National Walking Month

With National Walking Month upon us, plus brighter days and longer evenings, what can be better for your wellbeing than a daily stroll?  A quick ask around our office reveals a mixed result of casual walking to work to the more serious 20,000 steps a day, but if you don’t have time you can let the camera do the walking, while you sit back and enjoy the views.  

Of course, in Yorkshire and the North East, we are blessed with having some of the best walking countryside and cityscapes around us, and both YFA and NEFA have an amazing visual record that enables us to experience the impact of time on the landscape and architecture of our towns and cities over the 20th Century, captured by amateurs and professionals alike.  

Here are a few to start you off; there are many more to view on our website.

If city walking is your thing, the 1960s film The Eternal City features a walk around York's historic landmarks, the shopping streets, and the riverfront, where the camera focuses on Lendal Bridge, showing boats passing on the water and people walking across. We visit the Museum Gardens, with shots of the ruined abbey, then onto the market and the famously-named "Whip Ma Whop Ma Gate". From there we go to the oldest shopping street ‘Shambles’, a 14th Century delight. But no walk around York would be complete without a visit to the historic city walls and adjoining city  entrances known as  ‘bars’, combined with the sights of the iconic York Minster. There is much that has not changed and much to dwell upon.

To carry on with the city theme, John Betjeman Discovers Leeds is a classic.  In this 1968 BBC film the poet John Betjeman walks and talks us through the architecture of Victorian Leeds, offsetting it against the then ultra-modern 1960s Leeds.  Rows of terraced housing, back-to-back houses, the evocative cobbled streets with washing draped across the road, are interspersed with children playing freely. Betjeman notes the destruction of terraced housing being replaced by tower blocks; homes built with the best intentions, but he wonders if the families would look back with regret to the destruction of the old terraced housing and feel a bit lonely up in the ever-developing landscape in the sky.  He discusses the importance of alleys, and the discovery of hidden gems, coming across Whitelocks, which has stood since 1715, with tiles and stained glass dating from the late 1800s.  Whitelocks survived the wreckers ball and is still in business: the oldest public house in Leeds.

Moving away from the city, Tramp Tramp Tramp (1936) is an aptly-named amateur travelogue of a marathon hike through the Yorkshire Moors and Dales in the 1930s, made by George and Norah Cummin. From their home in Newcastle upon Tyne, the couple travel to Swaledale and Wensleydale, visiting various North Yorkshire locations and attractions, including Richmond, Hawes, York, Knaresborough, Fountains Abbey and Rievaulx Abbey. We see the famous Buttertubs, beautiful undulating countryside, copious dry stone walls, quintessential village greens, waterfalls crashing down onto the rocks, and ancient castles. They also tour the Yorkshire coast travelling to Runswick Bay, the narrow, steep cobbled streets of Robin Hood’s Bay, beaches in Scarborough and the cliffs and sands of Whitby. Wonderfully evocative.

We get another glimpse of our stunning, timeless countryside in Out and About in Yorkshire. Made by Lucy Fairbank, this gentle film documents her visits to popular tourist destinations in North Yorkshire in the 1950s. Outings to the Dales, happy memories in Alne, Malham, Aysgarth Falls and Wensleydale. We see a group of friends looking around Fountains Abbey and Nostell Priory, having picnics in Nidderdale – very nostalgic.

Of interest to those visiting and living in the City of Culture, is The East Riding (1959), made by local filmmaker A.R. Smith, which focuses on the industrial landscape of the Riding including the agriculture and fishing industries. Also featured is the architecture in Beverley, Hull, and the villages in the surrounding area. In the village of Bishop Burton, a small girl uses a net to catch fish in the village duck pond. At Flamborough Head, the lighthouse and coastline can be seen.  People are out and about enjoying walking along the coastline, a fishing boat is hauled in and moored on the steep, sandy bank and we witness fishermen unloading their catch of crabs in boxes.  Back in Hull, we see fish unloaded in St Andrew’s Dock, onto busy quaysides where large ships are moored surrounded by cranes; the commentary lists the main products exported.  Then, we head to Hull pier and the terminal for river steamers.  As the ferry crosses the river, the commentary mentions that a bill has recently been passed through Parliament which will begin construction of the Humber Bridge.

Moving further north two films in particular show the natural beauty and wildness of the Northumberland coastline.  Northumbrian Memories is a film made by John Edward (‘Ted’) Warburton, a member of Halifax Cine Club, of a family holiday to Northumbria in 1957.  They visit many of the tourist attractions of the county, including Brunton Castle, Beadnell Bay, Bamburgh, Crumstone, Farne Islands and Holy Island.

Your Heritage: The Coast of Kings (1963), which is the second of a two-part Tyne Tees Television programme, looks at the history and traditions of the towns and villages of the North East coastline. This film follows the coast north from central  Newcastle, featuring the Tyne Bridge and quayside,  the beach and castle  at Tynemouth, the promenade at Whitley Bay, the harbour at Blyth, the sea defences along the beach at Alnmouth,  as far as Holy Island Lindisfarne.

All these films are available to view by clicking the links, so you can either watch a whole film in one go or dip in and out daily over your lunch. Happy walking.