In recent days, the Winter Walks series on BBC iPlayer has been a real solace – one which needs to be shared. It was recommended to me by a friend who always has the best recommendations, so now I am passing it along to you. During this awful time, any prospect of a little respite or a glimmer of peace is so welcome. Not everyone has long, picturesque walks available to them and, even then, not everyone is currently feeling motivated, happy, or well enough to venture out to such places. If you find yourself with no energy to do or think anything, or if you are struggling because your mind is racing with everything, please get this programme playing. It is food for your soul. One episode seems to conjure that same sense of catharsis which follows a good cry, without the need for tissues or sore eyes beforehand.
Presented by the likes of poet and author, Lemn Sissay, familiar face, Rev. Richard Coles, and the Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, Winter Walks encapsulates the innate beauty of the North of England, with its sweeping landscapes and fascinating history.
Accompanied by a 360-degree camera and their thoughts alone, each episode sees a presenter walk roughly five or six miles across a wild, winding, and unceasingly idyllic route. Passing through villages, over landmarks, and chatting to fellow walkers encountered on their path, they ruminate aloud, vocalising their introspection and sharing any feelings or anecdotes which arrive with this reflection. Such an intimate foray into some of our most profoundly poetic and contemplative minds is an experience only heightened by striking footage of their surroundings.
A variety of stunning locations are explored, such as Robin Hood’s Bay, the North York Moors, and the Yorkshire Dales. There is something inherently familiar about these beloved areas, even if you have never personally set foot in them. Perhaps it is the way each presenter infuses their conversational tone with the familiarity and rejuvenation they feel on their walk. Or maybe it is the addition of the all-seeing aerial footage which provides an immersive bird’s-eye view of where the walkers have trodden, and where they are yet to tread. You can take so much reassurance from the way this elevated perspective exposes the vastness of these natural spaces – how it makes us all seem reassuringly tiny against the cosmos itself.
Every episode enlivens the senses. All sound is merely a combination of the walker’s musings, the constant murmurs of nature, and the occasional poem. Through rainfall, sunsets, and icy winds, we are treated to vivid views of heather-enrobed moorland and majestic ruins, or crumbling cliffs bordering an endless sea. It is delectable viewing for the tired mind.
Furthermore, the exquisite care and attention to detail which has gone into this programme is plainly evidenced by the additional gems of information which appear. Every so often, with no pomp or grandeur, the walker’s current location and the miles they have left to walk will show up on screen, as well as anything from a piece of local history, to an explanation of the Jurassic sediments which lie upon the coastline, to the names of the horses on the farm being passed by. It is as though an omniscient sage has followed the path before this moment and laid its secrets bare for all to see.
There is a sense of gentle calm at the core of this programme, and nothing can capture it best than watching for yourself. We all need to take care of our mental wellbeing when we can. Whether you use mindfulness to help pull you out of darker days (or keep you suspended in brighter ones), or you need a half hour of comforting escapism with your cup of tea, I honestly could not recommend these episodes to you enough.
Feature image by Ben Pugh available on flickr.