On the 21st September, the Geography Department was very fortunate to host the explorer, adventurer, journalist, author and BBC broadcaster, John Pilkington.
John’s first lecture for Year 9 was entitled ‘Georgia to Afghanistan’ and detailed a 2011 adventure he undertook, following in the footsteps of Lord George Curzon, former Viceroy of India, who had embarked on the same expedition 117 years before him. John recalled how he followed a remarkable branch of the Silk Road, starting in the Caucasus and crossing the Caspian Sea to Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand. Then, reeling from the beauty of those legendary cities, he turned south-east to explore the High Pamirs of Afghanistan, a region well-known to Marco Polo, before making a dramatic finale at the source of the Oxus in the heart of Central Asia.
His second lecture, attended by all GCSE and A-level geographers, was entitled ‘Russia and Europe: What Next?’ in which John discussed the recent and on-going political situation in Russia and Eastern Europe. Passions are running high in Ukraine and the breakaway states of the Caucasus. Vladimir Putin’s adventures in Ukraine took the West by surprise. But John thinks in some ways they followed a pattern that goes back more than a century to the time of the Tsars. After the Soviet Union’s break-up, Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia became Russia’s ‘forgotten’ satellite states – unrecognised and unheard of by most outsiders. Now Donetsk and Luhansk have joined the list, and Russia has full control of Crimea. John shared his adventures through these lands and the stories of many of those he met on his travels, shedding light on this little known region, educating and entertaining both staff and students alike.