A WINCHESTER man has written a book, part a homage to France and also to his father.

John Micklewright's The Opening Country: a Walk Through France, describes his journey from Normandy to the foothills of Mount Blanc in the Alps.

He did not have a book in mind when he set out but that changed when, on his return, he read his father's diaries of visits to France from as far back as the 1930s.

The book is a mix of landscape, nature writing, history, literature, film, and – drawing on his father's diaries – of memoir.

John told the Chronicle: "I walked across France after 25 years of ignoring the country in my haste to get to Italy, where I used to live.

"I decided that I wanted to re-discover France the slow way by walking right across the country, on paths and tracks, from the Normandy coast to the slopes of Mont Blanc – although my walk began from our doorstep in Winchester, with two days across the hills to Portsmouth to catch the night ferry to Caen.

"In part, I was inspired by classic accounts of long journeys on foot through Europe by writers such as Patrick Leigh Fermor and John Hillaby.

"But I had no intention of writing a book when I set off; the decision to do that came after my return to England when I thought of how much I had seen and learned and enjoyed from this unhurried passage through 'la France profonde' that could interest other people – and when I read my father’s old diaries for the first time, recording his visits to France that stretched back to the 1930s, which in places I weave into my narrative."

John, of Elm Road, Fulflood, added: "My father loved walking and loved France and both my journey and the research for the book rekindled my love of the country – for its landscape, its natural history, its common past with England, its literature, its food, and its people. France remains our closest continental neighbour and we are lucky in Hampshire to be able to get there so easily – when Covid restrictions permit!"

The Opening Country is published by Troubador Publishing and is available as paperback or ebook from the publisher, local bookshops, or the internet.