Between the Chalk and The Sea – with Gail Simmons

Travel writer Dr Gail Simmons talks with Ian Cunningham about her latest book, Between the Chalk and the Sea and her career as a travel writer.

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.


GAIL SIMMONS Author, academic and broadcaster Gail Simmons is a ‘walking writer’. As well as Between the Chalk and the Sea she is the author of The Country of Larks, shortlisted for the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards 2020. She has contributed features to the Times, Telegraph, Independent, Wanderlust and TIME magazine and has appeared on the BBC’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ and ‘Woman’s Hour’. Gail has an MA in Medieval History and a PhD in Creative Writing, and teaches at Bath Spa University on their MA in Nature and Travel Writing.


Friday 19 Jul 24


7:30 pm - 9:00 pm


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