Who are we, and what do we do?
At Trails China, we’re the very first international team to create brand-new, international-standard trails throughout China that attract global walkers and bikers, support local communities and showcase the inexhaustible splendour of China’s natural world. Across the world, people seek out trails for myriad reasons; recreation, work, safe passage. But what is a trail? A trail is the history of life in motion; it is living, breathing culture at its most organic; it is the nonjudgmental paper to our own pens, absorbing the endless stories we write. Often these elements exist in isolation, lost to all but those who know. As a result, these paths, and most importantly, these stories, that anchor us in our shared humanity and connect us all through lived experience, remain hidden. At Trails China, our role is to reconnect these paths. Our role is to absorb the culture, the stories, the myths and the legends of generations gone by, so that we keep them alive in reconnecting these paths. By engaging with all of these elements, a trail can be born; a series of connected pathways that tell the history of the area, that respect and engage with the culture of the area, and that invite you to do the same, leaving your own story behind in the process. It is our privilege to carry out this work across China. Our team of professionals conduct the hundreds of hours of research necessary not just to get outdoors and walk the paths, but to get to know the community, the history, the facilities and the key decision makers, in order to create an international-standard trail that is safe, sustainable, thought-provoking and memorable.
Dennis is CEO and co-founder of Make it China, which facilitates greater communication, cooperation and friendship between China and the West. Prior to Make it China, Dennis worked in international trade for many years, with strong partners in marketing, Chinese manufacturing and distribution. In 2011 he became Global OEM Sales Manager and European Sales Manager for DAHON, the world leader in folding bikes. Dennis was also the first Chinese employee at Britain’s oldest bicycle manufacturer, Raleigh UK, winning the title of top sales manager. In 2012, Dennis and Leon met by chance at an event in Guangzhou, following Leon’s six-month, 3,000 mile walk from the Gobi Desert to the South China Sea. Since this moment, their shared passion for
active, outdoor recreation has resulted in years of tireless work to lay the path for Trails China. As a proud Hunanese, Dennis has a profound and deep understanding of Chinese culture and business practices, which has served as the basis for securing the support and cooperation of local communities and governments in the development of new trails.
Leon is a writer, filmmaker and adventurer from Northern Ireland. He is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, a Fellow of the Abraham Path Initiative, a recipient of the 2017 Neville Shulman Challenge Award, and a BBC presenter. Leon has released two books, ‘The Road Headed West’ and ‘The Land Beyond’, and his writing has been widely published in National Geographic, New Scientist, The Guardian, The Sunday Times and The Telegraph. He is also a featured contributor to adventure.com. Leon explores the ways in which moving slowly and thoroughly affects the stories that we hear and tell. His idea is that by approaching storytelling on foot, reporters can find new narratives and meaning, and are perhaps afforded more time to experience and disseminate a deeper human connection. Much of his recent work has been seeking out these stories of humanity and nuance in parts of the world that are often demonised (or misunderstood) by Western media. To this end, Leon walked a 1000 mile loop through the Holy Land, from Jerusalem to Jerusalem via Jordan, the Sinai peninsula, Palestine and Israel, and in 2018 travelled on foot in Kosovo, Armenia, Iraqi Kurdistan and on the Yemeni island of Socotra in search of unique stories and perspectives.
David has worked with trail development projects for more than a decade. He is a founder of the Jesus Trail, which is often described as “the Camino of the Middle East” and oversaw every process of its development, from research to fieldwork to photography and publicity. He has visited more than 70 countries and has hiked and cycled tens of thousands of miles of trails around the world. He is experienced in project management, having developed more than 2,000 kilometers of trails in five countries in the Middle East through his work as Regional Director of the Abraham Path. He has managed staff and developed relationships with local partner organizations, and through his work with Village to Village Press, has produced popular maps and guidebooks that have expanded markets for existing trails, including the Camino de Santiago. David serves on the Board of Directors for the World Trails Network, and is vice-chair of the WTN Hub for the Americas. His recent obsession is long-distance bike-packing trails, including the Trans-Virginia Gravel Bike Route, which he is currently developing near his base in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
What we offer
Our team has extensive, first-hand experience of developing trails, from initial research through to marketing and publishing. To create a high-quality, international-standard trail there is much to consider beyond the actual pathways; the provision of accommodation, food and drink, places to rest, transportation to and from the trail, the impact and involvement of the local community, the environmental impact of the influx of visitors and of course the cultural and historical fabric of the area must all be delicately considered and balanced. When done carefully and thoroughly, a trail is so much more than a route from A to B. It can provide sustainable income to local people, protect the natural world it relies upon, and bring people from all over the world together to share experiences and understanding. This is what Trails China believes in, and this is the service our collective expertise offers.
As well as our website being a hub for updating you on and showcasing our own work, we also want to provide you with a resource for your walking and biking adventures across China. You’ll also be able to find details of existing networks of paths that you can walk on throughout China, as well as details of how to get there, and what you can expect to find when you’re there.