A collection of short (20-25 minute) programs from the hugely popular ITV series "Out of Town" hosted by Eric Robson (and his "dog on a string," Raq), "Walking the Walk" follows the pattern of other shows in this series, including "Secret Places" and "One Dog and His Man." This is a fascinating potpourri of tours and historical glimpses into the forgotten stories of northern England and southern Scotland. Individual walks focus on the Mull of Galloway, the southernmost part of Scotland; Langholm in Dumfries and Galloway; Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria; Irton in Yorkshire; and the Eden Valley, Eskdale, Gilsland, and Whittatter Forest, all in Cumbria. Along the way, Robson regales us with stories (and tall tales) of local history, ranging from legends of King Arthur's time to a now-closed nuclear attack detection facility in Eskdale.
Among the highlights: a walk through an exotic garden in Galloway, featuring plants from Australia, New Zealand, and Chile; a mini-railroad in the Eskdale Valley, now a tourist ride, but once used to haul granite; historic Irton Hall, which during World War II served as a training site for mine disposal specialists; the Bishop's Rock, a whitewashed stone in Whinlatter Forest, "marking the spot where, according to local legend, the Bishop of Derry was killed falling from his horse in 1783, after drunkenly betting he could ride up the hill." Robson also tells us about the horse who bolted for several miles, without its driver, but with its carriage of passengers, eventually stopping at its usual destination, the King's Arms Hotel in Kirkby Stephen, where the passengers disembarked for refreshment, none the worse for wear. In Langholm, Robson examines the memorial sculpture to poet Hugh McDiarmid, observing that "it looks like it was designed by Picasso's car mechanic." Robson also uncovers the local sources of places and characters in such diverse literary works as Walter Scott's "Guy Mannering," Lewis Carroll's "The Hunting of the Snark," and Bram Stoker's "Dracula." And in that Lake District underground nuclear war monitoring station once manned by Royal Observer Corps. 46, Robson peruses some of the old training manuals and control panels; pointing out a sign advising personnel to wear shoes, as the floor is slippery when wet, Robson adds, "How very British."
As usual with this series, Raq the border terrier, along with the film crew get in on the act to provide relevant meta-commentary. Following one of Robson's lengthy catalogues of historical figures, Raq says that his master must have swallowed the "Dictionary of National Biography." To address potential continuity problems caused by rapidly changing weather conditions, Robson's crew wets him down, after which our host says to the camera, "Well, that was a nasty shower we just passed through." And after a sad story about one Mary Robinson, the "Maid of Buttermere," whose bigamist husband met a nasty end, Robson appends a more hopeful coda--which is duly applauded by the bummed-out crew.
Larry B | Ventura, California | October 2018