Between the Chalk and the Sea: A journey on foot into the past
An old map. A lost pilgrimage route. A journey in search of our walking heritage.
When Henry VIII banned pilgrimage, he ended not only a centuries-old tradition of walking as an act of faith, but a chance to discover the joy of walking as an escape from the burdens of everyday life. Much was lost when these journeys faded from our collective memory, but clues remain. On an antique map in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, a faint line between Southampton and Canterbury suggests a significant, though long-forgotten, road. Renamed the Old Way, medieval pilgrims are thought to have travelled this route to reach the shrine of Thomas Becket.
Over four seasons, winding 240 miles between the chalk hills and shifting seascapes of the south coast, Gail Simmons walks the Old Way to rediscover what a journey on foot offers us today. Described as England’s Camino, this long-distance footpath links prehistoric earthworks, abandoned monasteries, Saxon churches, ruined castles and historic seaports. Blending history, anthropology, etymology and geology, Gail reveals the rich natural and cultural heritage found on our own doorstep.
Published on 16th February 2023, by Headline.
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Country of Larks: A Chiltern Journey: In the footsteps of Robert Louis Stevenson and the footprint of HS2
Shortlisted in the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards 2020.
Travel writer and journalist Gail Simmons follows in the footsteps of Robert Louis Stevenson as she walks from High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire to Tring in Hertfordshire via Great Missenden and Wendover, tracing not only the changes in the landscape of the last 150 years but also those yet to come with the imminent arrival of the controversial HS2, the high-speed railway from London to Birmingham. Just as Stevenson spoke to people he met along the way, Simmons encounters those whose lives will be affected by HS2: a tenant farmer, a retired businessman-turned-campaigner, a landscape historian and a conservationist.
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