Jeannine Williamson caught up with ambassador for Ramblers Walking Holidays, Julia Bradbury, to find out why the former Countryfile presenter loves walking in the UK.
Talking and walking in a group are two of life’s great joys for Julia Bradbury, the well-known face of the great outdoors. It would be very hard not to agree as we momentarily stop chatting, pause for breath and take in take in the panorama of the rolling South Downs from the top of one of the Seven Sisters – the line of distinctive chalk hills that run between Seaford and Eastbourne.
The former Countryfile presenter has gone on to champion British landscapes through TV programmes such as Wainwright Walks – where she followed in the footsteps of Lake District fell walker Alfred Wainwright – and books such as Coast to Coast.
She said: “The fantastic thing about walking with a group, be it friends or people you meet for the first time, is that it’s a lovely way to communicate.”
“Walking is a great leveller. It doesn’t matter who you are, whether you are a baker or a banker, as you are sharing a common interest. When you are surrounded by beautiful scenery people definitely feel more free and relaxed and when you’re walking in a group it’s a very gentle way of communicating.
“It’s all about the love of landscape and a vision of the world that binds us together. And I’m all for guided walks for groups, a guide can make your walking experience more fun because you know there’s no chance of getting lost!”
In this instance Julia was reprising the Birling Gap walk featured in Unforgettable Walks – Britain’s Best Walks With A View to mark the milestone 70th anniversary of Ramblers Walking Holidays. As the company’s first celebrity ambassador, she joined walkers on a section of the four-day break and shared anecdotes about a career that has also seen her become the first female president of the Camping and Caravanning Club and co-founder of the online resource The Outdoor Guide.
A walk to suit everyone
With walks from the flat and short to the more challenging, she said there is a walk to suit every kind of group and as well as being sociable there are plenty of other benefits.
“Study after study has shown it’s not only the best exercise but it has a positive effect on mental health,” said Julia, who was first introduced to walking by her father Michael. “I grew up in Sheffield and Rutland and my dad used to take me out in the Peak District after school from when I was very young and my legs were very little. Our walks together, which were usually just the two of us, began my lifelong love affair with walking and inspiring landscapes. I went through the usual teenage phase when I went off it for a bit, but soon came back to it.
Julia is passionate about getting people outside but points out that you don’t have to venture into the depths of the countryside to enjoy a walk.
She explains: “Exploring cities and going on urban walks can be an equally exciting experience and wherever you are you can find a park or patch of green. There are walks along rivers and canals and you can cross bridges and see what’s on the other side.
“I want to encourage everyone to enjoy the pleasure of walking and anyone can start in a very easy way. Take someone you know out for a walk. Become an outdoor guru and share the adventure with someone you know.”
Behind the scenes
Julia went on to share some of the behind-the-scenes secrets of her career which has spanned being the former GMTV’s Los Angeles correspondent, presenting the consumer show Watchdog, helping to launch Channel 5 and co-presenting the rural affairs show Countryfile alongside Matt Baker for five years.
“At the outset nobody had a clue that Countryfile would be as successful as it was,” she said of the programme that saw ratings soar to over seven million viewers.
“One of the questions I am most asked is if I actually do all the walks or if I get to the top of the hill and am then taken down by helicopter. I assure people I do them all. In addition to the actual walking, one of the things I love most is meeting people. Over the years I have met so many fascinating people and that is what makes my work such a pleasure.”
Julia Bradbury was attending an event to mark the 70th anniversary of Ramblers Walking Holidays.
Group organisers can book private group trips with Ramblers Walking Holidays and should contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
To see its collection of walking holidays visit www.ramblersholidays.co.uk.