Julia Bradbury - why I love coming back to my Yorkshire roots

Julia Bradbury is passionate
about Yorkshires landscapes

Julia Bradbury is passionate about Yorkshires landscapes - Credit: Archant

Julia Bradbury is surely the rambling world’s ‘national treasure’. Brought up in Sheffield, her first walking routes were on solid Yorkshire ground, and she’s back in Harrogate this month.

Julia and Debbie North, founder of the Outdoor Guide, on the way to Pen Y Ghent

Julia and Debbie North, founder of the Outdoor Guide, on the way to Pen Y Ghent - Credit: Archant

Julia Bradbury is always on the move. We catch up with her as she travels through South Africa for her current project focused around sustainability and giving back to local communities.

Within minutes it's clear just how down to earth, humble and infectiously passionate she is. Having just finished working with Sir Trevor Macdonald on Britain's Greatest National Treasures, she's more excited to talk about how incredible he is and the honour of working with him than she is to talk about herself.

It's no surprise though that, once we get talking about her upcoming trip to Harrogate for Countryside Live, Julia is brimming with passion and knowledge of Yorkshire and its incredible landscapes.

Julia calls Yorkshire home. She went to school through childhood in Sheffield and admits, 'in my blood, there's a northern girl. I love coming back. It makes my heart beat a little bit faster.' And what with an honorary degree from Sheffield Hallam and her city roots in it's no surprise that Julia remains drawn to Yorkshire.

Julia with her dad

Julia with her dad - Credit: Archant

Julia's love of walking segues in to the effect the outdoors has on our health and it becomes clear how important it is to Julia to raise awareness of the positive attributes' nature can have on our health.

Like many people within the UK, Julia grew up dividing her time between city life and countryside and it's meant that, although she loves being busy, she has always found solace in being in the countryside surrounded by nature.

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'It's all about finding that balance for me. When I was about six years old, I started walking with my dad right on the doorstep of Sheffield and it continued into my teenage years,' she tells me. 'I loved having the contrast of inner-city life in Sheffield and exploring with my dad, and that quality time we had together in the Peak District instilled a love for the outdoors in me.'

I wonder if Julia feels anything has changed since her time on Countryfile. Does she feel that people are starting to become more receptive to, and realise the importance of, spending time in nature and the outdoors now?

Julia on the limestone pavement at Malham

Julia on the limestone pavement at Malham - Credit: Archant

'I think most people in the UK live in cities and urban environments, but I think there is a greater understanding of what the countryside does for us in terms of our supply of food,' she says. 'There is definitely a greater awareness of rural issues and programmes such as Countryfile have helped bring those stories to a wider audience.

'But I think everybody now knows that research proves time spent outdoors, whether that be a green sanctuary within a city or the big, open countryside, connecting with nature is good for us and our mental health,' Julia continues.

'The University of Exeter has just conducted even more amazing research that shows as little as two hours a week in nature can help us. I always say to people to try and do half an hour everyday - it's a scary statistic that these days, children are spending less time outdoors than prison inmates!'

The Outdoor Guide, then, started from Julia's love of walking and the seed of the idea began when she wanted to put lots of information in one place that could help people. 'What it has now become is that all of my television walks are on there and available for free, and we're adding more and more walks all the time,' she says. 'We've got an Outdoor Guide family with lots of tips and tricks, and I'm really passionate about our Access Tog campaign and helping people with mobility issues find wheelchair-friendly walks.'

Julia, with Debbie North. They are passionate about access to the countryside

Julia, with Debbie North. They are passionate about access to the countryside - Credit: Archant

So, what can people expect from The Outdoor Guide and Julia in Harrogate at Countryside Live? 'We are going to have lots of special guests with us, and talks from various people who are connected to the outdoor industry,' she says. 'The event itself always has interesting attractions, focusing a lot on things like the local food in the area. We want to inspire and ignite passions in people to explore the UK outdoors more. I'm excited to meet people and to swap outdoor stories and share local knowledge about walks.'

One of her favourite places to walk in Yorkshire is Pen y Ghent. 'You go past Hull Pot, which is where elephants once roamed and that is always an entertaining thought,' she laughs. 'When you get to the top though, you get the views across the Dales and the other two peaks. I love Malham Cove too.'

It's paramount to Julia that people understand how rare and unique the landscapes of Yorkshire are. 'I love how varied Yorkshire is and that there are so many important landscapes. 70 per cent of the heather moorland, for example, is in the North York Moors and when you find something as rare and beautiful as that, you need to celebrate it. The limestone pavement in Malham Cove is outstanding on a world scale too - there aren't very many other places in the world where you can see this on the same level,' she says.

'Finally, the peatlands are incredibly important. It's estimated that they can store twice the amount of carbon as forests, plus they filter the water but so many of the peat bogs are in need of regeneration. We need to be proud of the peatland and do what we can to raise awareness.'

Although Julia can't tell us exactly what she is working on at the moment for the coming few months, what she does say is that it is an exciting new series with ITV that is travel-based and is something that is very close to her roots. Could there be a hint of Yorkshire in there? We'll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, however, we can join Julia in celebrating Yorkshire and its landscapes and encourage people to get outdoors and enjoy it.


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