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Former regional press man takes on a new life in Spain

After writing a book about walking the coast of Spain, former regional press reporter David Jones swapped life on UK papers for the Costa Blanca News. He spoke to Holdthefrontpage about the walk, his book, and the difference between UK and Spanish journalism…

Whilst working for the Walsall Advertiser in 1998, David decided to walk across Spain to raise money for the Walsall Manor Hospice.

He hoped to write a book about his trek from Vigo to the south coast – a route taken from Laurie Lee’s As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning – but the plan never came off.

But after moving to The Sentinel in Stoke, David decided on a different approach.

He said: “I wanted to do a light-hearted, humorous, Bill Bryson-type book. I knocked my job at The Sentinel on the head and went with enough money to do an 18-week walk. I planned to cover two thirds of the coast in that time and then had four months to write it up.”

David, (34), started in the north west at the Portuguese border and trekked to France. He then walked the Mediterranean coast before heading south to Andalucia.

He said: “Lots of Spain’s coastline is spoilt by buildings and overdevelopment. But an area in the north west called the Costa da Morte – the coast of death because it has so many shipwrecks – is absolutely stunning.”

David walked the coast which is home to many small fishing villages two months before the Prestige oil tanker spilled 50,000 tonnes of oil resulting in Spain’s biggest ever ecological disaster in November 2002.

Another favourite part of his journey included the Mediterranean coast line by the French Pyrenees.

“It’s a fantastic landscape. There are 3,000ft mountains coming down to the coast. In the south east corner of Spain there is a volcanic mountain range which runs parallel with the coast called the Sierra de Gata. There’s 40 miles of extinct volcanoes and it’s beautiful for walking.”

David’s adventure wasn’t without mishap, however. Eight weeks in he reached a village after walking 30 miles in a day, only to lose his passport and money.

“I sat down on a bench with my rucksack and security bag which I had my passport in. I stood up with my rucksack but forgot the security bag and walked off. I charged back a couple of minutes later but someone had taken it.

“I had to get a ferry home for a week to sort it all out!”

David published his book From Here To There (Walking Spain’s Coast) through on demand publisher Writersworld.

“It seemed a reasonable line to go down. They make books available through online book sellers such as Amazon. It’s published on demand so you’re not in a situation of having a hundred odd books on a shelf somewhere. If someone wants to buy it they can send off to publish one or two copies on demand.

“I got complete control over the book as well which was quite appealing. I wanted to do the walk but wasn’t under any illusion that I would make money from it. I would write more were it not for the time constraints of a full time job.”

On his return home he began work at the Mid Devon Gazette – but four months later got itchy feet again.

David left the Gazette series to take up a reporting job at the Torrevieja office of the Costa Blanca News – an English newspaper aimed at ex-pats which is the biggest selling international weekly in Spain with a circulation of around 30,000.

He said it is much more enjoyable than some of his previous reporting jobs in the UK.

He said: “I’ve found a job I really want to do and I’m really enjoying it. I spent two years at The Sentinel and I would struggle to say I enjoyed it. It was a lot of pressure and long hours and I didn’t really have chance to investigate stuff or use my own ideas.

“I’d come in and be assigned something – it was very much top down. Here I have almost total freedom and I can take time to look into things.”

David said he has recently spent a lot of time investigating Spain’s illegal building industry which threatens to spoil more of the coastline.

“It’s a subject that is close to my heart and it’s a real problem.

“Builders are building on protected land due to the incompetence or connivance of local government. We have been trying to draw attention to that to stop the coast line being covered with concrete.

“We’ve had a lot of response from the British ex-pats which has been pretty positive. Spain has got to wake up to the fact that it is ruining its coast line.

“They don’t seem to see it but they are taking the bottom out of the market. People will be driven away as they don’t want to live in a concrete jungle.

“Residential tourism, as it’s known, is a huge part of Spain’s economy and now the British are seeing alternatives of other places to move abroad.”

From Here To There (Walking Spain’s Coast), ISBN 1-904181-22-8, is available through Amazon and Writersworld for £8.50.

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