Tom Jeffreys, Signal Failure cover

One November morning, Tom Jeffreys set off from Euston Station with a gnarled old walking stick in his hand and an overloaded rucksack. His aim was to walk the 119 miles from London to Birmingham along the proposed route of HS2. Needless to say, he failed.

Over the course of ten days of walking, Jeffreys meets conservationists and museum directors, fiery farmers and suicidal retirees. From a rapidly changing London, through interminable suburbia, and out into the English countryside, Jeffreys goes wild camping in Perivale, flees murderous horses in Oxfordshire, and gets lost in a landfill site in Buckinghamshire. Signal Failure weaves together poetry and politics, history, philosophy and personal observation to form an extended exploration of people and place, nature, society, and the future.

In part, Signal Failure is the story of the author’s multiple shortcomings – his inability to understand the city he lives in, to forge a meaningful relationship with his home-county hometown, to emulate those great nature writers he admires so much, to put up a tent or read a map.

It is also a wide-ranging critique of humanity’s most urgent failures: of capitalism, of community, of the city and the suburbs, of architecture and agriculture, of bureaucratic democracy, and, in the end, of our age-old failure to find our place in the world we live in.


‘Signal Failure: London to Birmingham, HS2 on foot’ is published by Influx Press.

Buy your copy here!




Praise for ‘Signal Failure’

“The abiding mystery evoked in Tom Jeffreys’ walk along the proposed route of the HS2 is whose idea was it anyway? Jeffreys’ journey takes him past boarded-up hospitals, abandoned railway lines, pubs which claim to sell food but don’t, and over the hedge chats with a sad and often angry population adrift in a world lacking any trustworthy political compass points. Tom Jeffreys is a worthy member of J.B.Priestley’s good companions, and ‘Signal Failure’ an engaging and affectionate update on that earlier writer’s seminal ‘English Journey’.”

– Ken Worpole, author of ‘The New English Landscape’


“…this isn’t a book that gives us easy answers. What it gives us instead is context and texture; human lives, human communities, living landscapes, on-going social histories. Through it all, Jeffreys’s writing is intelligent, engaging and engaged, and deeply and disarmingly human.”

– Richard Smyth, New Statesman


“Giving way to loneliness and uncertainty is exactly what makes the book so enchanting. Jeffreys is unusually frank about his failings as a walker and his complete unsuitability as a psychogeographer.”

– Ian Sansom, Times Literary Supplement


“I have no idea where booksellers will place ‘Signal Failure’ – it’s political, reportage, travelogue, delving deeply into nature and the environment, part memoir and laced throughout with extempore musings. I hope it doesn’t fall between the cracks. It’s very, very special.”

– Tamim Sadikali, Minor Literatures


“I enjoyed travelling across the countryside with this witty and thoughtful man, his conversation a mixture of fact and opinion, journalistic knowledge gained from both personal interaction with strangers as well as desk-based research. He describes landscapes and buildings well, and despite regularly chastising himself for his ignorance of the flora and fauna of the British countryside, seems to know a lot about the birds and mammals of his part of the world. This lack of confidence in his knowledge – as well an eight-month pause in the middle of the walk – successfully humanise Jeffreys, and characterise him as a fallible and engaging narrator.”

– Scott Manley Hadley, Open Pen


“This is an odd book; or, rather, it is a number of different books of varying oddness and virtuous ordinariness in a single volume.”

– Phil Smith, Mythogeography



Tom Jeffreys on The Arsonist
Tom Jeffreys on BBC Radio Oxford
Tom Jeffreys on BBC Three Counties radio
Tom Jeffreys on Monocle 24
Tom Jeffreys on The Z Review

‘Signal Failure’ in Elsewhere Journal
‘Signal Failure’ in Financial Times
‘Signal Failure’ in Halfman, Halfbook
‘Signal Failure’ in Lost::MikeGTN
‘Signal Failure’ in Manchester Review of Books
‘Signal Failure’ in Minor Literatures
‘Signal Failure’ in Mythogeography
‘Signal Failure’ in Never Imitate
‘Signal Failure’ in New Statesman
‘Signal Failure’ in Open Pen
‘Signal Failure’ in Times Literary Supplement
‘Signal Failure’ in The Z Review

‘New English Landscapes’ in interartive
‘The Chetwode Grey’ in Zoomorphic




Some photos from the walk


‘Signal Failure: London to Birmingham, HS2 on foot’ is published by Influx Press.

Buy your copy here!