the longest distance you can travel in a straight line, roughly from Bognor Regis to Cape Wrath. But he realised it wouldn’t be practical to follow it precisely, so he just started and ended at its terminal points and then meandered from place to place as his fancy took him. Click on the photo below to enlarge.
The result is he mainly visited places in the south of England, with only a few pages covering the rest of Britain. It really could have done with an index and I toyed briefly with the idea of compiling one myself. It’s an amusing book, rather than laugh out loud funny, but I got tired of his grumpiness and of his descriptions of places that were run-down and depressing and not as he remembered them – cafes that had closed, and town centres that were empty where once they had been busy and thriving. Of course any travel book is a snapshot in time, in this book that is 2015, and over time everywhere changes for better or worse.
Bryson writes in a chatty style and goes off at various tangents, talking about the history of places and telling anecdotes, which I found very interesting. Whilst he was disappointed by some towns and cities he didn’t hold back on praising the landscape – beautiful countryside, and coastal locations. I don’t think it lives up to Notes from a Small Island but it certainly gives an insight into the best and worst about Britain in 2015.
And I never found out why it’s called The Road to Little Dribbling! Any ideas, anyone?