How did Walks Around Britain first start?
I was working several jobs and one was closing down. I knew I needed to find something else and I’ve always been interested in walking – my dad was a gardener, very outdoorsy and we’d go on lots of outdoorsy-type holidays. There was a big move around that time to popularise walking so I thought about a programme that showed walks between two and eight miles, because that’s the average distance people can do, with a focus on making it as accessible as possible. I didn’t want it to be just walking though – we’re storytellers, we tell the narrative of a walk. There are great stories all around us and we should relish the histories and landscapes they depict.
Who else is involved?
There’s me and a small team of five people working with me, a mix of filmmakers and fellow presenters. We also occasionally have guests presenters who come along on the walks, but I’m more keen on making sure that our audience is represented because people are more likely to be inspired if who they are watching are relatable. For example, I feature my two daughters regularly because I think it’s important to show that kids can enjoy the outdoors. We’ve got a growing problem of a nature deficit where kids aren’t spending time outside and it they don’t, they can never develop an appreciation or passion for protecting it. There are also many issues affecting children, in terms of mental health and obesity, which can be tackled by going on regular short walks.
How do you decide which walks to do?
I like to do routes that tell a good story, and we plot the route to maximise that aspect. I’m based in Doncaster so we probably feature a disproportionate amount of Yorkshire walks – I make no apologies for that – but our aim is to get around the country as fast as we can. We’re going down to Land’s End and Lizard Point in Cornwall this series, the most southerly points of the UK.
How many walks do you cover per episode?
We cover two walks per episode, and there are seven episodes per series. We try to film the whole episode in one day but sometimes, because of logistics, it’s two days before we can edit the programme, which takes roughly five days. Overall it takes about a week to make an episode so it’s quite a quick turnaround.
How are you marking your 10 year anniversary?
We’ve just launched our new subscription site, where our subscribers will have a new programme to watch every month, as well as access to all the existing programmes so that if they go somewhere new on holiday, they can scroll back or do a search for a walk in the area.
What is your favourite walk in Yorkshire?
They are all fantastic, I love walking in Yorkshire, but if I had to chose, my favourite would be Doncaster to Conisborough along the Trans Pennine Trail, seeing the hidden viaduct there. The circular walk along the cliffs of Flamborough Head, seeing the lighthouse, is a bracing but inspiring walk and I also like the Solar System cycle track featuring sculptures of the planets all built to scale, both in size and distance away from each other. You get a real sense of how big the universe is, and your place in it.
How has Walks Around Britain changed and developed over the last 10 years?
We’ve gone from being just a website in 2009 to having a monthly podcast and a television series, as well as DVDs, a social media presence and more, all done with a team of only five people. Since the television series started in 2016, we’ve been watched by over 30 million viewers. There’s a lot of people who really enjoy watching it around the world and I think it’s really nice to have that British appeal. Walking in the countryside is quintessentially quite a British activity, and add that to our ability to tell a story and you’ve got a good source of entertainment.
What are your hopes for Walks Around Britain over the next 10 years?
It would be nice to have a platform on a bigger broadcaster, I wouldn’t say no to that, but I think if we carry on doing what we’re doing and we inspire more people to get out walking, that’s enough. It’s not about the money, it’s about changing people’s attitudes and if we can get more people, more families and older people out and socialising, breaking down the barriers of loneliness… There are so many things we can challenge by getting more people out walking, and if we can make a difference in wider social issues then that would be fantastic.
You can watch Walks Around Britain at www.walksaroundbritain.co.uk, on Amazon Prime or Yorkshire TV channels including Leeds TV, Sheffield Live TV and Teeside TV.