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Travels with David

Hidden corners, back-road journeys, and secluded islands are the quests of a Yorkshireman named David Yeadon, who left a comfortable city-planning post in Los Angeles 11 years ago for life on the road. Nine books later he is still traveling, writing, sketching, and photographing his way around the globe.

I asked him recently what made him want to travel. ''Partly fear, I think,'' he said. ''I began taking sabbaticals from home when I was three. I remember walking unfamiliar streets and touching the walls of buildings. I liked the feeling of being a little bit alone and a little bit lost and afraid. When my parents, or the local constabulary, returned me to my home, I remember their reprimands were always tempered with amazement and reluctant admiration that I had gotten so far away all by myself.''

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When David gets away these days, he is accompanied by his wife, Anne, when she is able to break away from her work, and by Freddie, their cat. (Freddie joined the Yeadon caravan in the Yorkshire moors and has logged about 10,000 miles of travel. In fact, Yeadon's Hidden Corners of Britain (W. W. Norton, New York, illustrated, $19.95) is dedicated to Freddie.)

While Yeadon credits Freddie with being the primary icebreaker among strangers, I suspect it is David's close resemblance to jolly St. Nick which makes people so comfortable about talking to him. In his latest book, Secluded Islands of the Atlantic Coast (Crown, illustrated, 212 pp. $8.95), he adroitly blends the stories of the people he meets with the history and folklore of 21 out-of-the-way islands. And his pen and brush-wash sketches perfectly capture the character and mood of each island - from the sharp, angular lines of the Maine islands to the lush, overgrown sensuousness of islands in the South.

David's books are special. Each is a gracious invitation to join him - to feel the textures and sample the foods, to amble along the pathways that meander off main roads, and to relax and enjoy, unhurriedly, the journey. As he says in his introduction to Backroad Journeys of Southern Europe (Harper & Row, illustrated, 256 pp. $16.95 hard-cover, $8.95 paperback), ''Backroading and hidden-corner exploring is a state of mind; you find your own places and create your own experiences. There are no rigid itineraries, no couriers, and no alarm clocks.''

As David sets off this month for a 270-mile walk along a narrow path through the Pennine Mountains of England, one can only anticipate the stories he will bring back with him this time.

A regular column in the monthly Book Review.

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