Writers on Walks: A BBC Radio 3 Collection

Writers on Walks: A BBC Radio 3 Collection

30 Reflections from Exploring on Foot


22 writers talk about their memorable excursions and the act of walking, and share their creative observations

In these six series, taken from BBC Radio 3's The Essay, an array of novelists, poets, journalists and biographers chart the varied and inspiring walks they have taken around Britain and elsewhere. Here are treks taken at daybreak and after dark; in winter and in spring; in the footsteps of the past; and - in the case of Robert Macfarlane - along the ridges of the South Downs.

Dawnwalks and Night Walks find Nicholas Shakespeare, Nicola Barker, Kamila Shamsie, Ian Sansom, Lucy Hughes-Hallett, Owen Sheers, Janice Galloway and John Walsh taking early morning and late-night strolls around locations ranging from their back garden and local cemetery to Manhattan, Paris, Tasmania and the Antarctic.

Springwalks and Winterwalks feature Michele Roberts, Ross Raisin, John Walsh, Kirsty Gunn, Philip Hoare, Deborah Levy, Christopher Hope, Scarlett Thomas, Erica Wagner and Owen Sheers, as they sample the transforming qualities of spring and the wonders of winter. From Poland and the Languedoc to Hampstead Heath and the Yorkshire Wolds, they delight in the details of the landscape and reflect on what it means to them.

Strange Strolls sees Jenn Ashworth, Michael Donkor, Stephanie Victoire, Nat Segnit and Sophie Coulombeau embarking on walks of entertaining eccentricity, revisiting favourite places including Wandsworth Bridge, the Blue Ridge mountains of Appalachia and Ibiza.

And in A Five-Day Journey, Robert Macfarlane walks the length of the South Downs in monsoon rain and in sunshine, discovering its chalk trails and its ghosts. He ponders the relationship between paths and stories; explores the poet Edward Thomas' love affair with tracks; considers the concept of the Aboriginal Australian songline; re-imagines the life of artist Eric Ravilious; and contemplates the sometimes eerie relationship between walking, collecting and creation.

Intimate, evocative and immersive, these 30 uplifting programmes transport us to a wealth of wonderful places, and offer fascinating personal insight into the inner worlds of our walker-writers.

Production credits
Produced by Duncan Minshull, Ciaran Bermingham and Tim Dee

First broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on the following dates:

Nicholas Shakespeare 28 March 2016
Nicola Barker 29 March 2016
Kamila Shamsie 30 March 2016
Ian Sansom 31 March 2016
Lucy Hughes-Hallett 1 April 2016

Night Walks
Nicholas Shakespeare 27 October 2008
Owen Sheers 28 October 2008
Janice Galloway 29 October 2008
Kamila Shamsie 30 October 2008
John Walsh 31 October 2008

Michele Roberts in Poznan 31 March 2014
Ross Raisin in the Yorkshire Wolds 1 April 2014
John Walsh 2 April 2014
Kirsty Gunn in Sutherland 3 April 2014
Philip Hoare in Sholing 4 April 2014

Deborah Levy on Hampstead Heath 18 February 2013
Christopher Hope in Languedoc 19 February 2013
Scarlett Thomas 20 February 2013
Erica Wagner 21 February 2013
Owen Sheers in Poland 22 February 2013

Strange Strolls
Jenn Ashworth - The Abiding Mental Riches of Preston 10 February 2020
Michael Donkor - On Westminster Bridge 11 February 2020
Stephanie Victoire - Dark Hollow Falls 12 February 2020
Nat Segnit - The Other Ibiza 13 February 2020
Sophie Coulombeau - Walking Matilda 14 February 2020

A Five-Day Journey
Marking 2 November 2009
Haunting 3 November 2009
Singing 4 November 2009
Flying 5 November 2009
Collecting 6 November 2009

© 2023 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd. (P) 2023 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd.

About the authors

Robert Macfarlane

Robert Macfarlane is the bestselling author of Mountains of the Mind, The Wild Places, The Old Ways, Landmarks, and Underland, and co-creator of The Lost Words and The Lost Spells. Mountains of the Mind won the Guardian First Book Award and the Somerset Maugham Award and The Wild Places won the Boardman-Tasker Award. Both books have been adapted for television by the BBC. The Lost Words won the Books Are My Bag Beautiful Book Award and the Hay Festival Book of the Year. Robert Macfarlane is a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and writes on environmentalism, literature and travel for publications including the Guardian, the Sunday Times and The New York Times. He is now working on his third book with long-time collaborator, Jackie Morris: The Book of Birds.
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Deborah Levy

Deborah Levy was born in 1969, studied theatre at Dartington College of Arts, and now lives in London. Her plays include Pax, which City Limits considred 'remarkable for its combination of intellectual rigour, poetic fantasy and visual imagination' and Heresies for the Royal Shakespeare Company, 'An ambitious, imaginative, sometimes funny, sometimes touching, passage across a terrain where moral parables and folk fancies meet' (Marina Warner, Independent). She has also published a collection of short stories, Ophelia and the Great Idea, and a novel, Beautiful Mutants, and, most recently, Swallowing Geography, all of which are published by Vintage.
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Jenn Ashworth

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Kamila Shamsie

Kamila Shamsie is the author of six novels including Home Fire which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017, shortlisted for the Costa Best Novel Award, the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards 2018, and the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, and won the London Hellenic Prize and the Women's Prize for Fiction 2018. Three of her novels have received awards from Pakistan's Academy of Letters. Kamila Shamsie is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was named a Granta Best of Young British Novelists in 2013; she was also awarded a South Bank Arts Award in 2018. She grew up in Karachi and now lives in London.
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Michael Donkor

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Michèle Roberts

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Lucy Hughes-Hallett

Lucy Hughes-Hallett is a cultural historian and critic. She is the author of Cleopatra, Queen, Lover, Legend and of Heroes: Saviours, Traitors and Supermen. She reviews regularly for the Sunday Times Books Section.
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Ross Raisin

Ross Raisin is the author of three novels: A Natural, Waterline and God's Own Country, which was shortlisted for nine literary awards. Ross has won the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year award and was named on Granta's most recent Best of Young British Novelists list. In 2018 he was awarded a Fellowship by the Royal Society of Literature.
Ross teaches at the University of Leeds, for the Guardian Masterclass programme and for the education charity First Story. He lives in York. Find more on Ross, his books and teaching here: www.rossraisin.com
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Owen Sheers

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Nicholas Shakespeare

Nicholas Shakespeare was born in 1957. The son of a diplomat, much of his youth was spent in the Far East and South America. His books have been translated into twenty-two languages. They include The Vision of Elena Silves (winner of the Somerset Maugham Award), Snowleg, The Dancer Upstairs, Inheritance, Priscilla and Six Minutes in May. He has been longlisted for the Booker Prize twice, was a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
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Nat Segnit

Nat Segnit's investigations into the human impulse to withdraw took him to India, Greece, the US and the Arctic Circle, until unforeseen circumstances forced his own retreat, along with the rest of humanity. He has written for the New Yorker, Harper's, 1843 magazine and the TLS, and regularly writes and broadcasts for BBC Radio 4. Retreat is his second book.
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Sophie Coulombeau

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Christopher Hope

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Scarlett Thomas

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Erica Wagner

Erica Wagner is an author and journalist, born in New York City, but a resident of London. She attended Cambridge and the University of East Anglia, where she was taught by Malcolm Bradbury and Rose Tremain. She went on to become the Literary Editor of The Times from 1996 to 2013.

Erica is the author of Gravity (1997), a collection of short stories; Ariel’s Gift: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and the Story of Birthday Letters (2000); and Seizure (2007). As well as editing First Light she is working on a new book, The Chief Engineer: A Biography of Washington Roebling, the Man Who Built Brooklyn Bridge.

She has judged many literary prizes, including the Orange Prize, Whitbread First Novel Prize, Forward Prize for poetry and twice the Man Booker Prize.
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Nicola Barker

Nicola Barker was born in Ely in 1966 and spent part of her childhood in South Africa. She is the author of twelve novels – including Wide Open, Darkmans, The Yips and In the Approaches – and two short story collections. She has been twice longlisted and once shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, has won the IMPAC, the John Llewellyn Rhys and the Hawthornden Prizes, and was named one of Granta’s 20 Best Young British Writers in 2003. Her latest novel, H(A)PPY, won the 2017 Goldsmiths Prize and was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018.
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Ian Samson

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Kirsty Gunn

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Philip Hoare

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