Thursday, 2 June 2011

Losing Inclination

Sprinkled across the schedules of BBCs 2 and 4 are episodes of the quite pleasant series "Walks with Julia Bradbury' - the word "Walks" usually preceded by a word describing the particular genre of location.  For example, when the thing started, the word "Famous" would have been appropriate, as la Bradbury set out on the Ridgeway, the Lyke Wake Walk or the Pilgrim's Way. 

Once these were under her belt, and galvanised by the success of the initial series, the brief became more challenging. "Country", naturally, but "Mountain" would not have been out of place, and one can imagine for the best part of a decade Julia's camera crew quite happily trolling the Munroes (all 283 of them) in her wake.

But after a while, one mist-swathed mountain peak looks (if you can see it) very much like any other.  Time takes its toll and these gruelling achievements gave way to the more sedate "Railway" walks.  Not a bad idea at all, because rarely in the UK will there be an abandoned trackbed rising on more than a 3% gradient and, by their very nature, a railway line will afford access points to the public along its route. The programme ceased being remote and gained social credentials.  Altitude - and achieving it - played a diminishing part in the story.

But since the 1970s and the crazy notion of installing supermarkets on every available square metre of disused railway land, the number of routes has become limited.  So Ms. B's team ruminated further and discovered that canals, which tend not to get built on (by dint of being full of water), also afforded good walking access across the country.  Off they set again, following routes that were even flatter than a railway, where two centuries ago the commerce of the nation lethargically drifted its way between mill, forge and factory. Julia's stride remained impressive, but only on the level.

So you'll see that, as time passes, this laudable programme is becoming increasingly two dimensional. The camera needs now only to pan where before it tilted.  Ms. Bradbury's rippling recti femoris have done their work and the feats they accomplished are now just a fond memory.  Like life, when enthusiasm and endeavour captivate the younger heart before time and experience prompts its gradual lapse into pragmatism and expediency, the programme has matured.

Look out for the next series to be entitled "Lincolnshire Beach Walks with Julia Bradbury".  And don't expect many corners either.

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