Stepping out as lockdown lifts

Yorkshire Walks was a big hit tempting TV viewers with spectacular scenery and top trails when it first aired on our screens in December. Now, as COVID-19 restrictions start to ease, the sun shines and lovers of the great outdoors are eager to take to picturesque paths once more, BBC Four will be showcasing these inspiring walks again. With a second ‘outing’ in July to tune in to, we’ll be reminded of the beauty of the county’s coast and countryside ... on foot … and from some amazing aerial angles.

It’s a true Yorkshire project, produced by former Emmerdale actor Cy Chadwick and presented by local lass Shanaz Gulzar who talks people, places and being productive during a pandemic. 

My memories of growing up in my home town of Keighley are of discovering exciting new places, tucked away in nooks and crannies in the surrounding Yorkshire hills and streets.

Fast forward to now and when I’m not out and about walking, I work as an artist and producer in many different artforms. I like ideas that grow and demand more from me. I collaborate a lot in my work, with other artists, producers, or community participants, whatever the scope of the idea demands. This isn’t always easy but it’s definitely exciting and I love the initial stages of an idea when everything seems possible. I use the same approach in my work as a producer (across the border) with Manchester International Festival, working with artists to scope ideas and acting as a sounding board helping shape the projects. My work keeps me on my toes and it’s rare for me to have a dull day.

What’s a typical day like at the moment? Now that’s a question! Each day is lived in the same studio space in my Keighley home, but the online video meetings with artists and colleagues takes me around the world, for which I am incredibly grateful. There are projects I’ve had to think differently about in the current situation. I was developing 3 short films as a triptych and writing the treatment, but it’s difficult trying to envisage the new normal of a film set, now having to abide with COVID-19 guidelines.

Of course, the elderly are the most vulnerable in this coronavirus crisis and I haven’t been able to hug or kiss my parents as I would normally. They live near me and the thing that I do to show love and care, I can’t do right now. Even when rules are relaxed more and bubbles can be formed with families, I think I will still have that worry in the back of my mind. It will take a long time for me to feel safe touching my parents and that’s really difficult.

The positive side of such unusual times however, is that I’ve been able to spend more time with my daughter. Since she finished university we’ve not really seen each other as much. But lockdown has meant we’re living together and trying to keep ourselves positive and engaged with what’s going on which is definitely easier when there’s more of you.  My 6 year old niece is my lockdown pen pal and we have exchanged letters throughout this time, discovering new ways of living and loving family and friends is a bonus. There’s a not so positive side too, with every morning and every evening being the same, in the same place at the same time.

It’s funny what you take for granted and that’s something I have really learned during this time. When life is back to normal I am most looking forward to seeing and spending time with friends.

Walking and food are both passions of mine and I am indulging both as much as I can, especially over recent months, discovering new walks in my immediate vicinity and new recipes using some of my mum’s foodie tricks.

Yorkshire Walks helped me to share how I see and feel in the landscape, which was a real privilege. Walking is what has kept me going during lockdown. I use it as a way of thinking through ideas when I hit a creative block. It was particularly great documenting the routes on Yorkshire Walks with a 360 camera. I often take photographs and make videos when I’m walking and this felt like a very natural extension of that. The camera gives the unique perspective of the walker and the viewer sees what I see and as I see it, in the detail and the rhythm of the walk, as well as through the people I meet. The drone footage places me in the landscape, spectacularly demonstrating its vast scale and majesty. It’s a view we personally don’t often see when we’re out walking.

A perfect Yorkshire day can be anywhere in Yorkshire as long as it involves a strong walk. You have to get blown about a bit (otherwise what’s the point?). With a breathtaking view, and a lovely cuppa or pint at the end of it, whichever takes your fancy. What’s not to love about Yorkshire? It’s a rich and diverse landscape and it can go from mills to moors in minutes. Deservedly called God’s own county, I think Yorkshire gets in your blood. Once you’ve been it calls you back.

Yorkshire Walks – 7pm - BBC Four:

6th July - Leyburn to Castle Bolton: Leyburn Shawl (a limestone scar) was a favourite bit on this walk and when I got to the end, the evening light fell on Bolton Castle casting it in a golden light, and it felt good reading Kishwar Naheed’s poem in that light.

7th July - Heptonstall to Stoodley Pike: When I was walking towards Stoodley Pike, the route was a little meandering and the monument didn’t look like it was getting any closer, it was like a mirage teasing me. Right at the end of the walk it suddenly appeared, I felt like doing a victory lap!

8th July - Runswick Bay to Whitby: This walk was very diverse in landscape, and seeing the farmed fields of barley and wheat so close to the sea felt magical. I had to remind myself of the difference between barley and wheat … that would not have gone down well!

9th July - Bolton Abbey to Simon’s Seat: This walk is so familiar to me as it’s a childhood haunt and I forget that the view from Simon’s Seat is like a patchwork quilt of fields and dales. Every time I do that walk it feels like I’ve come home.