Julia Bradbury on her love of the Peak District as she launches a new campaign to get people walking more

Julia Bradbury has long been a champion of the British countryside and was an ideal choice to launch a national campaign focused on Sheffield to get people out walking in the city and the surrounding Peak District.
Julia Bradbury’s love of the countryside was forged in the Peak District. (Picture: Holly Brega).Julia Bradbury’s love of the countryside was forged in the Peak District. (Picture: Holly Brega).
Julia Bradbury’s love of the countryside was forged in the Peak District. (Picture: Holly Brega).

The star, who grew up in the city, has filmed a series of films aimed at bringing walkers from all over Britain to the area, in a bid to show off the beauty of Sheffield and the Peak District National Park and attract them to The Outdoor City.

The campaign features a series of five films that show Julia introducing various walks and wheelchair user Debbie North introducing the accessible walks, to show the beauty on the doorstep of the South Yorkshire city.

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“It’s the perfect time to get outdoors, get in touch with your senses and get some much needed vitamin n – that’s n for nature,” says Julia.

Julia with her father, Michael, who got her into walking in the countryside.Julia with her father, Michael, who got her into walking in the countryside.
Julia with her father, Michael, who got her into walking in the countryside.

Filmed by The Outdoor Guide – a free online resource for information about walks, where to go and where to stay, run by Julia and her sister Gina – in conjunction with Sheffield City Council and their Outdoor City campaign, Julia takes viewers on a journey which takes in key places including Tinsley Canal, Damflask Reservoir, Loxley Valley Easy Going Trail, Porter Valley, Wyming Brook and Redmires Reservoir.

Around 61 per cent of Sheffield is green space and its route combines the industrial heritage of its routes with the tranquillity of nature. Walkers can head out on the River Dawn and witness the steel works in action and take the more relaxing route back along the Tinsley Canal Path.

Sheffield is known as ‘The Outdoor City’ one third sits within the Peak District National Park and five rivers meet at its centre. There’s also a nature reserve with lots of different birds and wildlife on the doorstep.

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Julia is a familiar face on TV. She presented Countryfile for six years until 2014, fronted Britain’s Favourite Walks: Top 100 and most recently co-presented Britain’s Greatest National Treasures alongside Sir Trevor McDonald, celebrating landmark buildings and feats of engineering.

Today, the mother-of-three lives with her partner and young family in north London, but her heart is in the North.

She went to school in Sheffield (where her mother ran a clothing business) and it was in the Peak District where her love for the countryside was forged when she would go walking with her father, Michael.

“That’s where he’d take me after school and on weekends. We’d explore Dovedale, Stanage Edge and places like that because these were the places he went to when he was a little boy,” she says.

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And talking about the Porter Valley Walk, she says: “It leads you into the Peak District National Park.

“I was lucky enough to grow up with the Peak District on my doorstep. I went to school in Sheffield and my Dad introduced me to my life-long friend, therapist and workout buddy – Nature.

“We went for our first walk together when I was about seven-years-old, hiking across one of the nearby moors. I say hiking; dad was doing all the hard work pulling me alongside all 6ft 4 of him while I gawped at the gigantic moody landscapes,” she says.

“On one of those adventures we trekked across the National Trust-owned Kinder Scout – aptly the birthplace of walking. These walks weren’t just special father and daughter bonding times that I will always treasure, they also led me to where I am today.”

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And Julia believes there are walks to suit people of all ages and fitness levels.

“There are some lovely walks for everyone and this really is where my love of walking began. Sheffield is so special as these walks will show you the variety of the city’s green space and its heritage.

“My favourite is the Porter Brook walk – a peaceful stream surrounded by woodland, which ends in Endcliffe Park, where I spent my teens.”

For many people, the lockdowns prevented some people from travelling to their favourite outdoor haunts and talking to The Yorkshire Post last year, Julia talked about the impact the pandemic was having on rural communities and businesses. “The whole economy, including rural tourism, has taken a massive body blow. The rural economy is hugely important to the whole country, but it will come back.”

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She hoped, too, that lessons will be learned when we finally get through this pandemic. “I read some comments recently from a scientist who said in 30 years she’d never seen such co-operation within the scientific community as there has been in trying to tackle coronavirus. So if that can happen over this, can we have this same co-operation when it comes to environmental issues?

“We’ve heard so much talk of ‘green revolutions’ over the years, isn’t it now time we had a real green revolution? The UK is so brilliant and so diverse and I just think it’s our duty to appreciate and preserve it.”

Speaking earlier this year, she also spoke about her concern that mental health issues were on the rise because we have lost the ability to “stop”. She said that social media means there is less space to think, but added that “taking notice of what’s around you” is a “source of meditation”.

In the meantime, though, Julia is pleased to be involved in a campaign that encourages people to make the most of the local countryside.

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Coun Alison Teal, executive member for parks, wellbeing and leisure at Sheffield City Council, believes the collaboration between TV presenter and the council will prove to be a fruitful one.

“It’s wonderful to see some of our most beautiful walks brought to life by Julia and her childhood memories. Anyone who lives in Sheffield knows you don’t have to go far to find green open space, enchanting woodlands and nature rich habitats, so it’s great that those outside the city can see what all the fuss is about too,” she says.

“We work extremely hard to maintain and improve our parks and outdoor routes, along with local partners and hundreds of volunteers, always striving to increase accessibility and amenities while protecting and conserving our natural environment.

“With 61 per cent of our landscape in green space, parks within the heart of our city centre and a third of our boundary in the Peak District National Park, we’re unique and unrivalled in our claim as The Outdoor City.

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“These short films capture just a small fraction of the fantastic walks and activities people can enjoy in Sheffield and I’d encourage everyone to go explore our great outdoors.”

Julia Bradbury is urging people to get back to nature in a series of walks filmed by The Outdoor Guide in conjunction with Sheffield City Council’s Outdoor City Campaign. Learn more at theoutdoorguide.co.uk/walks/walksbylocation/sheffield-walks

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