8 November 2018
…as though I need more. Most of us do not plan our actual demise, but I can only hope that mine will be “with my boots on,” as the expression has it, hiking, seeing the good earth at the speed that nature intended (at least the nature I relate to). Amazon’s, bless ‘em, Prime membership includes this excellent series on walks around Britain. Thus, viewing them is free with the membership. Three “seasons” are included with the membership, seven episodes per season. Each episode is approximately 23 minutes long ( it was made for a half-hour TV show, and the commercials have been subtracted). In each episode, there are two hikes. Overall, one obtains information on 42 hikes in roughly 10 hours of viewing, of this “green and pleasant land,” a phrase I obviously did not coin. (And yes, Scotland is included.)
Andrew White is our guide. He narrates, and he does the hike. Sometimes alone, sometimes with the locales for the area. In one episode (#6), the hiker and narrator is a woman, Leah Hather. Each hike is billed as a day hike, between two and eight miles, usually circular, but sometimes linear, with public transport used to return to the point of origin. Among other matters, I was impressed how well most of the paths were marked with “public footpath” signs. Without being overly pushy, White simply encourages us all to get off the sofa, unplug, and see the natural world.
Each episode locates the hike via Google maps, overall, within Britain, and then zooms in, and provides the close-ups of the actual area. Episode 1 covers two hikes: the Monsal Trail in the Peak District (overall length, 3.5 miles) and the Caledonian trail, along a still active canal, in Scotland, which covered 2.5 miles and was completed in an hour. White notes that this trail is part of the Great Glean Way, a long-distance hike along the canal. In his walks, White discusses both the natural world and the history of the area. In Episode 2, a 3.5 mile walk in Cornwall, around the port of Boscastle, which he takes in late March, he notes the daffodils, long before the bluebells arrive, and the wild garlic, along with a church dating from 500 AD, Norman times. The second walk in the episode in on the Isle of Man, where 75,000 Germans and Austrians, who were living in Britain at the beginning of World War II, were interred (now why didn’t I know that earlier?). White also discusses and visits the memorial to the 1909 shipwreck of the Ellan Vannin.
In the intro for each episode, White states that urban hikes are also included in this series, but none were included in the first “season.” Rather, many of the favorite rural hiking areas are covered, including the Lake and Peak districts, popularized by Wordsworth, and the Yorkshire Dales, both the extreme eastern promontory, as well as the area around Haworth to Oakworth, in west Yorkshire, which is the backdrop to the works of the Bronte sisters. White loves trains, and he takes a ride on a steam one between Lancashire and Yorkshire – a line that has been operative for 125 years. Other trains are featured on the Isle of Man, as well as the one that transverses the Ribblehead Viaduct in Yorkshire (its building is an interesting story).
Regrettably I’ve had very limited hiking experience in Britain, mainly in the Yorkshire Dales (freezing in July!) and the urban areas of London. I noted on many of White’s hikes, he is in short-sleeve shirts and it is sunny. Hum, no doubt, good planning! No question, I will watch the other two “seasons” of this most inspirational series. 5-stars.