It’s a lovely surprise to have been shortlisted for the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards 2020. These are the main publishing industry awards for travel writing, so it’s a great honour to have been included for my first book. I’ve been travel writing for 18 years now (journalism mostly) but The Country of Larks is my first proper book. Roll on the awards ceremony on February 26th!
I was delighted to be invited to speak last weekend at the Tring Book Festival in its inaugural year, in the company of such luminaries as Rory Bremner, Jenni Murray, Chris Packham and Carol Anne Duffy. I was even more delighted to find that 120 people bothered to turn up at lunchtime on Remembrance Sunday to hear me talk about my book, The Country of Larks, which is set in the Chilterns. They were a very appreciative audience, and I met many of them afterwards when signing copies of my book. This was my first experience of appearing at a literary festival – I hope it’s not the last!
On stage at the Tring Book Festival. I’m the small figure stage right!
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
Last week saw me at the Marlow Bookshop, talking about my book The Country of Larks alongside the authors of the new Slow Guide to the Chilterns. I’d never visited this bookshop before – it’s a branch of Daunts (the main shop is on Marylebone High Street in London), and recently won the 2019 Muddy Stilettos award for best bookshop in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. And Marlow itself is a special place: an historically significant town on the River Thames and home for many years to Jerome K Jerome, author of the humorous classic Three Men in a Boat.
The bookshop was a lovely space to hold the event – all William Morris wallpaper and wooden bookshelves – which was well attended, with many insightful questions from the interviewer and audience. This coming Friday (5th July) I’ll be at Blackwell’s in Oxford, and the weekend after at Waterstones in Berkhamsted (15th July). Please do join me if you’re around.
April 30th saw the launch of my book, The Country of Larks, at the Chorleywood Bookshop. This independent store has been selling great books to the residents of the Chilterns for over forty years, and laid on a lovely evening for the event. A glass of wine (or two), a short speech and a pile of books to sign (see below), and it was all over. Now for a summer of readings and signings, including at the Marlow Bookshop (27th June), Blackwell’s, Oxford, (5th July), Waterstones, Berkhamsted, (13th July) and Plant Fair in Chenies Manor (14th July). Hope you can make one of these events if you are in the area!
Last week I was invited to appear (if you can appear on a radio programme) on BBC 4’s Woman’s Hour, to discuss why women like to walk solo. Sitting alone in a small room in the BBC’s Leeds studio it felt weird talking to so many people (the audience figures are around 3.7 million) but the conversation went well, and was over in no time. Woman’s Hour has been broadcasting since 1946, yet still manages to be relevant today – and by the responses I’ve received, is listened to by quite a few men too! If you want to hear it, I’m around 10 minutes into the programme.
Walking in the Yorkshire Wolds ©Richard Bailey