Where Barnes Wallis blew up his first reservoir dam in World War 2

The remains of the Nant Y Gro dam after Barnes Wallis successfully blew it up © Simon Whaley

Sir Barnes Neville Wallis was famous for creating the bouncing bomb. Without it, 617 Squadron would not have destroyed the Mohne and Edersee dams in Germany’s Ruhr Valley, during Operation Chastise in May 1943.

However, blowing up a dam is not easy, and twelve months earlier, in May 1942, Wallis hadn’t solved the problem. But thanks to a small dam few have heard of, hidden in the Elan Valley in Wales, he cracked the problem. Literally.

The Elan Valley sits a few miles west of Rhayader, in the mid-Wales county of Powys. In the late 19th century, the Birmingham Water…


Why the Tokyo Olympics are linked to a Victorian doctor living in the small market town of Much Wenlock in the UK

Welcome to Much Wenlock -Home to Dr William Penny Brookes — Contributor to the Rebirth of the Modern Olympic Games — © Simon Whaley

If it wasn’t for a man born 200 years ago in the small Shropshire market town of Much Wenlock, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games might not be taking place. Strange as it may seem, this small rural British market town played a vital role in re-establishing the Ancient Greek games as an international sporting event.

The man in question is Dr. William Penny Brookes, born on August 13th, 1809. He was born and bred in Much Wenlock and followed in his father’s footsteps to become a doctor. He traveled widely, furthering his knowledge, spending time at Guy’s and St Thomas’s…


The Power of Going For A Walk

Loweswater, in the Lake District, Cumbria, UK — © Simon Whaley

“Solvitur Ambulando,” he shouted, as he dashed past.

“Morning,” I replied, wondering what the heck the at-least-80-year-old hiker was going on about as he made his way back towards Maggie’s Bridge. Had he heard me muttering as I sauntered towards Holme Wood, along the shores of Loweswater? Probably.

I know I have a habit of talking to myself when I’m out walking, but that’s because they’re my best conversations. Sometimes I just get carried away and forget to whisper. And if a path gets busy, I hold a mobile phone to my ear, because people find this more acceptable. (Until…


And how to organize it in the first place

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

It was with fear and trepidation that I booked my first book blog tour. Not only was I nervous enough about self-publishing my first cosy crime novel, Blooming Murder, but now I was actively putting it directly into the hands of book bloggers who review thousands of books a year. What was I thinking of?

It turns out I needn’t have worried. It was exhausting but fun! And I now understand why so many authors do them. A book blog tour is so much more than getting some reviews.

Organizing a book blog tour

You can organize a tour yourself, simply searching online for book…


A 1,200-word short story

Photo by Wu Fu Quan on Unsplash

David drummed his fingers against the steering wheel of the family Ford Focus. His eyes were fixed on the school entrance. Any minute now, those doors would fly open and hundreds of happy kids would stream out, overjoyed at their freedom. And then he would see his Sarah emerge, alone and despondent from the challenges she’d had to cope with today.

His stomach cramped, as if someone had pushed their hand inside him, wrapped their fingers around his intestines and then squeezed, twisted and released them.

Fingers. Everything was about fingers now. Ever since that day three months ago.

He…


A journey along the Lake District’s Cunsey Beck

Cunsey Beck, near Esthwaite Water — © Simon Whaley

A gentle summer breeze whispers through the reeds cushioning Esthwaite Water from its southern shoreline. I spot a solitary oak leaf, gently floating towards me, held aloft by surface tension. Moments later, it slips beneath my feet, starting its new journey.

Not all watercourses are as epic as the Amazon’s source-to-sea saga. But there can’t be many with a bridge across its source and another across its mouth. …


A 3,000-word short story

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

There are moments in a vicar’s life when he understands the boss upstairs is up to something. This was one of those moments.

‘You couldn’t lie for us, could you, Revd Wilkins?’

I recognised the groom’s voice behind me as belonging to one of the newer couples who’d recently asked me to marry them, but I couldn’t put a name to his voice. I slotted a number 7 into the hymn board and turned round. His wheelchair was wedged right against the altar steps, and I noticed he wasn’t wearing his prosthetic lower legs today.

‘I dunno,’ he chuckled. ‘Legless…


For our small wins are staging posts on our journey to bigger celebrations

Photo by John Tuesday on Unsplash

‘Betsy, sit!’ I commanded, hopefully with enough authority not to startle her.
There was a moment’s hesitation in her big brown Welsh Springer Spaniel eyes, a quick shuffling of her back paws, and then she dropped her puppy bottom to the floor and her ginger-tipped white tail wagged fervently. She’d got it! Success!

‘Good girl!’ I praised, as I reached into my pocket for the small, tasty treat that was her reward.

As celebrations go, it was quite low-key, but this minor event had a profound effect on my writing. Whenever I’ve trained dogs, I’ve always rewarded good behavior immediately…


Closing the door on freelance writing gigs could help your writing business grow

Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash

One of the aims of being a freelance writer is securing new clients. More clients mean more money, right?

One of the downsides of freelancing is the innate urge to say ‘Yes!’ to every work opportunity that comes our way, especially if we’re just starting out, or going through a dry patch (as nearly every writer does, from time to time).

However, there’s no law that says once you’ve acquired a client you must keep them for life (assuming they wish to continue offering you work). It can be useful, liberating even, to periodically cull some clients. …


Slipping into the silence of a rural church to discover the secrets hidden within and steal a moment’s peaceful contemplation …

Langley Chapel, near Acton Burnell, Shropshire — © Simon Whaley

Will it? Or won’t it? Every time, there’s a frisson of emotion as I twist the metal door handle and push. These days, all too often, nothing happens. Nothing gives. Literally. Once in a while, though, they do, and I fall several centuries into a simpler world, but one of adventure and exploration.

One such recent occasion was Langley Chapel, in Shropshire. I was ambling along a leafy lane, on a warm October day, when I spotted it, squatting in the middle — yes, the middle — of a recently harvested cornfield. …

Simon Whaley

Bestselling author, writer and photographer. UK travel writer. Walker. BBC WeatherWatcher. Blessed to live in the glorious Welsh Borders.

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