Posted 1st Nov 2012
Following her journey in the footsteps of the late Alfred Wainwright for the successful BBC series and now book, Wainwright Walks, Julia Bradbury talks to LandLove's Natalie Mason about her experience and life-long love of the countryside
It sounds like you experienced an extremely diverse range of walks on your journey. Did you come away with a favourite walk?
Well that's a difficult one to answer as I did the original Wainwright Walks series more than five years ago and have been back to the Lake District many, many times since then. For the TV series I did the ten original Wainwright walks, and have been so surprised at the success of the series that I've since done more than 50 walks all over the world, from Iceland to South Africa and more in the UK. I have also done a coast to coast walk which was another of Wainwright's.
What attracted you to the Wainwright walks and what was your toughest challenge whilst completing them?
The original attraction to doing this was because at the time I was presenting Watchdog, which was feeding my love for broadcasting, and I really liked the juxtaposition of the two jobs which were totally opposite. Doing Watchdog I was based in the studio presenting a serious consumer-related programme. Then the Wainwright Walks opportunity came up (I knew who Wainwright was having grown up walking the Peak District with my dad) and the series allowed my passion for walking to bleed into my work.
As I was already a walker I knew what to expect and it was no surprise to find mountains and difficult paths but the challenge was actually filming the walks. You know it wasn't just me and a walking partner, a pal or a family member like most people, it was me and a film crew and all the equipment they had. When the weather turned sour it made it all the more difficult for us especially as it was more difficult to walk, so yes that was a challenge.
How did it feel when you had successfully completed the walks and followed in the footsteps of Alfred Wainwright?
It was very satisfying and surprising as well as being rewarding first. The ten walks that were filmed were such a hit with the audience and it was exciting, as walking was my passion and the project had suddenly become massively popular with everyone.
Have you always been interested in getting outdoors and walking?
Oh since I was a little girl walking with my dad who was a Derbyshire lad born and bred, though I was born in Cheshire, and we used to go out and walk the Peak District together.
What is it that inspires you about our countryside and wildlife?
I think that the great outdoors and contact with our natural environment is really great and really good for us on so many levels, you know emotionally and for our well-being.
The other thing is the challenges. I like to overcome challenges whether it's a big mountain or a hard walk, I find it really rewarding. Wandering through a gorgeous woodland also has its own challenges and rewards. I mean even for people that live in the city, if they can find a park and visit it for just ten minutes each day they will feel better, the outdoors is just so good for you.
Where is your favourite place to visit in Britain?
That's very hard to say and I feel so disloyal to all the other places I've visited, as I travel all over the UK for Countryfile, but there are a few places that really stick in my mind. The Scilly Isles are magnificent and so uniquely beautiful, also the Monsal Dale in the Peak District which is where it all began for me walking with my dad, who is in his seventies now so those hard walking days are over. We used to go out on these walks and he would try to teach me about the trees and the wildlife, which I of course failed abysmally to learn.
The Lake District is also right up there on the top ten most beautiful places in the world and the walks I did in the book really reflect that, with beautiful mountains one minute then the low scenic valleys the next. I really hope the book is a beginners guide to these walks and they are, as you pointed out, so diverse and each one with its own challenges.
Finally, are there any other British walks that you would recommend to our readers?
I would say walk Monsal Dale and River Dove in the Peak District, I haven't walked it all but I have done parts of it which were beautiful and West Highland Way I think is absolutely great. Anywhere in Cornwall is good too.
Julia Bradbury's Wainwright Walks, published by Frances Lincoln, is out now priced at £14.99 and is available from www.franceslincoln.com and all other good book retailers.