Although ‘Cotton Grass’ appears at the end of Walking Home, it was the first poem to be written on the Pennine Way by Simon Armitage. A first draft of the poem appears on the final page of the Day 1 entry of the notebook, with a second draft written during Day 3.
Cottongrass is widespread on moorland in Britain and is found on the moors surrounding Armitage’s home village – on the Yorkshire side of the border with Lancashire. He has written about its beauty against the bleak backdrop of the moors, and also about plucking a stem and taking it as a ‘token of a different world’ to friends in urban Manchester, a short drive over the hills.
‘Cotton Grass’ works as a postscript at the end of the published Walking Home. Following the journey of the book’s title, it situates the end of the narrative in the specific landscape of ‘home’. In contrast, the notebook reveals the distance and homesickness implicit in the poem. For Armitage, on the isolated hills of the Pennine Way and three weeks from home, cottongrass was a familiar and a homely presence.