Spring Walks review – not even a trampoline-riding goat can save this feelbad TV | Television
SPring Walks, you might think, is feel-good TV. The crunch of the boot on the way. The upbeat presenter on an endorphin high. The baaing of the lambs. And, most importantly, the wholesome twitter you don’t get from social media.
Not so. Spring Walks (BBC Four) is bad TV, even when presented, like this first episode, by Dragons’ Den regular and craft entrepreneur Sara Davies. It’s a product of the same philosophy of self-harm as the 1970s kids’ show Why Don’t You Stop Watching TV and go do something less boring instead? But, instead of pretentious teenagers telling you how you should spend your summer vacation, Spring Walks arms virtue-pointing celebrities to show you that what you’re doing is wrong.
The TV reviewer is the last person you would want to see reviewing a walking program. What do TV critics know about the great outdoors? Only that it’s over there. Was it Nietzsche who said: “Sit as little as possible… All prejudices have their origin in the intestines. Yes it was. Shut up, Nietzsche. You do not know me.
And there is another problem. Spring? It’s still winter. I’ve barely seen the snowdrops yet.
But my biggest problem with Spring Walks can best be explained by referring to an old Finnish joke. Two men are in the pub. After a long silence, one of them launches: “Excellent beer.” The other said, “Are we here to drink or talk?” I feel the same way about Spring Walks; the walk/talk ratio is all viscous.
“This village,” says Davies of Fearsby, “is just something else.” But what, exactly, Sara? “It’s a beautiful church. It’s an absolutely beautiful church,” she says of St Paul’s in Healey. If that’s the level of insight, it might be best to spend the next half hour in silent.
“What was that noise?” Davies asks. The caption on the screen tells us that this is the oystercatcher’s alarm call. “I wish I had paid attention when my dad tried to tell us the sounds of all the birds.” We all do, Sara. “I wonder what kind of culture it is? she asks as she walks through a field. Wheat, sown in October for the August harvest, responds to the on-screen caption. Wheat looks like white noise, the caption adds, while pasture grass looks like crashing waves.
Poetry is in these legends; the comment, not so much. The sentences begin unpromisingly and continue in the same vein: “So when they asked us to do Strictly…” or “I was on the board of the big craft and hobby association at the start of the twenteeth… “
But isn’t the virtue of walking alone a moving communion with nature, an opportunity to speak to invisible spectators about your career and your brand? The best moment is when Davies stands on a bridge, closes his eyes and listens to the stream below. “It’s like, I don’t know, calm and peaceful,” she said.
Like a certain latter-day Brian Johnston on Down your Way, she also asks passers-by about what they’re up to. Each one is incredibly delicious and informative, as if pre-selected by the Yorkshire Tourist Board. The last sheep farmer in the village with his vintage tractor. Lord and Lady Swinton passing on white horses. A goat on a trampoline, whose owner plans to make ethical handmade soap from his milk. However, we never see the goat bouncing back.
Only seven years ago, this part of the world hosted a two-hour show, All Aboard! The campaign bus. He followed the 830 DalesBus on its journey through Swaledale. He had no commentary, but was all the more hypnotic and soothing for it. This was part of BBC Four’s slow-moving TV strand which also included The Sleigh Ride. I still remember the sound of compacted snow, the sight of reindeer breath and the rarity of human yip-yap.
Today, instead, must-see celebrities are performing in all broadcast formats. When not on Useless Celebrities, they are asked to edit the Today program. But maybe Nietzsche is right: sitting down made me prejudice. Davies shows us that the right to move is for everyone. Alone, apart from her selfie stick and her small camera, she reclaims the countryside.
That said, this series may discourage people from walking. If you head down to the woods today, you’re sure to be in for a big surprise. You will meet Dame Judi, Huw Edwards or a Love Island veteran on the trail making a movie and ready to ask you things. All things considered, it’s better to stay home and watch TV.