Clare Balding is taking a poem for a walk on today’s Ramblings. Joining her is Jean Atkin, the newly appointed Troubadour of the Malvern Hills. Jean takes Clare, stanza by stanza, to each of the locations featured in one of her poems. Joining them is Peter Sutton who has translated into modern English the famous mediaeval poem ‘Piers Plowman’ which starts with the poet asleep on the Malvern Hills. Also walking is David Armitage who works for the Malvern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; he discusses the similarities he sees between the Malverns and some African landscapes, and shows Clare a field packed with the most extraordinary amount of ant hills.
The Troubadour of the Hills is a project devised by the Ledbury Poetry Festival and the Malvern Hills AONB. If you're reading this on the Radio 4 website, please scroll down for some photos from the walk and some related links which you can follow to find out more.
A Creative Soldier
Clare Balding walks across Dartmoor with a former soldier whose retirement has taken him in a surprising direction.
Andy Salmon is a former soldier who now runs creative events which he hopes will inspire peace and reconciliation. As the former Commandant General of the Royal Marines, Andy has much experience to draw upon. He spent 36 years in the Marines and served in many global conflicts.
It might sound unlikely, but the ‘Journey Through Conflict’ events he now stages are a mixture of art, music and storytelling during which he and other former soldiers share their wartime experiences.
In this edition of Ramblings, he takes Clare Balding for a challenging walk across a section of Dartmoor – which is a significant training location for the Royal Marines - on the way, they discuss what led him into such an unusual retirement.
If you are reading this on the Ramblings webpage, you can scroll down to the 'related links' section to find more information about Andy's project.
A Cow Parsley Tattoo - Cambridgeshire
The writer, Emma Mitchell, takes Clare Balding for a walk around the woods at the back of her house in Cambridgeshire and explains why exposure to the natural world can have a mood-lifting effect on us all.
While acknowledging that she relies on antidepressants and talking cures to prevent her depression from becoming overwhelming, she says that walking several times a week, even on days when she feels well, has a cumulative effect and helps to make the dips in her mood less vertiginous.
She says “For me, taking a daily walk among plants and trees is as medicinal as any talking cure or pharmaceutical”. But it’s not just because she has a “fondness for looking at bonny bosky views” rather, she says “I am experiencing real physiological responses that affect my body and mind”.
As they walk, Emma explains to Clare why they both feel their stress levels falling... it’s not just the physical act of walking, it could be, partly, because they’re breathing the volatile compounds and oils emitted by the plants and trees that surround them. Emma discusses this and other ideas that she explores in her book The Wild Remedy.
She also talks about her cow parsley tattoo...
If you're reading this on the Radio 4 webpage, please scroll down for photos from the walk of hibernating ladybirds, Annie the Lurcher and Emma's tattoo...
There is also a link to the Woodland Trust page for Reach Wood, where we walked. Also more detail on Emma's book.
NB: If you are feeling emotionally distressed and would like details of organisations which offer advice and support, go online to bbc.co.uk/actionline or you can call for free, at any time to hear recorded information 0800 066 066.
Producer: Karen Gregor
Long dresses, cloaks and bonnets. Cumbria.
Why climb a snowy Cumbrian hill in a long dress, cloak and bonnet? Clare Balding finds out.
It's all down to Dorothy Wordsworth, the sister of poet, William. In her own right Dorothy was a writer and a pioneering walker. Just over 200 years ago she and her friend, Mary Barker, became the first women to both climb and write about Scafell Pike in the Lake District. This wouldn’t have been easy in their long dresses, cloaks and bonnets. To mark this achievement the artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth and some friends decided to follow in Dorothy’s footsteps. They dressed in period costume and tried to get to the top of England’s highest mountain. It wasn't easy, as they tell Clare on today's walk, which starts in Seathewaite in Borrowdale and progresses up to Stockley Bridge, through the snowline, and beyond.
Alex took on this challenge as part of a bigger project. If you are reading this on the Radio 4 webpage, you can scroll down the page to the 'related links' section to discover more about Alex, Harriet and The Wordsworth Trust.
Producer: Karen Gregor
Gentle Slopes not Rolling Hills - Suffolk
Our original plan for today’s walk fell apart. David Bradbury had invited us to join his lunch-time walking group. Instead of eating a sandwich at their desks, he and his colleagues would make the effort to go for midday rambles which were bonding, supportive and great exercise. He says the group held him together when some difficult personal problems arose. But then David left the company and, therefore, his walking group. However, he remains a keen walker, so we kept our date to walk with him near Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk. Instead of colleagues, he brought along his daughter, his mother and his friend, Ron the Human Google.
Together, they take a circular route which starts at the Rushbrooke Arms in Sicklemere, passes Nowton Church which has some truly beautiful Flemish stained glass windows, plus views of the British Sugar factory and its huge plumes of steam. They bypass a shoot (quickly), and enter Nowton Park where there is a colourful totem pole which - uniquely - includes a wolf holding the severed head of St. Edmund himself. The walk ends back at the pub. Clare is quite certain that the landscape contains only gentle slopes. In Suffolk, David says, they are definitely hills.
Producer: Karen Gregor