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Category: New Titles


By AmeriCymru, 2017-07-26

haf llywelyn.jpg A historical novel for young adults published this week has been inspired by the life of Hedd Wyn, the famous Welsh poet who fought in the First World War.

An Empty Chair by acclaimed author Haf Llewelyn follows young poet Ellis, and when the First World War arrives, he has to join up and go and be a soldier like dozens of other young men from rural Trawsfynydd. His teenage sister Anni longs to have him home again on their family farm, Yr Ysgwrn, especially after seeing the terrible effect of the war on her best friend Lora’s father.

Meanwhile Ellis is in the trenches in Belgium, hoping to make it home safely, and to win the Chair at the National Eisteddfod – the most important prize in Welsh poetry.

The novel is published as part of the centenary commemorations for World War I, and particularly to mark the centenary of the battle of Passchendaele in July 1917, and Hedd Wyn’s involvement in it.

The novel follows the huge impact of the war on village life through the eyes of Hedd Wyn’s 14-year-old sister Anni, bringing the incredibly moving events to life for teenagers through a vivid voice of their own age. At the centre of everything is Anni’s relationship with her best friend Lora, and the difficult decisions the two have to face concerning family, friendship, love and honesty, as well the effects of the war on their whole community.

The original Welsh-language version of the novel ( Diffodd y Sêr , Y Lolfa, 2013) is highly critically acclaimed and won the Tir na n-Og secondary fiction prize in 2014. Since 2015, it has been a set text on the Welsh Literature GCSE syllabus.

A farmer’s son from Trawsfynydd, Hedd Wyn – real name Ellis Humphrey Evans – fought in the trenches in the First World War as part of the 15th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and fought at Passchendaele in July 1917, one hundred years ago this month, and is famous for being awarded the Chair at the 1917 National Eisteddfod, held in Birkenhead shortly afterwards.

Haf Llewelyn comes from Ardudwy and was brought up very near Trawsfynydd and Yr Ysgwrn. She now lives in Llanuwchllyn and is a full-time author. After travelling to the small town of Ypres in Belgium, she was struck by the thousands of white gravestones in the World War I cemeteries there, and what the stories of those who fought at Passchendaele might be. Her inspiration to write this novel stemmed from that trip.

‘Seeing the names and ages of the young men carved on those white gravestones in Ypres made me realise the terrible price of war’ said Haf, ‘Sometimes it's difficult for us to connect with a time that has passed, but when visiting Yr Ysgwrn, the home of Hedd Wyn, time has somehow stood still.’

‘The scale of the loss is just incomprehensible when you see those thousands of gravestones, but when you bring it all down to one story about one actual person and the people at home who loved him, it somehow seems more real’ added Haf, ‘The terrible events of July 1917 continue to cast a shadow over the home of one of Wales's best-known poets.’

An Empty Chair by Haf Llewelyn (£5.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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galar a fi.jpg A book published this week will aim to break the taboo around grief whilst offering supporting through the medium of Welsh to those who are going through grief.

Galar a Fi (Grief and Me) contains the experiences of 14 people who have been through grief after losing a brother, sister, friend, son, daughter, father, mother or lover – and the way they coped with their grief and loss. The responses to grief vary from poems, letters, diaries, essays and short stories.

The volume was compiled and edited by Esyllt Maelor, who has experienced grief herself.

The book follows Gyrru drwy Storom (y Lolfa) which was published in 2015 – a book that presented moving accounts of living with mental health issues.

‘In her preface to that book, Alaw Griffiths noted that she could not find sufficient websites or books on mental health in Welsh. And there’s very little available in Welsh about grief too.’ explained Esyllt, ‘If reading is a form of counselling, then I wanted to read in Welsh.’

‘Like with mental health, there’s a taboo associated with grief too. So this book is an attempt to give a voice to the voiceless,’ said Esyllt.

The contributions are varied – with many young people in ther midst – Luned Rhys who wrote a poem about losing her father; Llio Maddocks who wrote a short story about losing her friend, Mared; Sara Maredudd Jones who notes how important it is to talk after losing a loved one; and Manon Gravell who wrote a diary of her last holiday with her father, Ray Gravell.

Branwen Haf Williams writes a letter to her father, Derek, the author Sharon Marie Jones talks to her son Ned, Nia Gwyndaf talks to her husbans, Eifion Gwynne, Mair Tomos Ifans sees grief as being ‘in a tunnel’ and Cris Dafis conveys his deep hiraeth and longing. The other contributors are Dafydd John Pritchard, Arthur Roberts, Iola Lloyd Owen, Manon Steffan Ros a Gareth Roberts.

‘I am forever grateful to the authors for their willingness to share and in doing to opening many doors for us, the reader. I hope this book will be of help to those who need it,’ added Esyllt, ‘Whenever you find yourself turning to it, I hope that one thing stays with you through the grief and pain of these pages. That thing is love. A deep, priceless love.’

Galar a Fi (£7.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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trawsfynydd.jpg The secrets of Trawsfynydd’s history are told anew in a new book published this week.

Traws-Olwg - Trawsfynydd a'r Ardal Fel y Bu is full of impressive photographs telling the dramatic story of Trawsfynydd. The memorable book was produced by the photographer Keith O’Brien and the community company Traws-Newid which was founded in 1998 with the aim of improving the economy, environment and social aspects of the area.

From opening the railway between Bala and Blaenau Ffestiniog to establishing a military training camp on the outskirts of the village, building a dam to create Trawsfynydd Lake and building the nuclear power station - the history of Trawsfynydd area is certainly interesting.

The book is published to commemorate the centenary of the death of Hedd Wyn and the Eisteddfod of the Black Chair in the summer of 2017 and contains a foreword by the writer Dewi Prysor who’s from the area himself.

‘Many volumes have already been published about Hedd Wyn this year, but we hope with this volume to show another side to Traws, her history, culture and industry from the beginning of the last century – something that will open the eyes of the reader to this close community that has seen remarkable changes to her landscape and society over the past years’ explained Keith O’Brien.

‘One of the most interesting stories that I came across was the history of the balloon that broke free from its moorings at the Camp and flew in the direction of Bala – and the people of Llŷn thought the Germans were attacking!’ said Keith.

Cyfeillion Yr Ysgwrn – the home of Hedd Wyn, have organised a number of events to remember Hedd Wyn’s death in 2017, and Traws-Newid agreed to publish the book as a contribution to support them.

‘Every picture tells a story, and we are all part of that story’ added Dewi Prysor.

Born in Trawsfynydd, mae Keith o’Brien is a Community and Sustainability Officer at Snowdonia National Park Authority and is the chair of Traws-Newid. He is married with two daughters.

The book will be launched at 7pm at the village hall in Trawsfynydd on Friday 21 st of July.

Traws-Olwg - Trawsfynydd a'r Ardal Fel y Bu (£9.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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williams pantycelyn.jpg A book which is being published to coincide with the 300 th anniversary of the birth of Williams Pantycelyn, will celebrate the contribution of the two most notable hymn-writers in Welsh history.

Flame in the Mountains draws together Professor H. A. Hodges’ published work on Williams Pantycelyn, Ann Griffiths and the Welsh hymn, together with his notes on Ann’s hymns and letters, which are published here for the very first time. Placing these hymn-writers in both a Welsh and an international context, the volume will not only be an invaluable introduction to William Williams and Ann Griffiths for those unfamiliar with their work, but will also provide valuable new insights and will be an essential tool for anyone wishing to study their work further.

Also included is Hodges’ English translations of Ann Griffiths’ hymns and letters and his translation of the celebrated lecture on her by the prominent Welsh literary critic, Saunders Lewis, which enthralled the audience when he delivered it at the National Eisteddfod of Wales in 1965.

A. Hodges (1905–76), for many years Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading, learned Welsh in order to study Welsh hymnody. He was described by his fellow-student of Welsh spirituality, Canon A. M. Allchin, as ‘one of the most distinguished lay theologians that the Church of England has known in the twentieth century’.

A. Hodges once described himself as a ‘fortunate foreigner’ who, in exploring Welsh literature, had found himself in a ‘new world’; and he became an enthusiastic ambassador for the riches of Welsh Christian literature in general and for Williams Pantycelyn and Ann Griffiths in particular. He was keen to promote them internationally and to place Welsh spirituality in an international context, and he succeeded in doing so sensitively, knowledgeably and perceptively.

According to H. A. Hodges, Ann Griffiths had a tremendous ‘spiritual vision of a distinctive quality’ and he could say of William Williams that through his hymns, ‘with their rich content of experience and their outstanding lyrical beauty, he has cast a spell over the mind of Welsh-speaking Wales which endures to this day’.

‘The hymn is one of the great highlights of Welsh literature, and the two most outstanding of all Welsh hymn-writers, William Williams (1717–91) of Pantycelyn and Ann Griffiths (1776–1805), are not only giants of the literary, cultural and religious life of Wales, but are also figures of international status and significance. Professor Hodges’ writings are an important contribution to our understanding of these exceptional authors’, said Professor E. Wyn James, editor of Flame in the Mountains .

Professor E. Wyn James is a leading authority on the Welsh hymn. He has added to the volume his own edited version of Ann Griffiths’ remarkable hymns in the original Welsh, which are placed side by side with Hodges’ metrical translations. Raised in the industrial valleys of south Wales he was, until his retirement, a Professor in the School of Welsh at Cardiff University and co-Director of the Cardiff Centre for Welsh American Studies.

Flame in the Mountains: Williams Pantycelyn, Ann Griffiths and the Welsh Hymn by H. A. Hodges; edited by E. Wyn James (£12.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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By AmeriCymru, 2017-06-21

undefeated 1974 lions.jpg As the British and Irish Lions prepare for their latest against all odds oddyssey to the southern hemisphere, what better time to relive the tour that eclipsed all others in terms of achievement and controversy. After their predecessors in 1971 had gained an historic first ever series win against the All Blacks in New Zealand, the 1974 Lions went one better. They took on and conquered the mighty Springboks of South Africa, returning from a 22 match series unbeaten.

In Undefeated - The Story of the 1974 Lions , Rhodri Davies not only brings the legendary 1971 tour to life, adding new perspective and insight, but he then proceeds to give the often unheralded 1974 Lions their historical due. With first hand contributions from Lions legends such as Willie John McBride, Fran Cotton, Gareth Edwards, JPR Williams, Phil Bennett, Andy Irvine and many more, the author captures the very essence of the greatest Lions of all time. The tour itself was brutal and scintillating in equal measure, but as well as contending with the fearsome on-field challenges the tourists also faced unprecedented political opposition both at home and abroad.

Should they have gone to apartheid South Africa at all? What exactly did they achieve by going? And how do they feel about it almost half a century later? Undefeated is a searingly honest reappraisal of the tour of '74 by the Lions legends who achieved the impossible. Their account is so compelling that 'Undefeated' was shortlisted for the British Rugby Book of the Year award on its first publication in 2014.

Here are "The Greatest Lions" - in their own words.

Undefeated - The Story of the 1974 Lions by Rhodri Davies is available now.

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dechrau canu dechrau wafflo.jpg In the book Dechrau Canu, Dechrau Wafflo , published this week, the story of Kees Huysmans is told – a singer and successful businessman from the Netherlands who moved to the Welsh countryside in the 1980s, adopting Welsh language and culture and established the company Tregroes Waffles.

The company has since gone from strength to strength and has put the village of Tregroes on the map worldwide.

Kees began his musical career as a child in the Catholic church choir in the Netherlands and after moving to Wales he was encouraged to join the local choir, mainly as a way to learn Welsh. He developed a taste for competing at the Eisteddfod and in 2016 he won the Blue Ribbon in the national Eisteddfod in Abergavenny.

The experience of singing in the choir and having the opportunity to converse with the customers on his marketplace stall became a way for him to develop his use of the Welsh lanaguge. He is now fluent and uses the Welsh language naturally in his workplace and in the community.

After making a special effort to embrace all the customs and traditions that belonged to the local society, he appreciated the support he received from residents in the area when he faced a dark period in his life as told in his book.

‘In a way, this book has allowed me to give something back to the village and the society of Tregroes where I have now lived for over thirty years’ explained Kees.

As a result, any profits from the book will go directly towards the cost of refurbishing the old school to become a centre of the village and surrounding area.

Said activist and friend Emyr Llywelyn, ‘This book is the interesting and readable story of a very special man, Kees Huysmans. The strength of the book lies in the honesty and sincerity of the author and that is sure to touch all who will read it.’

‘It creates an unique picture of the virtues of a rural Welsh community through the eyes of an immigrant. I doubt anybody has managed to tell their life story in a way that is as memorable as this singer, businessman and adopted Cardi.’

The book will be launched at three events at St Ffraed church in Tregroes at am 7.30pm on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evening the 19 th , 20 th and 21 st of June.

‘Dechrau Canu, Dechrau Wafflo’ by Kees Huysmans (£9.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

tregroes waffles.jpg

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a welsh wander.jpg On 26th July 2016, Tom Davies left his home in Presteigne. Nine weeks later he arrived home, having walked the 1,100-mile perimeter of Wales, raising £6,700 for Alzheimer`s Society.

Now his newly published book, A Welsh Wander – An Epic Trek Right Around Wales , is his heart-warmingly open and honest story, bursting with facts about places along his route. With vivid descriptions and photos of stunning scenery on the Offa`s Dyke Path and Wales Coast Path, Tom describes magical wildlife encounters, bizarre anecdotes, random and life-reaffirming generosity from strangers, and even a few dark moments when he felt like he’d bitten off more than he could chew.

‘During my years of teaching, my maternal grandma developed Alzheimer’s and while in the middle stages of the disease, passed away very suddenly. Two years later, my maternal grandfather was diagnosed with vascular dementia,’ explained Tom, ‘Seeing two people who I love very dearly afflicted by such a personal and confusing illness inspired me to begin fundraising for Alzheimer’s Society.’

It was for this reason that Tom had the idea for his challenge – to circumnavigate his home country in one go, carrying everything he needed to survive in his loyal backpack, Wilson,. 1,100 miles, two months away from home, a £1,100 sponsorship target and a daily online blog called Tom’s Welsh Wander that would become far bigger than he ever dreamed possible.

‘Each night, I would sit in a quiet corner of a pub, or a bedroom, or my tent, and pour my heart into my blog,’ said Tom, ‘It became a friend in whom I could confide my every thought, feeling and emotion, and that is why I have decided to share it now.’

Tom’s blog hits eventually climbed to over a staggering 26,500 and his fundraising reached a total of £6,700 – well above his original £1100 target. His journey also drew the support of one famous follower, TV presenter and Welsh meterologist Derek Brockway.

‘I first heard about Tom and his Welsh Wander after his mum got in touch with me in August 2016. She told me all about her son’s challenge to walk the whole perimeter of Wales and raise money for charity’ said Derek Brockway. ‘My dad suffered from dementia, Tom’s grandmother died of Alzheimer’s and now his grandfather has developed the illness too. I decided to offer my support and join him on part of his trek of a lifetime, to help raise awareness of this terrible condition.’

‘Tom is a proud Welshman who loves his country and his love of the Welsh countryside, its beauty, history and magical wildlife really shine through in his writing,’ added Derek, ‘It has been a pleasure for me to get to know Tom and one day I hope to follow in his footsteps and complete my own Welsh Wander!’

‘My Welsh Wander has been the single greatest experience of my life. I’ve seen so many breathtaking sights, had some incredibly special moments and battled through some tough ones too,’ added Tom, ‘‘I hope it will inspire people to explore the countryside on foot and to learn new things about the area they live in as well as making want to visit other corners of the incredible country that is Wales!’

The book also includes practical tips and checklists for anyone thinking of taking up long-distance walking.

Offa’s Dyke National Trail Officer Rob Dingle said, ‘For anyone planning to walk around Wales, the Offa’s Dyke Path or who just wants a good read about one person’s walking adventure, I would highly recommend that you have a read of Tom’s A Welsh Wander.

Tom Davies grew up in a close farming family in Presteigne, developing a love for nature and the great outdoors. While at Bangor University studying Primary Education, he joined the Mountain Walking Club, becoming treasurer and a leader, and spent most weekends taking groups into Snowdonia. After graduating, he spent four years teaching. He is now combining his love for teaching and the great outdoors by working as an outdoor activities instructor.

The book will be launched in Presteigne in late June in the company of Tom Davies and Derek Brockway.

A Welsh Wander – An Epic Trek Right Around Wales by Tom Davies (£12.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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welsh mining valley.jpg A new memoir published this week paints a vivid picture of life in the South Wales Valleys during the 1930s, and evokes the strong community spirit of the valleys in that period.

In A Childhood in a Welsh Mining Valley , author and ex-Congregational Minister Vivian Jones recounts with great warmth his childhood in a working class family within the community of Garnant, a small mining village in Cwm Aman, Carmarthenshire.

In those inter-war years, times were hard, labour was back-breaking and money, leisure time and material luxuries were in very short supply, but it’s clear that what joys people did find were really valued. As well as hymn-singing and preaching festivals attended by multitudes, there was the fun of the annual chapel daytrip to the seaside, when elders let their hair down and rolled their trouser-legs up. There was the chance to devour classic adventure novels such as Robinson Crusoe and The Three Musketeers , bought as a series from the News Chronicle . And there was the local people’s love of the cinema whose construction they themselves had funded.

‘The raising of the Workmen’s Hall was a stunning political statement for its day, a statement made by the organised working men of the community. It was a statement about the shape of things to come, the direction of the community’s life, and the readiness and ability of the working men to guide it.’ explained Vivian Jones, ‘It was a statement all the more powerful for being made at a time of very, very great hardship for them. Paid for by Union funds put together by subscriptions from miners’ wages over time, it cost £12,000, in 1927 – just one year after the General Strike of 1926.’

‘The underlying theme of this autobiography is the seemingly understated pride in the integrity and decency of these people and their culture,’ said Professor Hywel Francis, formerly professor in adult continuing education at Swansea University ‘and it shines through the powerful descriptions of family, work and community life, which created strong bonds of fellowship and solidarity in an era long before the divisive and fractured consumer society of today.’

A wealth of lively and humorous anecdotes bring the detail of this time, place and culture vividly back to life. Vivian’s autobiography is also a graphic explanation of how his family, community and chapel roots in the Amman Valley in the rural Welsh-speaking anthracite coalfield of West Wales created his reflective outlook, what he calls ‘my basic philosophy for living’ which shaped what he went on to do in life. These were the origins of his ‘radical bent’, his emphasis on community spirit and his concern for individual integrity. From the little boy described in the book, Vivian Jones grew up to be Minister of several Congregational Churches in Wales before leading the Plymouth Church, Minneapolis, USA for 15 years and then retiring back to South Wales.

Vivian’s principal motivation in writing this autobiography originally was to give an account of his humble yet proud Welsh origins for his American congregation, which he served from 1980 until 1995. ‘Most of the immigrants to Minnesota came from Scandinavia. Coming from a background so different to the vast majority of them, it seemed fair to me that the congregation I served had a right to know something of the influences that had shaped the mind of the preacher they listened to graciously Sunday after Sunday, so I wrote this book,’ explained Vivian.

‘Now, years later, the book has resurfaced, and it seems to me that the contents might give to some Welsh people my age the pleasure it has given me of retrieved memories,’ explained Vivian. ‘I would also hope that it would give my children and grandchildren a more rounded view of where they have come from, and that it could help young Welsh people at large to understand a little better how completely the world of some of us has changed in our lifetime.’

‘These reminiscences will preserve for posterity a way of life – a thoroughly Welsh way of life, both in language and culture,’ added Huw Walters, formerly Head of the Bibliography of Wales Unit, National Library of Wales.

A Childhood in a Mining Valley by Vivian Jones (£12.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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highlights from welsh history.jpg We ‘must use Welsh history as a means of giving the Welsh more confidence in the world today’ – this is the message that is emphasised in a new book published this week by Y Lolfa publishers.

Highlights from Welsh History  by Emrys Roberts is a brand new history book that shines new light on Wales. It gives a concise yet comprehensive overview of Welsh history from the Brythonic period to the present day, whilst presenting a new and alternative portrayal of Welsh history – with the emphasis being on the nation’s successes and strengths.

The book contains many revelatory facts about Wales including that she produced a man ‘probably more responsible than Charles Darwin for developing the theory of evolution’ and a woman who was ‘at least as responsible as Florence Nightingale for developing the nursing profession’. Also reveleaed is the way that Wales was the world leader during the early Industrial Revolution; contained the world’s first industrial town; and was home to the world’s first steam train.

‘Our small nation of some three million people have a past of which we can be immensely proud’ said the author, Emrys Roberts, ‘It pays sometimes to look in the rear-view mirror and I believe that if only the people of Wales were more fully aware of our past – our history, our story – it would give us much greater confidence in facing – and building – our future’.

He was inspired to write the book – in both English and Welsh, after a friend of his confessed that during the Scottish independence referendum in 2014 that he ‘did not feel very Welsh’ and that he ‘did not know much about Wales’ either.

‘Wales has made a huge contribution to the world but very few people are aware of it – even people in Wales itself’ added Emrys, ‘And that’s why I wrote this book. To give us confidence as a nation’.

Emrys Roberts was born in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, in 1931. He began to learn Welsh when his family moved to Cardiff during the Second World War. He secured an honours degree in History in the same year as he was President of the Students’ Union at University College, Cardiff, and has lectured in American and Welsh History at the college’s Extra-Mural Department.

He was Deputy President of Plaid Cymru in the late 70s. He was sent to Cardiff prison in 1952 for refusing to join the British armed forces after MPs in Wales voted against conscription during a time of peace. He was placed in the cells under Westminster after intervening and disrupting a debate from the public gallery.

Highlights from Welsh History by Emrys Roberts (£3.99, Y Lolfa) is available now. A Welsh version has also been published, titled Ein Stori Ni – Golwg Newydd ar Hanes y Cymry .

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A walk with the Wildlife Wanderer…

By AmeriCymru, 2017-03-23


One of the UK’s foremost wildlife photographers, David Bailey, will be publishing a striking collection of images in his first book, Wildlife Wanderer

Tireless in his search for species and their habitats, David Bailey is also full of concern and care for those animals he photographs, earning their trust and the right to document their comings and goings.

With a soft spot for squirrels, hares and owls, for kingfishers, foxes and deer, his camera has captured many of the wildlife wonders of Wales and England. In this book alone he features over 50 different species, including otters and beavers, dolphins and dragonflies, hedgehogs and herons, puffins and peregrine falcons, salmon and seals.

Though he likes to let his pictures do the talking, David Bailey also has the odd word of advice for would-be wildlife photographers, some pointers for less experienced naturalists and plenty of personal anecdotes, just to remind us that he really has walked on the wild side.

In the foreword to the book Dr Rhys Jones says that “the life of the wildlife cameraman is anything but glamorous. I’ve spent many a day sat with Dave at remote locations, knowing what it is to be both frozen in winter and eaten alive by mosquitoes in the summer. A wildlife cameraman needs skill, saint-like patience and luck. However I’m a firm believer that people create their own luck in life and Dave’s ability to read the landscape, coupled with his constant research into the lives of animals, puts him in the right place at the right time to secure that coveted photograph.”

David Bailey says “I do witness some odd sights while quietly sitting in the hide: courting couples, drugs drops, joy riders, poachers. I’ve even frightened the life out of some innocent people stood near my well camouflaged hide, as I pop my head out of an opening to say hello.”

“Working in the most beautiful locations, dealing with many wildlife projects and trusts, seeing wildlife which so many people will never set eyes on and meeting those with a love of animals, means that there is no such thing as a normal day. And I’m grateful for this. I often think I’m the luckiest person on the planet, and this book is my chance to share that luck with you.”

David Bailey is hugely respected for his enthusiasm and expertise in the field – he has been cameraman and consultant on the BBC series Rhys Jones’s Wildlife Patrol and has appeared on Springwatch with Nick Baker. Such is his reputation that he received the Brand Laureate International Personality Award in 2016 in recognition of his photography. Though Dorset and the New Forest have claims on him, he now lives in mid-Wales.

Wildlife Wanderer is now available from all good bookshops and online retailers or directly from the publishers Gomer Press on

It will be launched at the Drill Hall in Chepstow on 27 April. Tickets (£2) for the event are available from the Chepstow Bookshop on

David Bailey will also be in conversation with Dr Rhys Jones at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth on 6 May. Tickets (£6) are available from

"Stunning photography by a man who really understands his subject” Iolo Williams

Bibliographic details

Wildlife Wanderer

David Bailey

Published by Gomer Press

ISBN 9781785621833


Hardback, 144 pages

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