John Hillaby, walker supreme, dies at 79

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The writer and walker John Hillaby, whose classic Journey Through Britain inspired countless other romantics to tread the nation's paths, has died at the aged of 79, writes Gerald Isaaman.

Hillaby scored bestseller success with his series of Journey books, which describe in wry and self-deprecating tones the meditative joys of walking at an unhurried pace.

The son of a Yorkshire printer, he grew up with an abiding love of the environment and learned his craft as a journalist on local papers before serving the Manchester Guardian, the New York Times and New Scientist as a specialist on nature, environmental and scientific subjects.

His first book which received widespread acclaim was Journey to the Jade Sea, published in 1964, describing his account of leading a caravan of camels 1,100 miles across the North Kenyan desert in search of Lake Rudolph. This was followed by Journey Through Britain, 1968, which remains in print, Journey Through Europe, 1972, Journey Through Love, 1976, Journey Home, 1983, and finally Journey to the Gods, which told of his walk to Mount Olympus, 1986.

A tall man with a shock of white hair and a matching beard, he combined a clarity of vision and an agility with words which inspired not only readers but famous walkers of younger generations. Among them was Ffyona Campbell, who turned to Hillaby for advice before she embarked upon her epic trek across Africa.

Hillaby was married three times and leaves a widow, and two daughters by an earlier marriage.