Tag Archives: walk magazine

Conquering Offa’s Dyke – eventually

It was a case of third time lucky. Commissioned to write a feature for a walking magazine about the Offa’s Dyke National Trail, I had attempted to walk a section of the trail from Oswestry to Llangollen several times.

Every time I stepped off the train in Shropshire it snowed on me. Heavily.

World Heritage

Still, the story was worth pursuing. The earthwork bank, which stretched for 80 miles along the English-Welsh border, is bidding for Unesco World Heritage List. The accompanying long-distance walking trail celebrates its 40th anniversary this summer.

“Offa’s Dyke is very strong in ‘outstanding universal value’, the basic test for Unesco to consider the project,” says Ian Bapty, Secretary of the Offa’s Dyke Association. “The path helped to create English and Welsh identity.”

High wire

So myself and the assigned photographer tried again. And again.

Eventually the snow subsided and we got some images of me striding purposefully over Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Thomas Telford’s engineering masterpiece some 127ft above the River Dee near Llangollen.

Non runner

While sitting around, waiting for a break in the weather, I was reading I Wouldn’t Star From Here, a collection of travel writing by Andrew Mueller.

What I enjoyed most was the behind-the-scenes stuff – when the jobbing writer finds his assignment untangling before his eyes through no fault of his own, or battles against common sense to fulfil an editor’s impossible brief.

Here’s his take on Jerusalem:

… to suggest to a mainstream readership that they might enjoy a holiday in a place which had, in preceding years, been at best slightly dicey, at worst an outright war zone … My cheerful travel feature on Jerusalem is yet to run.

As freelance writers, we are judged on results. Come ice storms and political crisis, we have to deliver.

That’s a freelancer’s lot and I accept it as such. But it’s great to find a writer willing to explode some myths about the process to arrive at that final printed version.

Your shout

Shropshire was a minor delay and we eventually got the story. You can even read the final version when published in walk magazine in March.

But I’ve had stories spiked, trips fall apart and angles shot down in flames plenty of times before.

As we stare hopefully down the barrel of another year, maybe I’ll share some behind-the-scenes insights on this blog.


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Filed under Northwest, Travel writing

Here’s to another 80 years of Wainwright walks

First the apology: Hit the North has been quiet of late. External forces are to blame and thanks for hanging in there.

Normal service will resume from September 1st but, during August, I’m going to bring you some snippets of stories I’ve been working on while juggling numerous deadlines and various other things over the past six weeks or so.

You can read the final cut of these stories this autumn into winter. Follow me on Twitter for the URLs.

Wainwright’s footsteps

Wasdale Head Inn

On a fine day in 1930 a mild-mannered accounts clerk from Blackburn took a bus to Kendal and walked out to Orrest Head above Windermere, Cumbria.

It was a walk that would initiate a life-long affair with the Lake District, spawn a publishing phenomenon and, albeit rather unwittingly, inspire new generations of fell walkers to explore the Lakeland landscape.

I recently went to Wasdale, tucked into the remote southwestern fringe of the Lake District National Park, to mark 80 years since that first fateful walk. I was guided for the day by mountain guide Cathy Colam of Pace the Peaks.

The assignment was to tackle Haystacks, one of the Wainwright’s favourite peaks, from the Wasdale Head Inn and visit Innominate Tarn, just below the summit, where Wainwright himself chose for his ashes to be scattered.

Wainwright famously wrote:

‘For a man trying to get a persistent worry out of his mind, the top of Haystacks is a wonderful cure.’

Was it? Read the autumn issue of walk magazine for the lowdown.

Innominate Tarn, Haystacks

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Filed under Lake District, Travel writing