Category Archives: After the Woods and the Water

March 2012 – Nick reaches the bridge at Esztergom

Imagine Paddy standing in the middle of this bridge looking at the cathedral

It took Paddy until Easter 1934 to get to this bridge. Nick is moving well now. The bridge at Esztergom was one of my first blog posts back in April 2010!

The bridge linking Slovakia and Hungary, between the towns of Štúrovo and Esztergom, also links A Time of Giftsand Between the Woods and the Water. Here Paddy paused both in his walking and his writing, ‘meditatively poised in no man’s air,’ before crossing into Hungary and the second phase of his journey.

I reached that bridge a week ago (or rather the reconstruction of that bridge — the original was destroyed in 1944), and in a rather unbelievable way came to the very last page of my notebook standing above the Danube … read more

Related article:

Easter 1934 – Paddy reaches the Hungarian border at Esztergom


£1 a week – “The greatest happiness I could know”

The good news is that Nick is alive and well and enjoying the snow in Austria which reminds us of Paddy’s adventures. Read his latest piece on After the Woods and the Water.

With certain exceptions I could not agree more with his closing words …

But walking, I think, brings adventure closer. And in this winter, walking alone through a snow-covered landscape still seems like the greatest happiness I could know.

I am sure Paddy would have concurred.

Hobbled in Ulm

The rigours of the road are taking their toll on Nick. He makes an interesting point that we never hear about Paddy encountering such issues (and rarely are these things mentioned in the SOE stories we read). Whilst we may be a little ‘softer’ these days, I suspect that similar injuries may have been encountered but perhaps were not considered important enough to mention. To me all this is fascinating and I like to know about the strains, and the aches, and the blisters!

After the Woods and the Water

For the past two weeks I’ve been laid up in Ulm, on the outskirts of Bavaria, suffering from Achilles tendon strain. It dates from the sudden steep hills of Baden, when I pigheadedly continued walking despite a nagging pain in my ankle, which increased in jolts and jumps until I was practically hobbling. Luckily I found refuge with exceptionally lovely people who didn’t mind me sitting around  rubbing ice on my feet all day, necking ibuprofen, growing my beard and generally feeling sorry for myself.

It’s been an anxious, frustrating time, but at last I’ve reached the point of no pain, and I’m setting out again tomorrow. The German healthcare system is amazing — I’ve been given free ultrasound therapy and acupuncture, and have been fitted with an ankle support and custom-made insoles for my boots. The most important thing, of course, was simply resting up. And it taught me a lesson…

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Above the Rhine

Schloss Burg Rheinfels, above the town of St. Goar on the Rhine

There are a couple of updates from Nick on his After the Woods and the Water blog including some snippets about sleeping rough in some ruined Rhine castles.

He has been experiencing unseasonably warm weather. Whilst this is a good thing I do feel that he needs a few days of snow and ice to really experience how it can be whilst outside in Germany at this time of year. I have happy memories of sleeping in hay barns as a soldier in West Germany, cocooned by the hay which prevented my water bottle from freezing solid in the up to minus 10 degree temperatures! I also remember some wonderful views when the sun shone brightly on the snow covered ground making visibility in the daytime almost unbearable, whilst by night the reflected moonlight was a God-send when on night patrol without the benefit of today’s night vision aids.

£1 a week Hook of Holland to Constantinople: Where is Nick?

Since his departure on 9 December we have heard little from Nick Hunt. He did post a short piece describing his departure from Hook of Holland on his blog, but since then silence.

However, it appears that Nick is making good progress and on 28 December he was in Bingen near the end of the Rhine. It was here that Paddy celebrated Christmas 1933 staying with an innkeeper and his ‘pretty daughters, who were aged from five to fifteen …’ (A Time of Gifts p53 in the John Murray paperback). This is pretty good progress seeing as Paddy had earlier taken a trip on a Rhine barge.

Skip over to Nick’s blog to read about one of his first walking days in Holland.

Stop Press! – open the comments section of this article below to read a further update from Nick as he tells us a little more about his walk down the Rhine. He is now at Heidelberg .. the Red Ox beckons (ATOG p 56 if you are keeping up!).

£1 a week to Constantinople – Bon Voyage to Nick and Nice Weather for Young Ducks

Paddy does not say if his last night in London before his epic journey was as busy as it was on Wednesday as Nick Hunt gathered with some friends in Shepherd Market to wish him well on his epic journey, but seventy-eight years ago today our hero, and let’s not be ashamed to say it, our hero, Patrick Leigh Fermor celebrated his last night in London as just another under-achieving public schoolboy, setting out to emulate Robert Byron, from this untouched corner of old London, which is now the haunt of hedge fund managers and buccaneering chief executives of junior mining companies; London clay brick Georgian squeezed into some of the highest priced real-estate in the land.

A new endeavour is about to start as Nick sets off on Friday to walk across the New Europe just as it is probably about to undergo the most significant peacetime turmoil since the rise of Nazism in the 1930’s into which Paddy stumbled with only a few links to ‘civilisation’ to accompany him, including his copy of Horace’s Odes.

Frankly I am as envious as I can be. Who could not wish to spend time away from the demands of today’s ever connected world? To endure physical challenges whilst encountering architectural marvels and meeting interesting people, each with a unique story to tell. It could well be the journey of a lifetime and I hope I send Nick off with all your best wishes. He has mine.

The weather today is better than that encountered by Paddy as he set out ….

The weather in London on December 9th 1933 was typical. The sky darkened, the clouds lowered and then it rained hard. A young man walked the cold pavements towards Cliveden Place to collect a rucksack that his friend Mark Ogilvie-Grant had used on a journey to Mount Athos accompanied by Robert Byron. After stopping to buy a stout ash stick, and probably some cigarettes, at the tobacconist on the corner of Sloane Square, the young man collected his new passport – occupation ‘student’ – from the office in Petty France. He cast his eyes up to the ominous clouds and then made his way quickly north across Green Park. Now the rain splashed down as he dashed between the traffic on Piccadilly and entered the house of his landlady, Miss Beatrice Stewart, in Shepherd Market.

A former model who sat for Sickert, and Augustus John, and who is said to be the model for the bronze figure of Peace atop Wellington Arch, Beatrice Stewart’s career was cruelly cut short after she lost a leg in a road accident. She had arranged a lunch for the eighteen year old Patrick Leigh Fermor and two of his friends to wish him bon voyage before the start of what was to become one of the most famous journeys of all time, and certainly the longest gap year in history.

After lunch, Paddy said thank you and goodbye to Miss Stewart, and jumped into a waiting taxi, which drove off through Mayfair, around Trafalgar Square, up Ludgate Hill, and past the Monument towards the Tower of London. It was raining so heavily that all they could see out of the steamed up windows were hordes of umbrellas, some carried by bowler hatted men, as the rain splashed down in the dark. “Nice weather for young ducks.” said the taxi driver as he dropped the small party by the first barbican on Tower Bridge.

The two companions, one a young girl wearing a mackintosh over her head like a coal shifter, stood in the rain to watch Paddy descend the stone steps down to Irongate Wharf. With a final wave, he strode up the gangplank of a Dutch steamer bound for Hook of Holland.

This was the start of Paddy’s journey down the Rhine and along the Danube which he so memorably describes for us in his book A Time of Gifts. This part of the story ends on Easter Sunday 1934 as Paddy stood on the long bridge over the Danube, in no-man’s land, between Czechoslovakia and Hungary at Esztergom, just as the Easter celebrations started in earnest.

A Time of Gifts is almost universally acknowledged as a masterpiece of English literature; Sebastian Faulks is a dissenter, but he would be. Described by some as a travel book, it is essentially the journal of a young man with a superb gift of memory, for languages, and for making friends, written with the benefit of a lifetime of amazing experience and learning, forty years after the events it describes. It is embellished by anecdotes and essential historical background, making it a rounded piece of literature and no mere travelogue. It should be compulsory reading for all seventeen year olds; it is truly inspirational. The sad part is that the very reason for the ending of Paddy’s ‘gap year’ whilst with his lover Balasha Cantacuzene in Romania in September 1939, resulted in the destruction of many of the towns and cities he passed through, and certainly ended the way of life of the peoples of Europe that he describes so well.

I have no doubt that today, were Paddy still with us that he would pause for a while to recall that day, wish Nick all the best, and reflect on the events that followed during his amazing and full life, and the friends and lovers who have gone before him.

Perhaps Sir Patrick Michael Leigh Fermor DSO OBE, who was the Greatest Living Englishman, would pen a short letter to Debo?

£1 a week Hook of Holland to Constantinople – Nick has a publishing deal!

Great news by email from Nick. He has a deal with Arcadia who also publish the Banffy Trilogy which I adored.

Hello, all you good people who helped to fund my journey. I just wanted to let you all know that I’ve found a publisher for the book that’ll come out of the walk I’m starting in a few short weeks. It’s a company called Arcadia Books, and they seem pretty great. So all of you whose rewards include ‘a thank-you in the published book,’ I’m only a walk and a book away from fulfilling my promise.

 I wrote something about it on the blog.
Thanks all,

Read more about the deal on Nick’s blog.

£1 a week from Hook of Holland to Constantinople – packing the rucksack

With just over a month to go I asked Nick if he could provide us with an update on his preparations. Nick is absolutely delighted with the support that many  of you have given to him. Some by giving money. Others with offers of accommodation or contacts to help him on his way. Hopefully, we will have one more update before he sets out.

I have just over a month to go before starting my walk to Istanbul, following in Paddy’s footsteps. Ferries don’t leave from London these days, so I’m sailing to Rotterdam from Harwich, and from there will pick up his route to Dordrecht, and on towards Germany.

With my funding from the Globetrotters Club, I’ve bought most of my supplies. It’s kind of reassuring to know that despite 80 years of advances in technology and materials, and the growth of an entire ‘outdoors’ hiking industry, the most important things I could buy are still a rucksack and a decent pair of boots. Essentially I’ve just bought the same stuff Paddy did, but lighter and more waterproof. So while Paddy packed ‘different layers of jersey, grey flannel shirts’ and ‘a soft leather windbreaker,’ I have layers of merino wool and a wonderfully warm down vest. No hobnail boots, I’m sorry to say, but a pair of Scarpa Terra GTX boots, waterproofed with Goretex. And in place of an ‘old Army greatcoat,’ a lightweight Berghaus jacket.

During my journey I’ll be posting intermittently on – there’s a ‘Follow’ button, if you’d like to be informed when something new comes up. I may also be writing a weekly column for a newspaper – details are still to be arranged, so I can’t say more at the moment. It will surely be an interesting time to be walking through the heart of Europe, with the Eurozone bucking and writhing and its future increasingly uncertain … a reminder that the continent is still changing, is always in a state of flux, struggling with its identity, as it was when Paddy did his journey.

More to come before I go. For now, I’d just like to quote from James Kenward, Paddy’s great-nephew, who I had the great pleasure of meeting in London a few weeks ago. Paddy was clearly a huge influence and source of inspiration to him, and here are a few of his thoughts on what I’m setting out to do:

Personally I always find it difficult to understand why someone would seek to follow the line of someone else’s arrow … but the mission statement that emerged through our conversation seemed full of fresh intent and knocked the aforementioned out of me. Perhaps the very course of a great journey holds its own through time’s passing like the essence of structure provides timelessness to a heroic tale. The breadth of Europe will not cease to be a story and having such an incredible point of reference in Paddy’s writing adds another dimension. I think that Nick will dig deeply and write well of his journey and my hope and suspicion is that the seed of his inspiration — his regard for Paddy and his adventuring ways — will yield entirely new crop that Paddy would admire. Frankly his romantic masochism invested in and infected by a new age interests me — previously there was snow, and there will still be that — but imagine the frigging motorways.

Related article:

£1 a week – Nick explains the reason for his journey 

£1 a week from Hook of Holland to Constantinople – a word of thanks from Nick

Your response to helping Nick meet his funding target has been amazing. It was surpassed on Friday and has reached £1,660. Nick has been out of contact for a few days … No he was not caught up in the so-called London riots, but was in the wilds of Wales. I would like to add my own word of thanks to all of you that responded and supported this exciting and bold venture. You can still donate! (and I see you still are! Another £10 tonight!)

Over to Nick ….

Thanks to the help of many readers of this blog, I have now reached (surpassed!) my funding target on the crowdfunding site We Did This, and am up to an amazing £1,660 to go towards my walk across Europe, following Paddy’s route from the Hook of Holland to Istanbul. Thank you so much, everyone who’s supported me, whether through financial contributions or with thoughts, ideas, encouragement and offers of hospitality. The response had been truly amazing. People have contacted me from all over the world to express their enthusiasm. I’ll be keeping everyone updated on my progress — — as and when I can on the road, as well as sending back short story postcards, and later preparing hand-stitched books and CDs, to thank individual funders more eloquently. In the end, there will be a book… but first, I have a long way to walk.

It does seem as if this project has struck a chord with a lot of people, and I’ve had requests to explore many aspects of the changes that have taken place in Europe since Paddy walked this way. People want to know about cultural changes, changes to the landscape and environment, changes in attitudes and beliefs, and changes in the experience of walking. One person who funded me, in particular, said something I really like:

‘I love the idea of uncovering ‘wild’ Europe. I had always sensed that in the land, as I’d been travelling, and was thrilled at the idea of someone investigating and documenting that — the magic underneath the surface.’

I’ll be doing my best to scratch at the surface to find the magic Paddy put into words, the magic that I believe still exists in the Europe of today. Thank you so much, once more, everyone who’s helping me do this.


Your cash is worthless – you might as well give it to Nick!

As we face yet another phase of financial Armageddon. As stock markets tumble and the only worthwhile assets to hold are copies of Paddy’s books in first editions, farmland and gold. As Europe’s leaders sun themselves, seemingly oblivious to the death throes of the Euro, it is time for the sprint to the finish line for Nick Hunt’s funding exercise to support his walk from The Hook of Holland to Constantinople on just £1 a week.

Thanks to your amazing generosity we are just £40 away from the target of £1,500. Who will be our sprint champion and help Nick across the finish line by the end of today?

Remember if he does not reach the £1,500 target he will not actually receive a bean.

Watch the video; get inspired, click here and take out your debit card! There are no penalties for giving more than he needs!
Thank you !

To donate visit After the Woods and the Water on WeDidThis.

Untitled from Nick Hunt on Vimeo.

£1 a week from Hook of Holland to Constantinople – a final push!

Nick Hunt’s appeal for funds to support his journey in Paddy’s footsteps was launched exactly two weeks ago. The response has been amazing with £1,140 pledged and only £360 needed to reach his target of £1,500.

You have been very generous but with so little now required for success I want to ask that we all consider even a small donation – £1 a week is about £26 for the journey – a final push!

If Nick is able to make this project work it will bring benefits to us all as we can enjoy his jottings from a journey made 78 years after Paddy.

Remember if Nick does not reach the £1,500 target all the donors will get their money back and Nick will receive nothing. This is the way that Crowdfunding works.

You can donate varying amounts and you will receive a range of items from Nick when on his journey to thank you and remind you of your support. Slightly higher donations will permit a mention of your name in his final book about the journey as well as a copy of the book.

This is a very worthwhile and very serious venture requiring a major commitment from Nick of a year of his life, so please visit the WeDidThis website and donate something.

I have said it before, but I will say it again, watching his video on the site and dreaming, just for a moment, that it could be you walking that fabled route has to be worth £10!

£1 a week Hook of Holland to Constantinople – come and meet Nick Hunt tonight Dalston, London

Nick Hunt will be at the kick-off event tonight for his fundraising along with a bunch of other people who are raising funds through WeDidThis.

There will be drinks, and good things to look at with plenty of interesting people to talk to including Nick!

Free music, performances and wine in Dalston Heights from 6.30 to 10.00pm. Details here.

£1 a week from Hook of Holland to Constantinople – funding update

Nick Hunt’s appeal for funds to support his journey in Paddy’s footsteps was launched exactly one week ago. The response has been amazing with £870 raised and only £630 to go to reach his target of £1,500. Nick tells me that donations have poured on from all round the world from Australia to the Czech Republic, from the sunshine state of Florida, and even the Scots have found some change down the back of the sofa!

Many blog readers have contributed and I am asking for another big push this week to reach the target. If Nick does not reach the £1,500 all the donors will get their money back and Nick will receive nothing. This is the way that Crowdfunding works.

You can donate varying amounts and you will receive a range of items from Nick when on his journey to thank you and remind you of your support. Slightly higher donations will permit a mention of your name in his final book about the journey as well as a copy of the book.

This is a very worthwhile and very serious venture requiring a major commitment from Nick of a year of his life, so please visit the WeDidThis website and donate something. Watching his video on the site and dreaming, just for a moment, that it could be you walking that fabled route has to be worth £10!

£1 a week – from the Hook of Holland to Istanbul, in Paddy’s footsteps

Here is a very exciting venture, and one that if we only had the time I am sure many of us would want to do.

In December, a young writer, Nick Hunt, will set off from London with the aim of walking from the Hook of Holland to Istanbul in the footsteps of Patrick Leigh Fermor, seventy-eight years after Paddy commenced his own, life-changing journey.

Nick intends to report on his journey and to write a book. He is not seeking to copy Paddy as he explains below, but to create his own experience whilst comparing the Europe that he encounters with the one our eighteen year old hero stepped into with such joyful anticipation.

Such things cannot be achieved without money and I am asking if you will make some contribution to ensure that Nick does not starve on his long journey. Who knows he may even need some cash to replace a lost rucksack at some point!

We have the idea of emulating Paddy’s “One Pound a week” concept. If you would like to help Nick on his journey (for which you will receive personal reports and in good time – hopefully not forty-three years like Paddy! – a copy of the book) please visit the page he has set-up with an on-line site that helps to raise money for interesting arts projects – We Did This – and make a donation. Nick needs to meet his target of £1,500 within one month. One Pound per week for a six month journey works out at £26 but I am sure any help you can offer will be very gratefully received!

To find out more and donate visit We Did This

Please visit Nick’s website which has details of the route. And now over to Nick …..

Please fund me with £1 a week to walk Paddy’s route across Europe!

Nick Hunt

On December 9th 2011 – 78 years after Paddy’s great journey from the Hook of Holland to Istanbul – I will set out in his footsteps. Using his writing as a roadmap, his words as a background murmur in my ear, I’ll walk the same route through Holland, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. I’m a freelance journalist and writer, and the journey will be documented through audio recordings and through writing – to produce a series of short radio programmes, and a book of travel journalism, on my return to England.

My intention isn’t to emulate Paddy – who could ever attempt that? – but to explore the ways in which Europe, and the experience of walking it, have changed since he set out. In the intervening years war, politics and progress have reshaped the continent several times over. Obviously towns and cities will have grown, villages will have been swallowed by roads, and certain landscapes will have been altered beyond recognition. But as well as these more tangible changes, I want to explore the deeper shifts in the cultures, traditions and identities of the countries Paddy passed through.

My journey will come at an interesting time, with Europe still undergoing great changes, new patterns of migration and fusions of different cultures, as well as facing great challenges – from the uncertainties thrown up by the economic crisis to the ominous resurgence of right-wing movements across the continent.

‘Everything is going to vanish! They talk of building power-dams across the Danube and I tremble whenever I think of it! They’ll make the wildest river in Europe as tame as a municipal waterworks. All those fish from the East — they would never come back. Never, never, never!’

This prediction was made by a man Paddy met in Persenbeug, Austria, in an inn overlooking the Danube (A Time of Gifts). Much of the reason for me making this journey, almost 80 years later, is to see if these words became true.

Has Europe been tamed? Has everything vanished?

Is adventure still possible in Europe?

As admirers of A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water will know, Paddy managed to fund his journey on £1 a week (which works out as about £50 today). I’m asking people to support this project by funding me just £1 a week for the duration of the walk, which should take around 6 months.

If you would like to fund me, or just to get in touch with thoughts, ideas, suggestions, you can contact me at scrutiny[at]

For a fuller description of the journey, please see my blog:

Many thanks!