Author Interview: Anna Paxton, Day Walks in East Anglia
- Monday 26 April 2021
Originally from Sheffield, Anna Paxton is a writer, film producer and mountain runner, and has competed in ultramarathons all over the globe. She now lives in the Peak District, which provides the perfect landscape for her trail running. For Day Walks in East Anglia, Anna selected and researched twenty walking routes around the sites of East Anglia, from the North Norfolk Coast to the Broads, the Suffolk Coast and Thetford Forest. The book features stunning photography of East Anglia’s landscape, seascape and wildlife. Here, Anna tells us about her essential items for a day walk and gives us some photography tips.
Cromer © Anna Paxton
Which is your personal favourite walk in Day Walks in East Anglia?
I loved Dunwich and Westleton Heaths in Suffolk. I just found those heaths so beautiful, a similar feel to the moors of the Peak District but with their own unique character. I also really enjoyed Hunstanton in Norfolk. The cliffs are unusual, there’s a shipwreck on the beach and a good pub en route!
How do the walks where you live now, in the Peak District, measure up?
The Peak District is a very different landscape in many ways, but there are definitely some similarities. Firstly, I was surprised to discover the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which has beautiful moorland, heather and perfect sandy trails, but butting right up to the sea rather than the gritstone edges of the Peak. There’s also an absolute wealth of wildlife in East Anglia, from seals to deer, birds, butterflies, otters, and even snakes. Obviously there aren’t seals in Derbyshire, but seeing wildlife is a really special part of walking wherever I am.
What are your essential items for a day walk?
Since I’m a runner, the first consideration is always which trail shoes to wear! I have an amazing day pack that goes everywhere with me (25l) with lots of nice external pockets. I always have an Ordnance Survey map, plus the app in my phone. You don’t really need a compass for the East Anglia walks but it’s always good to have one handy. Water and snacks. Waterproof, extra layer. Camera. Dog treats and poo bags!
Holkham Beach © Anna Paxton
How did you decide on the best walks for the guidebook? How long did it take you to test them out?
I always want to add something of interest into a route. It could be anything from an abandoned military outpost, a seal colony or a cloud viewing platform. I also wanted to capture all the elements that reflect the landscape and character of East Anglia – cliff, beach, river, woodland, historic village and seaside town. Then I look for potential options on the map, dispersed nicely across the area and plotted them to see if I could make a circular route. I walked every route, so at least twenty days walking, plus one that didn’t make it into the book.
Your photography is used throughout the guidebook. What are your top tips for taking beautiful landscape pictures?
I really enjoyed taking the photos for this book – it’s a new skill to me and I’m definitely still learning. My biggest tip is to be there in the location! If you go somewhere beautiful there’s a good chance you’ll get a good picture. Light and weather conditions help. For the book I tried not to walk on wet or dull, unphotogenic days. Having said that, mist can be moody and interesting. I try to capture details specific to that walk: maybe it’s a boat, unusual colours in the cliffs or the type of trees and plants.
Upton Staithe © Anna Paxton
One of your photographs captures some grey seals at Horsey Gap. Did you see any other interesting wildlife on your travels?
They were the most exciting. Who knew that there are such incredible animals in such an accessible place in the UK. You can see them at both Blakeney and Horsey, as well as just bobbing about in the sea along the Norfolk coast.
You established Outdoorista to give a voice to female role models in outdoor sports. Which women have inspired you most in your life?
When I first got into climbing and then ultrarunning I really valued female role models. They certainly inspired me. I saw such a small proportion of women participating and featured in outdoor media, and that has changed to some extent now. These days I’m excited that all of us can be role models through our own behaviour and what we choose to communicate. Less about gender, more about adventuring in a sustainable way, respecting the landscape and wildlife, and making the outdoor community as welcoming and inclusive as possible.
Thetford Forest © Anna Paxton
What do you do to stay active over the course of a week?
Trail running and dog walking! I’m training for ultra-distance races now events are back on.
What would you say to motivate someone to get up and out and enjoy nature?
If you’re struggling for motivation, take it easy. Don’t put pressure on yourself. Have a nice walk or gentle run, reward yourself with a coffee or whatever you enjoy. You’ll always feel better spending time in nature, remember that feeling and use it for motivation next time.
Are you working on anything at the moment?
This year I stepped up to become co-director of Sheffield Adventure Film Festival along with Matt Heason who founded the event sixteen years ago. The festival is taking place 9–11 July, after being cancelled due to lockdown last year. It’s always been an important date in the outdoor calendar for me. Sheffield’s outdoor community has so much energy and talent, and it’s a chance to come together and get inspired for another year of adventure!