Home is where the heart is
Author Laurence Mitchell Specialises In Far-Flung Countries With Unfamiliar Customs And Dramatic Scenery, But Is Just As Enthralled His Home County, Writes Rowan Mantell.
- Credit: Archant © 2010
He has visited 100 countries and written about everywhere from Azerbaijan to Zemun.
He has explored Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, India, Bangladesh and Bosnia and Herzegovina – but his latest book brings Norwich-based travel writer and photographer Laurence Mitchell back home.
Slow Travel Norfolk is a celebration of the county as well as a guide book, packed with stories of its people and places. It is a personal guide, peppered with practical information, and ranges from the Fens to the Broads and the coast to the city.
Laurence, who lives in Norwich with his wife, says: “Although I often write about exotic and little-visited locations such as central Asia and the Balkans, I find myself increasingly drawn to my own back-yard in Norfolk.”
In recent years he has written Slow Travel guides and walking guides to both Norfolk and Suffolk, and believes that even well-known destinations can reveal hidden treasure.
“Slow travel is all about taking your time to discover that which makes an area or region distinctive,” says Laurence. “I am just as excited to visit a Norfolk village or bit of coast I have never been to before as I am to travel to an exotic Central Asian Silk Route town or animal market – well, almost!
“Writing about the familiar requires looking a little deeper beneath the surface to find the extraordinary in the commonplace – that which is distinctive or quirky about a place’s geography, folklore or local history.”
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He also advocates slow travel on his journeys, preferring to discover more, in depth, by foot or bike or public transport, than covering distances faster.
Ask about his favourite parts of Norfolk and he ranges across the entire county. “I love the coast between Salthouse and Morston and also further west between Thornham and Old Hunstanton. I also very much like the coastal hinterland between Wells and Fakenham around Walsingham.
He particularly loves walking, with two favourite footpaths including the Nar Valley Way in west Norfolk and the Wherryman’s Way in the east.
“Writing about the familiar also has the distinct advantage of going home to my own bed every night,” says Laurence, who arrived in the county as a student and worked as a geography teacher in Stalham before becoming a full-time travel writer.
He has contributed to books ranging from tales of travelling through Britain by bus to tackling the ancient Silk Route connecting China with the Mediterranean and hiking the mountainous Janapar trail in Armenia, but says: “Long crowded bus journeys along rough dusty roads and tumbledown ex-Soviet hotels don’t quite hold the appeal they once did for me, although I still enjoy the frisson of being a stranger in a strange land and a bit of unashamed exoticism now and again!”
Slow Travel Norfolk, £9.99, is the latest title from travel specialist Bradt.