An intrepid explorer is set to return to his old school in Wisbech as guest of honour at the annual prize-giving ceremony.
Will Millard (30), a past pupil of Wisbech Grammar School, has this year made the first descent of the riverine border of Sierra Leone and Liberia with the Royal Geographical Society’s ‘Journey of a lifetime’ grant.
The recordings of his latest expedition have been made into a critically successful two-part series for BBC Radio 4, which has made ‘Pick of the Week’ on that station, as well as the ‘Daily Mail’, the ‘Radio Times’ and ‘The Observer’.
With the broadcasts and the article, he has reached a combined audience of over one million.
Born in King’s Lynn and raised in Upwell, Will spent his childhood on and around rivers. At the age of 19 he left Norfolk to study Sociology and Southeast Asian Cultures at the universities of Leeds and Singapore, where he developed a passion for equatorial forests and their peoples.
This led him to splitting his time between adventure film making for the BBC at Indus Films in Cardiff, which made the British Academy of Film and Television Arts award-winning Bruce Parry ‘Tribe’ series for BBC Two, and leading expeditions, mostly in remotest New Guinea.
In 2009, following a year as a teacher in West Papua, he received the Royal Geographical Society’s Neville Shulman Challenge Award to uncover and retrace an ancient inter-tribal trade route which spanned 2000 kilometres of the island’s mountainous spine.
Three years later he returned to Papua, armed with his raft, and attempted the first unbroken and unassisted crossing of the state over the course of six months.
He made the first descent of the northerly Wara river and navigated his way to the Asmat swamps and out to the coast via an excruciating six-and-a-half-week jungle retreat on starvation rations, making the last record of one of the oldest trade routes in human history before rapid development rendered them obsolete.
Will has written for numerous magazines in the United Kingdom and abroad, including ‘Geographical’, ‘Outdoor Fitness’, ‘BBC Wildlife’, ‘Action Asia’ and Australia’s ‘Outer Edge’, and broadcast for both the BBC World Service and Radio 4.
He is a Fellow of both the Royal Geographical Society and the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, and regularly lectures on his experiences to the Royal Geographical Society audience, the ‘Wilderness Lectures’, ‘Adventure Travel Live’ and ‘National Geographic’.
After hearing him speak in 2010, Michael Palin, the then president of the Royal Geographical Society, gave a glowing verdict on the presentation: “A wonderful talk that reflects the reasons why we all love geography.”
And the ‘Radio Times’ declared: “Even when faced with aggression from tribespeople who have no idea who this sunburnt stranger is, he wins them – and us – over with his warmth.”
Will is set to give an address and hand out the prizes at the speech day at the Grammar School on Friday, October 25.