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Listen to Excess Baggage for

31 MAY 2008

Despite centuries of agriculture and urbanisation, the British Isles do still have their untamed spots.  John McCarthy meets two travel writers who have explored them looking for less domesticated locations; Christopher Somerville shares the secret of some places, both remote and not-so-remote, where nature has the upper hand and Daniel Start reveals the best inland sites for swimming in the wild - possibly even as nature intended.

The Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range is a little known part of the world just south of the United States border. It stretches nearly a thousand miles down the west side of Mexico, a rugged landscape populated by tough people, where drug and gun running are part of the way of life.  From his home in Tucson, Arizona British journalist, Richard Grant, heard frightening tales of murder and crime in the Chihuahua and Durango regions and resolved to visit them, attracted by the very dangers that scare most tourists away.  He recounts his adventures there including the time when he came to be the subject of a manhunt.

Presented by John McCarthy

The deep clear waters of the Blue Lagoon near Llangollen in Wales (©/courtesy of Daniel Start)

Photo: The deep clear waters of the Blue Lagoon near Llangollen in Wales (©/courtesy of Daniel Start)

This week’s guests: 

Christopher Somerville is a travel writer and poet; he was awarded the Wyvern Prize for poetry in 2004.  With thirty books to his credit, including the books to accompany the BBC ‘Coast’ series, Christopher has also written AA guides on walks in Britain, Crete, Ireland. 

Christopher has spent the last twenty five years writing and broadcasting about country walks.  His forthcoming book, to be published at the beginning of July is entitled Britain and Ireland's Best Wild Places.

Britain and Ireland's Best Wild Places: 500 Ways to Discover the Wild
Publisher: Allen Lane (to be published on July 3rd 2008)
ISBN-10: 0713999675
ISBN-13: 978-0713999679

Daniel Start is a travel writer, photographer and environmental consultant. Daniel spent his childhood river-swimming, dam-making and raft-building in Herefordshire. He trained as a natural scientist and whilst working in Indonesia at the age of twenty two was taken hostage in the remote rainforests of New Guinea and his first book The Open Cage described his time swimming and trekking with the tribes and rebels there.

For the past five years Daniel has been documenting, photographing and exploring the wilds and natural waters of Britain. In this quest he has visited more than three hundred bathing spots, and many of those are included in his new book called Wild Swimming.

Wild Swimming: 150 Hidden Dips in the Rivers, Lakes and Waterfalls of Britain
Publisher: Punk Publishing Ltd
ISBN-10: 0955203678
ISBN-13: 978-0955203671

Richard Grant is a journalist and writer.  At the beginning of his reporting career, Richard found himself in Los Angeles covering gang stories and riding freight trains with hobos.  It was in the early nineties that he first heard tales of Sierra Madre, the 900 mile range of mountains in the states of Chihuahua and Durango in northern Mexico. 

Richard was so intrigued that he decided to learn Spanish and horse riding before setting off on this adventure.  He found a place darker than he had expected, where the violence and crime shocked and intrigued him.  He wrote about his experience and the people he met in a new book Bandit Roads, where everyone seems to get injured in some way, from saddle sores to self inflicted scorpions’ stings.

Bandit Roads: into the lawless heart of Mexico
Publisher: Little, Brown
ISBN-10: 0316729361
ISBN-13: 978-0316729369

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John McCarthy John McCarthy is a widely travelled journalist and presenter with a particular interest in the Middle East.
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