Journey Through the Chilterns with Gail Simmons and Helen and Neil Matthews

Thursday 27th June

Tickets are £5.00 and are available to order in store
or over the phone on 01628 473 240

6.30pm – 8pm


In the autumn of 1874 a young, unknown travel writer called Robert Louis Stevenson walked from High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire to Tring in Hertfordshire. He wrote up his three-day journey across the Chiltern Hills in an essay titled In the Beechwoods, penned a decade before he found fame as the author of Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Travel writer and journalist Gail Simmons follows in his footsteps, tracing not only the changes in the landscape of the last 150 years but also those yet to come with the imminent arrival of the controversial HS2, the high-speed railway from London to Birmingham. Just as Stevenson spoke to people he met along the way, Simmons encounters those whose lives will be affected by HS2: a tenant farmer, a retired businessman-turned-campaigner, a landscape historian and a conservationist. Divided into three parts to parallel Stevenson’s journey the book offers a detailed, almost forensic, examination of this distinctive landscape of English chalk downland interwoven with recollections from Simmons of growing up in a Chilterns commuter village. ‘I might have left long ago’ she says, ‘but this place still matters to me’.



Travel writer Gail Simmons was born in Northumberland to an army family who, after periods living overseas, settled in a Chiltern commuter village on the borders of Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire. After completing an MA in medieval history Gail pursued a varied career that included working in a Cumbrian castle, protecting historic buildings and leading walking trips in Europe and the Middle East, before becoming a full-time travel writer specialising in independent and sustainable journeys. In 2016 Gail completed a PhD in Creative Writing and she now teaches travel writing at Bath Spa and Cambridge universities. Despite her lifelong global wanderings Gail finds special enjoyment in exploring her home country of Britain, recently rediscovering the quiet allure of the Chiltern Hills where she grew up and which, aged eighteen, she couldn’t wait to leave. Now, with HS2 looming, Gail realises just how important this threatened landscape still is to her.



Local experts Helen and Neil Matthews provide all the practical information you need to slow down and properly enjoy a distinctive corner of Britain. But, more than that, they get to the region’s very heart, revealing its myths and traditions, and telling the fascinating stories of the people who live here. Whether wandering through beech woodlands, enjoying sustainably produced local food, discovering brick-and-flint market towns or following in the footsteps of great rulers, rebels, writers and artists, you’ll find Slow Travel The Chilterns & The Thames Valley goes far beyond conventional guidebooks in celebrating one of England’s most beautiful areas.



Helen and Neil Matthews have lived in Prestwood, Buckinghamshire, since 1991. Helen, who is Chilterns-born and bred, co-founded a local conservation group and is a member of the Chiltern Society’s Save our Pubs working group. Her book on the illegitimate children of medieval English gentry will be published in 2019. By day she is a university administrator. Neil, who is a marketer, travel writer and historian, has previously published two books: Journeys from Wimbledon Common, about the places from which the Wombles took their names, and Victorians and Edwardians abroad: the beginning of the modern holiday.

Tickets cost £5 and are available to purchase in the shop, or you can telephone us on 01628 473 240. All tickets include a glass of wine or a soft drink, and 20% off copies of The Country of Larks: A Chiltern Journey and Slow Travel: The Chilterns & The Thames Valley.