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Speakers' Series: Adventures on the Great Wall.

BritCham / CBBC
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In the latest session of our Speakers’ Series we invited William Lindesay OBE to tell us about the life he has built exploring and preserving one of the world’s seven wonders, the Great Wall of China.

Ever since William traced the zigzagged tooth marks of the Great Wall in a school atlas, he decided he would one day walk its entire length and in growing up never forgot his aim. Lucky for him the world around him had changed to meet the conditions that would allow him to go on his great adventure; when Deng Xiaoping’s opening up and reform gave him to the chance to visit China.

And so in 1986, armed with nothing but ambition and a backpack, William set out to achieve his dream. Despite failing on his first attempt, one year later he travelled the 2,470 km distance, completing the length of the wall between Jianyuguan and Shanhaiguan. Taking 79 days, surviving numerous apprehensions and arrests and enduring cold, loneliness and exhaustion he finally became the first foreigner to walk solo across the wall.

After his adventure he discovered that he was not the only westerner to have shared a vision of conquering the wall. He came across the work of missionary William Geil who had completed a similar journey a century earlier and chronicled the adventure in his book ‘The Great Wall’. The multitude of photos in the book amazed William, but one that included Geil stood out as strangely familiar. Lindesay had once been at the same spot shown in the photo and had photographed himself in the same place, a photo that he’d included in his own book. “This is destiny,” he said. “There we were––two Williams––80 years apart, taking photographs of the same Great Wall view, with William senior and William junior both in frame.”

This led William to undertake the ‘Great Wall Revisited Programme’ where he began to re-photograph the images of the wall as Geil had taken a century earlier. In doing so he was able to witness the dramatic changes to the wall over the century and embarked on another adventure to raise awareness of the ‘disappearing wall’ and start to preserve what he refers to as ‘an outdoor museum without a curator’.

Working with Chinese authorities William has dedicated his life to maintaining sections of the wall and reducing the level of human interference; organising litter pick ups, sending a green message and helping to ensure generations to come can enjoy the wonder of the Great Wall.

William’s entertaining and inspiring presentation is a reminder of how lucky we are to have such a great piece of history on our doorsteps. We look forward to hearing more about his work and to watching his two part documentary, A Wall of Two Williams, which is due to be released shortly.

More details can be found below:

Wild Wall

Friends of the Great Wall



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