How walking has become a 'sanity for the soul' for new generation of Yorkshire folk seeking solace in the great outdoors

There is more to walking than 'mountains and mint cake', television presenter Andrew White has said as he pondered the pleasures of roaming with a story to tell.

It is a revelation and a boon and a "sanity" for the soul, he insists, to explore Yorkshire's proud landscapes while taking in mile after mile.

As the nation takes stride in finding its feet, the Doncaster presenter of Walks Around Britain has stayed closer to home, with the region to feature in an upcoming series.

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Never before has walking been more prominent or more pleasing, he said, than when it is one of the few things that remains as accessible as ever, and almost to all.

Andrew White, presenter of Walks around Britain, as he and his new dog Magic set's off on one of his favourite walks over and around Conisbrough viaduct, Doncaster. Image: James Hardisty

"For many people walking has become a lifeline, a pass to our sanity," he said. "This wouldn't have been the case this time last year.

"Just being outside, breathing in fresh air, stopping in a woodland to listen to nothing but the rustling of the trees and the birds foraging is an amazingly calming experience.

"If you could put that in a pill it would fly from the shelves."

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Andrew White, presenter of Walks around Britain, as he and his new dog Magic set's off on one of his favourite walks over and around Conisbrough viaduct, Doncaster. Image: James Hardisty

Shows in Mr White's series Walks Around Britain, which returns at the end of this month, have been watched some 50m times, across multiple channels and online, with Walks Around Yorkshire coming this summer.

Among the presenters is Yorkshire mountaineer Alan Hinkes, who remains Britain's only adventurer to claim all 14 Himalayan 8,000m peaks, and who will be exploring those often overlooked 'mini mountains' which can still bring a huge sense of achievement.

Mr White said he has watched in wonder over recent months as the nation embraced roaming like never before. He dubbed directives back in March for an hour of daily exercise as 'a seminal moment' which he credits for society's renewed enthusiasm and interest.

Since then, he said, he has been thrilled to see so many walking. In staying local, pounding the streets surrounding their homes, or at reservoirs and rediscovered country lanes.

Andrew White, presenter of Walks around Britain, as he and his new dog Magic set's off on one of his favourite walks over and around Conisbrough viaduct, Doncaster. Image: James Hardisty

"I'm a great advocate for walking with a story to tell," said Mr White. "Finding a woodland, and then finding out everything about it.

"Paradoxically, that's what has happened to so many of us, all finding things out about our local areas and little snickets, and the stories we didn't know.

"There are good places to go walking anywhere, it's just that some places are harder to find than others. Canals, old railway lines - the famous 'Beeching' lines.

"There are lovely avenues to be walking along, if we can get into that mindset. You see things differently, even when you come back the same way."

Changing perceptions

The health benefits of walking are well recognised, helping to alleviate depression, lower the risk of Alzheimers, reduce diabetes and blood pressure.

As the world has changed over recent months, and society has adapted to a "new normal", the mental health benefits are becoming increasingly apparent.

Importantly, added Mr White, perceptions are changing as a new generation explores.

"We've all had challenges, those that have been shared and those that are unique to our situation," he said. "That ability, to take ourselves away, is crucial and so important.

"Walking has had an image problem for a long time," he added. "People think it's all 'mountains and mint cake' but walking is everywhere, it's whatever we want to do.

"Now we just keep walking. Whether you're in a suburb of Doncaster or the open countryside, it's just a good place to be."

Favourite walks

Among Mr White's favourite spaces to explore in Yorkshire are well-loved walks in settings which could grace a picture-postcard.

While many people enjoy a summer stroll to Flamborough Head, the presenter said he prefers it in winter, "when the sea is choppy and with a wind coming through".

There are the falls at Conisbrough viaduct, known for their views of the Dearne Valley and the River Don. Roseberry Topping he describes as "the Matterhorn" of Yorkshire, hailing its views and accessibility.

Then there is Ribblehead Viaduct, which carries the Settle to Carlisle railway across the Ribble Valley, and the surrounding scenes around Whernside.

"You just can't imagine that valley without the viaduct, it seems like it's always been there and should always be there," he said. "It's wonderful to see."

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