Andrew White in Conversation with Rohantime

Andrew White

Andrew White talks to Rohantime

Can you tell Rohantime readers a bit about yourself please including how you got into presenting and producing TV series on walking in the UK?

Well, I’ve always had a love of the outdoors and back at the start of the 2000’s I was thinking it would be fantastic to do something on television about walking – as it had seemed to be quite a while since walking had been on tv.  Then in 2007, Julia Bradbury’s Wainwright Walks was broadcast on BBC Four, and I remember thinking this is all well and good, but I’m not going to be able to get my 4 year old out on those. And also, because they were all up hills and all in the Lake District, it would put off a lot of people who might be able to be persuaded into going walking.

So, in 2010, I started a website with the idea of having 10 minute videos on there to show people what they could expect on a particular walk – and I wanted to make them so as many people could get out and actually do them.  So, I decided to have a distance limit of 8 miles – which I thought was perhaps the limit of most people’s walking, and that made them all suitable for a Sunday stroll.  I called the website Walks Around Britain – which seemed to be quite a ‘does what it says on the tin’ name – and the Twitter and Facebook accounts followed from there. People enjoyed the videos and started to ask whether there could be a TV series with them all on, and so I talked to a few channels and after a while, Community Channel said they would love to show it. The first series went out on Community Channel in January 2016, with the second later in the year – and now we’ve kind of settled into a “two series a year” pattern.  Now, the series is broadcast on 21 TV channels in the UK and is available to stream, buy or rent on Amazon Prime Video and to buy or rent on YouTube.

Who is your greatest walking inspiration?

It’s standard here for most outdoors writers to say AW (Alfred Wainwright) – but I’ll be honest and say his writing really never did that much for me.  Perhaps it’s a bit like when many people keep saying “you must read this, it’s fantastic” and after the 50th person saying that, you do read it – and it doesn’t quite live up to the billing. So… not AW. The writer I’ve probably gained the most inspiration from I guess is Mark Richards, whose words really bring the outdoors off the page and to life – and that’s even without his marvellous linescapes and photography.

On television, I’ve much admired the work of Nicholas Crane – and it was the BBC Two series of “Coast” which he presented which gave me much inspiration for the style and look of Walks Around Britain. My favourite series of his was one called “Map Man” – which I can watch again for the umpteenth time and still enjoy it.

Andrew and Mac

How do your lovely dogs enhance your walks?

Well, how can they not do?! I’m lucky enough to have four border collies called me their dad – the eldest is Maisie, who’s 14; then Merlin (5), Mac (3) and Mysti (2). We regularly go walking as our extended human and doggie family, and I just find their exploration and discover fascinating when we go to a pace they’ve never been to before. And even when it’s just one of them on a walk with me for the TV series, it’s great just to have them along as a walking companion.

Merlin will be joining me again for this years’ Countryfile Live at Blenheim Palace in August – although I’m not too sure it’s a good idea, as he stole the show last year!

Which walk would you most recommend and why? (or top 3 walks)

Out of the ones I’ve filmed for Walks Around Britain so far, it would have to be…

What item of gear do you never go walking without?

I suppose many people would guess I’d say a GPS unit or a smartphone with a directional app – but the truth is I’ve tried to use those apps and I just find them very overcomplicated!  Give me an OS map, and I’m happy with that.  But the item of gear I rarely go walking without is a backpack, as I always seem to have loads of bits and bobs to carry – regardless of whether I’m filming the walk or not.

You have a mixture of podcasts and extensive video library on Walks around Britain do you have a preference in producing either?

The short answer is whichever one I’m not doing at the time!  When I’m working on the TV series or the online videos, I long for the easy and speed of audio on the podcasts… but when I’m doing the podcasts, I wish I had pictures and images to illustrate it all! I really enjoy both, and taken with the writing I do too, I feel really lucky I have the opportunity to do all three.

Andrew White

What is your favourite food to take on the fells?

I’m a big fan of bananas on a walk because they are pretty much the walking super food – high energy, slow release means they give you a great boost of energy over a fairly long period of time. But I must confess to also enjoying the odd bar of chocolate too occasionally..

Where are you off to next?

Well, I’ve 12 walks to create for the rail company Northern, which will start and finish at stations all throughout the North of England – so that will keep me busy… and I’m also writing four walking guide books for publishers Pen & Sword, which are to be released in 2018. And somewhere in all that, I’ve got the fourth season of Walks Around Britain to write and film…!

Walks Around Britain is now very engaged on the social media channels, including a very impressive following on Twitter. Do you have a favourite channel?

I do like Twitter – it’s the social media network which really enabled Walks Around Britain to be noticed and become a force to be reckoned with. Facebook is also pretty important to us, as we’re regularly getting between 15,000 and 30,000 people a week engaging with us at our page.

What’s your greatest professional achievement to date?

We get an increasing number of emails, tweets and messages on Facebook from people saying they’ve never really gone walking before, but have been inspired by watching Walks Around Britain to get out and do some of our walks… and that is always very rewarding and satisfying, because I do think we are doing something genuinely different; something which really does encourage people to discover what this great country has to offer and to be more healthy in the process.

What do you do in your spare time?

I’m so busy with Walks Around Britain, the writing for magazines and the 6 books I’m doing, so it’s a good job I really enjoy it all – but I’m a passionate railway enthusiast, so I enjoy going to heritage railways… in fact, a series of walks with a train ride back could be a great idea…

Get out your crystal ball and give us 3 trends that you see developing with regarding to outdoor leisure in the UK (or one trend if you prefer)

I think we’ll see a greater understanding that to grow the outdoor industries in this country – and Europe – there has to be a much larger focus on the leisure walker – the sort of people who Walks Around Britain talks directly to.  Catering for the top-end long-distance walkers, climbers and endurance performers is all great – and that’s where the innovation starts – but the fact remains the vast majority of people in the UK are walking between 2 – 8 miles on a Sunday afternoon.  We should also realise we don’t inspire people who don’t walk at all for pleasure to get off the sofa by constantly showing them images of epic treks achieved by an elite few – or by constantly banging on about “classic walking areas” which some people can’t get to .  These people need to know short walks are available and they are all around us – that’s when we’ll see a move off the sofa and into the outdoors.

Andrew White

Senior Producer / Editor – Walks Around Britain

Walks Around Britain – Britain’s leading digital destination for short walks and walking information… the market leader for family walkers, dog walkers and silver walkers across the web, podcasts, social media, DVD, live streaming and television.

Rohan Heritage

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