Eric Robson (accompanied by his border collie Nell) is the guide for four scenic downhill walks in the Lake District: (1) Honister to Grange in Borrowdale; (2) Wrynose to Great Langdale; (3) Castlerigg to Keswick; and (4) Birker Moor to Eskdale. The outset of the first walk provides Robson with "quite the Wainwright moment" as a bus drops him off at the starting point--just as Wainwright's buses did more than half a century earlier when AW was writing his pictorial guides. The second walk begins at the intersection of the historic counties of Cumberland, Westmoreland, and Lancashire, near the old Roman roads, and a more recent one, perfect "for modern drivers to burn out their clutches," where we view a 100-year old steam road engine (with no brakes) maneuvering precariously along the roadway. On this walk, Robson takes us to one of "the least visited ancient monuments in Britain"--the "king's mound" that served as a parliament for the Scandivanian settlers to the area between the 7th and 10 centuries A.D.
A highlight of the third walk is the oldest stone circle in Europe, the Castlerigg Circle, "an app from the stone age," according to Robson: "calculator, clock, calendar, rolled into one." Later, Robson walks along what once served as the trackbed of the celebrated Cockermouth-Keswick-Penrith Railway, originally created to transport minerals, later a passenger line, but which was unceremoniously closed in 1972 as part of the meat-axe cutbacks ordained by Richard Beeching, chairman of British Railways. The fact that the line could have been preserved to bring thousands of visitors into the center of Lakeland without clogging up the roadways sends Robson into one of his trademark diatribes against clueless bureaucrats: "this shows what happens when you let accountants loose with the contents of a toybox."
During the fourth walk, we see the spectacular 62-foot high Stanley Ghyll Force waterfall plunging down a narrow gorge in Eskdale, and the crystal-clear Esk River, once contaminated with "industrial red," but rescued with the aid of conservationists. When bad weather clouds over the 1500-foot high Crook Crag, Robson inserts a clip from a previous Striding Edge offering, "Remote Lakeland," which shows the area in clear weather--though with Robson struggling to catch his breath as he nears the summit. (It's reassuring to see that he's just a regular middle-aged bloke who gets more exercise than the rest of us, but who still has his limits).
The DVD closes with a tribute to Robson's border terrier Raq, who accompanied ER on many of his video walks, and who died at the ripe old age of 14. The memorial clip shows Robson and Raq as they visit Brimham Rocks in Nidderdale, Yorkshire, a collection of naturally sculpted formations that resemble (barely) rabbits, eagles, and even E.T., or as Robson says, "where Dr. Dolittle meets Jurassic Park." As the film crew offer their own comments on the ambiguous rock formations, acknowledgment should be paid to Robson's long time colleagues, the researcher David Powell-Thompson and cameraman Janusz Ostrowski, who also provide their expert professional assistance to Julia Bradbury for her Lakeland DVDs.
Larry B | Ventura, California | October 2018