Where are you from and where have you lived?
Owing to my father’s work with the British armed forces, I moved around a lot as a child. I was born in Singapore and spent most of my early childhood in Germany. When I was nine, we moved to Amesbury in Wiltshire and I grew up in Stonehenge World Heritage Site, with views of ancient burial mounds from my bedroom window.
Not content with this varied childhood, after I graduated from university I moved to Japan in 2003 and finally returned to the UK in 2007. The next year and a half were spent back at Stonehenge in a small cottage that overlooks the stone circle, before my wife and I moved to Southampton on England’s south coast. We’re still there, but I consider Amesbury my home.
Tell us about yourself—what path led you to become a Zegrahm Leader leader?
Growing up surrounded by the military and the ancient past, I’ve always had an interest in history and when I returned from Japan, I was lucky enough to start making it my career. I began working as a full-time volunteer for the National Trust at Stonehenge, working on the landscape surrounding the stone circle, and grew from there. After working for numerous heritage organizations, I eventually became an independent archaeologist and historian and am lucky enough to have worked on some significant projects here in the UK.
A few years ago, when a friend’s family visited England, I gave them a guided tour of Stonehenge landscape. That family included none other than Jim Wilson, who enjoyed it enough to put my name forward when Zegrahm were looking for a new historian. After a very enjoyable Western Coast of Europe expedition in 2018, I was delighted to be asked back and am truly grateful to have been welcomed into the Zegrahm family.
What other jobs, positions or credentials do you have?
In Japan I worked as an English language teacher, mainly at a small private language school run by a Londoner and his Japanese wife. This was in the town of Suzuka – famous for being the home of Honda – and some of my pupils included employees who were moving to their car plants in England or the US.
Much as my girlfriend Caroline (now my wife) and I loved Japan, we realized we couldn’t live there indefinitely. On our return to England, we both moved into full-time work as archaeologists, although my own work has drifted further into research and history. My projects have been incredibly varied and have included researching ancient footpaths and researching more than 1,000 vessels sunk in the English Channel during the First World War.
My current work includes managing archaeology and heritage sites in England’s woodlands in the south of England I’m lucky enough to have spent the last two years as the lead heritage adviser on the restoration of the only surviving D-Day Landing Craft Tank (a tank-carrying landing craft) in the world, a richly rewarding project. I spend a lot of time investigating D-Day sites on England’s south coast, including sunken tanks and the remains of pieces of Mulberry Harbour, the floating harbor towed to Normandy after D-Day.
What other fields are you passionate about?
Outside of history and heritage, I thoroughly enjoy cycling. I have five bikes in my shed plus the parts for four more. Most of my holidays involve putting a tent on the rear rack of my touring bike and taking a ferry across the English Channel.
Any awards, publications, appearances documentaries etc. do you have?
I’ve written a number of small books (mainly souvenir publications for museums) but this autumn, my first full-size book came out. It’s all about Motor Gun Boats, small fast boats operated by the Royal Navy in the English Channel during the Second World War. I appear on television every once in a while, primarily in documentaries about the Royal Navy and D-Day.
What organizations are you a part of?
With my archaeology hat on, I’m a trustee for the Council for British Archaeology’s Wessex region. I also have a secret fascination with Palmerston Forts – 19th-century fortresses around Britain’s coast built to hold back a French invasion that never came. I somehow winded up on their committee as well!
What excites you (or what do you enjoy) about working for Zegrahm?
Everything! Pretty much all you can ask for comes together on a Zegrahm expedition. The expedition team themselves are great – they’re all experts in their field and can be relied upon to share their expertise throughout a journey. It’s a great team to work with and we all gel so well that we barely need to plan an activity – we all instinctively know what to do.
But it’s the guests that make the trips. I think everyone who comes on a Zegrahm expedition knows what to expect – some fantastic destinations, some serious history, culture and nature, and a really good time. They come to enjoy themselves more than anything else, so although we’re there to make sure everyone is safe, gets to see what they’ve come for, and learns about the destinations, it’s their willingness to enjoy themselves and camaraderie that makes for a good expedition.
What is your favorite Zegrahm memory?
That’s a tricky one because there really are so many. Each expedition I’ve done has been unique and each destination has been fascinating. One memory that sticks out though, was being able to sneak guests into a U-boat bunker at La Rochelle, where we were really able to appreciate the scale of these structures.
What are your top three countries or regions in the world to explore?
Japan, the rest of Far-East Asia, and Europe. I’m already pretty well-traveled in all three, but there’s still so much to see, even in a relatively small country like Japan.
What’s left on your explorer’s bucket list/where do you still want to go that you haven’t been yet? Why there?
Despite being well-traveled in Europe and Asia, I’ve barely gone south of the equator and still haven’t got across the Atlantic. I’d love to explore the east coast and the Great Lakes of the US, and from my mountain biking interests, I’ve always had a hankering to visit Vancouver.
Japan also features quite strongly on this list. Although I lived there for nearly four years, I feel like I only scratched the surface of the country. I have many plans for things I’d like to do there – cycle the length of the country, hike some of the mountains, explore the full length of the Tōkaidō road. Some of these are a bit more likely than others, but I’ll definitely do more there.