‘Above Ickornshaw, Black Huts’, clearly responds to specific features of the landscape, but the place in which it was written was also influential.
The first draft of the poem was written early on day 17 of the Pennine Way walk, in a terraced house on Aspinall Street, Mytholmroyd: the childhood home of Ted Hughes.
Armitage describes Hughes’ influence on him as a poet in his introduction to Hughes’ Selected Poems (2009): ‘Hughes, for me, was the man from over the top of the hill, from the next Yorkshire valley, and his poems made me want to read. Later it was homesickness that drew me back to his work, and by that time his poems were making me want to write. I think we shared a nostalgia for the same part of the world, even if that patch of the planet held a different significance for us.’
What is clear is that literary tradition influences not only Armitage’s representation of landscape in his poetry, but also his perception of landscape. Poets including Homer, Wordsworth, Hughes and the unknown writer of Gawain pervade the notes for Walking Home. The entry for day 13 reads: ‘Thistles beautifully in flower at the moment, both purple and white – can’t look or even think of them without the Hughes’ poem coming to mind.’