Did you know, there is a 1,000 km walkable path connecting the Commonwealth? In this week’s episode Gyles and Aphra Brandreth go on a virtual walk to find out all about the work of the Commonwealth Walkway Trust. Speaking to the Trust’s CEO Jim Walker, and to Royal Biographer and trustee Hugo Vickers, together they share their stories of walking in each Commonwealth Country and the collaborative ambition to create safe, easy to access places to walk with a unifying path that connects people and places.

About the Commonwealth Walkway

The Commonwealth Walkway are connecting the Commonwealth with a 1,000 km walkable path, linking 100 cities, permanently marking 2,000 points of significance and providing a practical opportunity for a third of the world’s population to be more active.

The Commonwealth Walkway connects every nation and territory in the Commonwealth. It is designed to link and interpret local heritage, engage people in their shared history and tradition, promote the Commonwealth principles and values of diversity, equality and friendship.

Most walks are between 5 and 10km, taking an hour or two to walk. They typically link 20 of the most significant sights and aim to be as safe, accessible and welcoming as possible. Hand casted gunmetal-bronze medals are being installed to mark each of the 2,000 points of significance in The Commonwealth. The late Queen, as Head of The Commonwealth, kindly gave permission for her personal EIIR cypher and crown to be included in the design.

Find out more and join the 100 Walk Commonwealth Challenge.

Episode guests

Hugo Vickers

Hugo Vickers

Trustee of the Commonwealth Walkway Trust

Hugo Vickers is well known as a biographer, lecturer and broadcaster, and is an acknowledged expert on the Royal Family.

His first book was about Gladys Deacon, Duchess of Marlborough (1881-1977), in whom he became interested when he was 16 years old.   When he was 23, he found the Duchess in the psychogeriatric ward of a mental hospital and talked to her for two years until her death at the age of 96.  He researched in Europe and America and published Gladys, Duchess of Marlborough in 1979.  Because there was considerably more material available 40 years on, he revised this book for a new edition, published in 2020, as The Sphinx (and paperback in 2021).  It received positive reviews.

He is called upon to commentate on important state occasions, and at times when the Royal Family are in the news.  He has covered events from the first wedding of the Prince of Wales, many royal weddings and the funerals of Diana, the Queen Mother, Prince Philip and the State Funeral of The Queen.  The Financial Times recently described him as: ‘the most knowledgeable royal biographer on the planet.’

He has written many biographies of 20th century figures, including Cecil Beaton, Vivien Leigh, the Duchess of Windsor, Princess Andrew of Greece, and the Queen Mother.  His book, The Quest for Queen Mary, sold 40,000 copies in various forms.  He has attacked the forty episodes of the Netflix series of The Crown – in his book, The Crown Dissected (2019), and in a privately published sequel, covering Season 4.

In May 2021 he published Malice in Wonderland, with extracts from his own diaries about researching the life of Cecil Beaton.  In May 2022 he published a book with HRH The Duke of Kent, entitled A Royal Life.

When not writing, he travels through the Commonwealth and Overseas Territories, establishing Commonwealth Walkways, and as such has visited many countries from Australia, New Zealand and Canada, to the Cook Islands, the Falklands and, as he puts it, was once obliged to spend seven weeks touring the Caribbean.  In July 2022 Prince Edward unveiled the Platinum Jubilee Walkway in Birmingham.

Jim Walker

Jim Walker

Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Walkway Trust

A Nervous Governor-General

by Andrew Barton Paterson (Banjo Paterson)

We read in the press that Lord Northcote is here
To take up Lord Tennyson’s mission.
‘Tis pleasant to find they have sent us a Peer,
And a man of exalted position.
It’s his business to see that the Radical horde
From loyalty’s path does not swerve us;
But his tastes, and the task, don’t seem quite in accord
For they say that His Lordship is nervous.
Does he think that wild animals walk in the street,
Where the wary marsupial is hopping?
Does he think that the snake and the platypus meet
And “bail up” the folk who go shopping?
And the boomerangs fly round the scared passer-by
Who has come all this way to observe us.
While the blackfellow launches a spear at his eye?
— No wonder His Lordship is nervous.

Does he think that with callers he’ll be overtasked,
From a baronet down to a barber?
Does he dream of the number of times he’ll be asked
“What he thinks of our Beautiful Harbour?”
Does he sadly reflect on the sorrows that ding
Round his task? (From such sorrows preserve us!)
He must hear John See speak and O’Sullivan sing,
— It’s enough to make any man nervous.

Does he think he’ll be waked in the dead of night
From Melbourne to go willy-nilly,
To live in the Federal Capital site
At Tumut or Wagra-go-billy?
Well, the Melbournites may let the Capital go
(Here we wink with one eye, please observe us!)
But not in a hurry! By no means! Oh, no!
He has not the least need to be nervous!

Bird on the Wire

by Leonard Cohen

Like a bird on the wire,
like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.
Like a worm on a hook,
like a knight from some old fashioned book
I have saved all my ribbons for thee.
If I, if I have been unkind,
I hope that you can just let it go by.
If I, if I have been untrue
I hope you know it was never to you.
Like a baby, stillborn,
like a beast with his horn
I have torn everyone who reached out for me.
But I swear by this song
and by all that I have done wrong
I will make it all up to thee.
I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch,
he said to me, “You must not ask for so much.”
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door,
she cried to me, “Hey, why not ask for more?”
Oh like a bird on the wire,
like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.

Upon Westminster Bridge

by William Wordsworth

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth like a garment wear

The beauty of the morning: silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky,
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!

The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!