I’m delighted that my first proper book, a travel narrative about the Chilterns — a blend of travel, history, politics and nature — will be published next spring by Bradt . After a peripatetic early childhood our family settled in a Chiltern commuter village on the borders of Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire. Although aged eighteen I couldn’t wait to leave, I have recently rediscovered the quiet allure of the hills and dells of my youth. I may have left long ago, but the Chilterns still matter to me.
I’m just back from teaching a residential course for Bath Spa University’s MA in Travel & Nature Writing in Valencia province, Spain. We stayed in the lovely mountain village of Sella, where we spent a week exploring the local countryside and culture – and writing about it!
Here’s a photo of the group hard at work, with Sella in the background. If you’d like to learn more about the MA you can read about it here.
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.
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
Earlier this year I was awarded a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Reading, and graduated on a hot, sunny day in July. My old friend and talented portrait photographer took some pictures of me in my raspberry doctoral gown and Tudor-style hat. Thank you Snapdragon Photography!
The Queen Of Jordan, that is! I’m just back from a press trip to write about the new Jordan Trail for the Telegraph, and on the last day we were unexpected (for security reasons) summoned to meet HM Queen Rania, who is a fantastic ambassador for for her country. She was glamorous and charming, spoke perfect English, and was genuinely interested in the Jordan Trail project, which has been almost thirty years in the making. Flying home from Jordan yesterday I picked up a copy of the Jordan Times to read on the flight, and found a report of Queen Rania’s visit, including a group photo (I’m in the bottom left-hand corner of the picture, in the lilac scarf). All in all, I walked 60 kms through spectacular mountain scenery to Petra, before the royal visit. An amazing finale to an amazing trip!
Her Majesty Queen Rania poses for a group photo with Thru Hike participants at Dana Village on Monday (Photo courtesy of the Royal Court)
In January I expressed the hope of returning to the Middle East to resume my travel journalism after a few years where this took a back seat due to the uncertain political situation, and the (quite understandable) reluctance for editors to commission travel features about the region. Well, it looks like my hopes have been realised, and I will be returning very soon: to write about a new hiking trail that runs the length of Jordan for the Telegraph. It will be fantastic to hike once more in that amazing country, some 10 years after I first led walking trips there, and good to meet again some of the kindest people I’ve ever come across in my travels (including, I hope, some old friends…).
Hiking group in Wadi Rum, Jordan. Photo: Gail Simmons