A few weeks back the Sunday Telegraph asked me to write a feature for their Life & Style section on “walks with meaning” : spiritual walks, heritage walks, literary walks etc. This commission was right up my street (or footpath, to be precise) as there is nothing I love more than walking, and writing about it. The editor wanted 20 such “meaningful” walks and time was short, so most of the walks were those I’ve already done, or was otherwise familiar with. But writing the piece allowed me to re-live the walks and the landscapes, and the Telegraph asked three of their staff writers test-drive (or test-walk) some of them too. The online version is linked above, but if you’re not registered with the Telegraph here’s the result in PDF format: Telegraph – Walks with Meaning.
Saint’s Way, Cornwall. CREDIT: Visit Cornwall
Earlier this month my list of ‘Top 10 books about walking in Britain‘ appeared in The Guardian. There were so many books I could have mentioned, but with one exception* I only wrote about books that were wholly about Britain – which excluded such gems as Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways. Another self-imposed rule was that I had to have actually read the books myself, which again meant that (to my shame) some classics, such as John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, were left out. I also wanted to include a good few women walkers – not such an easy task, as it turned out. Guardian readers are a cultured lot, and came up with many great suggestions of their own in the comments section below the feature.
*The exception was Laurie Lee’s As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, which is one of my favourite all-time books. Lee walks from his Cotswold home of Slad to London, before walking the length of Spain.
Laurie Lee. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hot on the heels of my book launch at the great, independent Chorleywood Bookshop on Tuesday evening (photos to follow), an interview about my book The Country of Larks is published in the current edition of Waitrose Weekend magazine. I was honoured to discover that I appear alongside literary luminaries Robert Macfarlane and Horatio Clare, two writers who I greatly admire.
The article is not online sadly (but free in store), so I’ve posted some photos of it below. You can also read some extracts from my book on the wonderful Land Lines website.
This was the week we didn’t crash out of the EU after all. It also happened to be the week my new book, The Country of Larks: A Chiltern Journey, was published. To coincide with this (less momentous) event I wrote a piece for Telegraph Travel on walking in the Chilterns before HS2 arrives. You need to register to access it for free, but it’ll be worth it – if only for the lovely photos!
Credit: Getty Images
Six months ago I filed copy for my story on the new Jordan Trail. It has now has appeared in the Telegraph, and although I generally don’t read my writing once it’s published (you always think of how it could have been better), for this a made an exception as it’s been so long I’d forgotten what I’d written.
I’d definitely forgotten how challenging the walk was, but also how completely magical, and would recommend the Jordan Trail to anyone who loves hiking through spectacular countryside in the company amazing people.
NB: it’s not me in the photo below, folks!
The Shara Mountains. Credit: Ali Barqawi Studios
Lat week the Telegraph asked me to write a round-up on Jordan 100 years after Lawrence of Arabia, giving me a 24-hour turnaround to produce copy. I was happy to oblige. Meanwhile I’m still waiting for my long story on the new Jordan Trail to appear, months after I filed it. Watch this space …
There’s a lot more to Jordan than Petra. Photo: Jordan Tourist Board
The Guardian asked for readers’ memories of the hottest summer on record. Here are mine.
1976, the hottest summer in living memory. Every afternoon in my parents’ Home Counties garden, my best friend and I slathered Hawaiian Tropic over every inch of our exposed flesh, hoping to sizzle like chipolatas. This dark, coconut-scented oil offered virtually no protection from the sun, only the means to fry even faster.
We’re supposed to be swotting for exams, but the books lie open on the ground and Radio One crackles from the transistor. We turn it down when my mother comes out from the kitchen bearing a jug of lemon squash, ice cubes clinking against the glass… [click here to read more]
In October last year I went to Gaziantep, on the ancient Silk Road in south-eastern Turkey, to write about that sweet pastry beloved throughout the Middle East: baklava. Gaziantep is famed for its cuisine, and its baklava above all. There are some 500 baklava producers in the city – some of who have been established since the 1870s – and I met a few of them to find out why Gaziantep’s baklava is considered the best in the world. Follow the blue link above to read my story.
Some of Gaziantep’s famed baklava makers. © Gail Simmons
In April I returned to one of my favourite countries, Jordan, to write a story about its amazing Neolithic archaeology. Although most people know Jordan for Petra (and perhaps also the Dead Sea and Wadi Rum), not many visitors know that Jordan has some of the most important Neolithic sites in the world. I went to discover some of these sites, which bear evidence of the very beginning of farming and communal living. This is my story.
Photo: George Azar
I’ve lived in Oxford on and off (though much more on than off) for almost 30 years, and although I know it inside out, I’m always surprised by new discoveries. This is what makes this gorgeous little city so special to me. So when the Telegraph asked me to be their ‘”Oxford expert” I was happy to oblige. As well as writing a comprehensive guide, the gig also involves regular ’round-ups’ of the city. Here’s my latest.