Then it happens. Dave opens the throttle and I’m whooping with abandon. I can’t help it. And then we’re up, and I whoop louder. Yell and wheeze and holler and splutter, my euphoria battling the onrushing wind. We spend 10 minutes or so in the air (though it feels longer), Dave tossing me like a plaything over fields of golden rapeseed and rippling green…
The things you do to earn a buck. When an editor asked if I’d like to give wing walking a try, I felt I couldn’t really say no. I sort-of wanted to (you want me to stand ON TOP of a FLYING plane??!). But these opportunities are rare so I said yes and then tried to forget all about it until the moment I was strapped to a beautiful Boeing Stearman, propellor picking up speed just below my feet.
It was, in short, an amazing experience. And one that I was delighted to write about both for Boundless (the magazine of the Civil Service Motoring Association) and for the Telegraph. The only problem is, how do you follow that?
Image by Oliver Edwards
There was a lot of mud. There were bodies in bright outfits all shuffling together. And it was certainly noisy – the wind hollered and buffeted like heavy metal at full volume. But there ended the likeness to a traditional British festival. Up on the top of Mynydd Troed in February, I’d joined ramblers rather than ravers for this outdoors celebration, the Crickhowell Walking Festival. No camping. Better food. And a chance to discover whether countryside hiking – often undertaken to escape the crowds – is actually best done with other people.
A walking festival, in Wales, in winter? A supremely soggy but super commission!
Walking festivals seem to be cropping up all over the place these days, and – as someone who usually prefers to walk alone – I was keen to find out what the fuss was about. So I pitched a piece on Crickhowell Walking Festival to the Telegraph, which involved heading to south Wales on a damp weekend to get out into the hills with a load of other people.
The result? Rain, of course. As well as excellent food and company, and the sort of scenery that’s a joy to behold – and leaves you vowing to return on a weekend with better weather.
Accompanying the main first person piece was a round-up of other great walking festivals across the UK this year. Time to start planning…
Sitting atop a 180-year-old stallion, just off Britain’s ancient Ridgeway, I watched a man meditating inside an extraterrestrial doodle. From my vantage, by the rump of a huge chalk figure – Hackpen Hill’s White Horse – I saw the man stroll amid a crop circle of alien (or prankster?) flattened wheat before pausing in the centre to commune, I presumed, with Martians or Mother Nature. This is the sort of thing that happens when you go walking in Wiltshire, a county whose maps are scrawled with more gothic font than you can wave a dowsing rod at.
It’s funny. Sometimes you can spend an age coming up with exotic feature ideas about far-flung lands in an attempt to secure that editor’s commission. Then sometimes you just happen to go on a lovely little local walk, for fun, and subsequently manage to sell multiple pieces without even thinking about it.
When the boyfriend and I set off on the Great Stones Way (which runs from ‘exotic’ Swindon to Salisbury), it was for his belated birthday present. But I thought I’d take my notebook, just in case…
As so often happens when you’re not supposed to be travelling for work, the trip turned out to be a great story. When we got home, I pinged out a few emails and managed to place pieces with the Telegraph (extracted above), Wanderlust, Wild-Bounds.com and English Heritage. The perfect scenario.
So the moral of this tale? Obviously I need to pitch more stories on Swindon!
There was nothing between me and the deep blue sky. A blue to make Farrow & Ball weep into their paint pots and surrender to the superiority of nature. Mountains reared all around: the dramatic immediacy of the Italian Dolomites, the frosted Austrian Alps in the distance. Meadows beamed with wildflowers and a metal cross marking the 2,157m summit of the Pralongià Plateau raised its arms to the heavens. I felt like doing the same.
This may just be the most cushty commission I have ever had. “Sarah,” said the nice people at The Evening Standard, “would you like to stay at a glorious hotel in the even more glorious Italian Dolomites to run amid flower-filled fields and snow-peaks, and eat your own weight in Michelin-starred food?” Don’t mind if I do!
What a treat it was to spend a week in the Alta Badia valley, having adventures and scoffing copiously, all in the name of earning a living. Feeling grateful indeed.
I have just read your amazing feature in Wanderlust. It’s brilliant! I am thrilled and can’t wait to send it to everyone in Tassie. Thank you so much again. You have been magnificent.
Forgive me. Own trumpet blown. But this was the delightful message I received from Susie de Carteret at Tasmanian Odyssey, who supported my press trip to Oz earlier this year. One of the resultant features has now been published in Wanderlust, in which I was able to combine Tasmania’s new Three Capes Track with lashings of convict history. So satisfying that I was able to turn a terrific trip into a not-too-shabby feature!
Raindrops on daffodils, whiskers on bunnies; bright copper-foiled chocolate and warm woollen mittens being ceremoniously shoved back in the drawer… these are a few of the many reasons to look forward to the Easter holidays…
Always nice to do a big, meaty round-up for the Telegraph. Especially one that involves bigging up the great British outdoors – from new lion encounters to kayaking over enormous aqueducts to strolling with llamas.
You could easily stay for weeks, exploring the various neighbourhoods: Downtown, home to the Freedom Trail historic route and tasty Chinatown; affluent Beacon Hill; the shopping mecca of Back Bay, which until 150 years ago was untamed swamp; Italian-flavoured North End; trendy, gay-friendly South End; Cambridge, across the Charles River. But chances are you’ll fall for it after only a day.
With the launch of Wow Air’s £99 flight, it was time to focus on Boston. So I wrote a Short Break guide for Wanderlust, trying to squeeze everything that’s cool about the place into just three days. My biggest big of advice? Stay longer.