As Julia Bradbury heads to the Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival, Ann Chadwick walks along the TV star’s inspired path

THE secret of philosophers, adventurers and poets? Walking. Kierkegaard said he knows of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from. Nietzsche said all truly great thoughts are conceived by walking. Julia Bradbury knows more than most the benefits.

“Even though I’d been walking since I was a little girl with my dad, Michael, I didn’t really expect my hobby and my passion to become such a large part of my career. It was by accident that happened, a conversation with a commissioner at the BBC and that’s how the very first Wainwright Walks series happened, arguably that led on to Countryfile. So, here we are today still talking about walking and I’ve got a Friday night walking show on ITV that millions of people are tuning into, an accompanying book and website ...I’m feel very, very lucky to be paid to do a passion that I love.”

Loading article content

Julia loves walking’s sociability as well as the chance for a solitary moment. “Research after research shows it’s good for the mind and edifying for the soul,” she says. “Claire Balding said this as well, she and I are both passionate ramblers and we agree on this. When you’re walking, the way you communicate is different to sitting and having dinner with someone. You really can amble along and talk when you feel like it, and you’re not necessarily looking at each other in the eye so that makes communication more comfortable, because you’re side by side, and there’s parity between you. It’s a real leveller and it’s very good for conversation.”

Julia’s footprint goes far. Not only in her TV career as a presenter on Watchdog, Countryfile and Best Walks with a View, but geographically. “I was born in Dublin, my partner’s Irish so my children are Irish, my mum and grandmother are Greek. I’m lucky that I have a lot of places that I can call home, and that are very dear to me.”

Yorkshire is one of her homes. “I went to school in Sheffield. In my blood there’s a Northern girl and I love coming back. It makes your heart beat a little bit faster.”

Malham Cove, Gordale Scar and the Janet Foss waterfall feature in Best Walks with a View. “I’m a massive fan of Malham Cove, I just think it is such an outstanding gorgeous piece of geography and landscape. I said over the Twittersphere, bloody hell, Malham Cove is so gorgeous, and lots of people tweeted back saying, 'Oh, I didn’t expect to hear you swear'. Then everybody joined in the conversation and said what an incredible place it is. Lots of people have childhood memories of Malham Cove, on school trips, or the first time they came with their dad. It’s one of those very evocative places, just breath-taking.”

The secret behind the driven, strident steps in her career, is family. “I have a very strong, loving mother. My mum Chrissi is a real worker, both my parents instilled a strong work ethic within me. I was brought up in a very confident loving home and I was told I could do what I wanted. They came at it from very different angles. My father was an academic who went to Cambridge, he’s incredibly bright which I’m definitely not. My mother is self-taught, and like me left school very early and was working from a young age, but they both instilled a confidence in me that I could do what I liked. It was that self-belief that propelled me forward. Looking back, I was a pushy pain in the arse and I must have rubbed so many people up the wrong way, because I was overly confident and pushed my way in. I look back at it and I cringe a bit, but I can’t be sorry because it got me my job, it got me my career.”

She is equally determined about her personal life. “It’s no secret that I struggled to fall pregnant the second time and I had multiple rounds of IVF before I fell pregnant with my little girls and that happened later in life for me, I was 40 when I had my little boy, and I’m 45 now. I think when you come to motherhood later on in life you’re, of course, at a very different place. I’m just extremely grateful for what I have, I don’t take anything for granted. I’ve changed as a human being because I’m now a mother and my outlook on work has changed. I have changed, I love my career and it’s very much a part of my identity, I need to work and I think it’s important for my children, especially my girls as we’re all headed to a very different world, and I think it’s important to be a good example. I’m working hard to get the balance right and make sure I’m there for my children. It’s tough for women out there, it’s a very, very tough balance.”

Articles often refer to the "45-year-old" star, but Julia feels there’s still a long way to go around ageism and misogyny in the UK, she believes equality for women is "organically changing", slowly but surely.

“There’s so much going on in the world that is just so appalling in terms of treatment of women. There’s so far that we have to come across the globe. Yes, of course we have an ageism problem in this country, but at least we have a forum for public debate and a democracy where we can talk about it. I don’t think you can be a victim, I think you have to overcome it the best way you can and that’s the best way to try and slowly eliminate it.”

A girl who left school in Sheffield with no qualifications, she now has an honorary degree from Sheffield Hallam University. A woman struggling with endometriosis, she has the family she yearned for. She’s also using her fame to ‘bang the drum’ - she is passionate after her experience on Sport Relief’s Famous, Rich and Homeless, that ‘we should not have bundles of human beings sleeping in doorways or on pavements in the UK today.’

The world may be a changing one for her daughters, but if they follow in a few of their mother’s footsteps, putting one confident step in front of the other, it can only be for the better.

  • Harrogate International Festivals present Julia Bradbury’s Unforgettable Walks on Saturday, July 9, 6.30pm as part of the Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival at The Crown Hotel. For the full festival programme, or to book, visit: Box Office: 01423-562-303