TV presenter and countryside campaigner Julia Bradbury chats to us about connecting to nature, why being an older mother means staying on top of your game and why resilience is such a key component of keeping healthy
From striding through the Lake District to scaling a mountain, Julia Bradbury’s love affair with the outdoors has helped her cultivate a career doing the thing she loves most – being in nature. But as well as showcasing some of the spectacular offerings of the British countryside on our tellies, Julia is a passionate campaigner for climate change, protecting our green spaces and making the outdoors accessible for the younger generation. We spoke to her about the holistic side to health, her dream walks and why age comes with a better understanding of how to look after yourself.
Have you always been outdoorsy?
My two lovely parents Chrissi and Michael have impacted me, for sure. My mum is outdoorsy in the sense that she’s not a camper, hiker or climber, but she loves her garden and when I was a little girl, I used to potter around with her. It was a very peaceful and happy childhood. On the other hand, my dad, when I was six or seven, took me hiking across the Peak District and we did the typical outdoorsy stuff together. So really, I had a perfect balance. My mum spent time with me in a peaceful garden environment and my dad would challenge me to do very physical things, like hiking. They were really engaged and loving and they wanted to expose me to all the good things in life, which really stuck with me.
Are your children big fans of the outdoors as well?
My children don’t really have a choice! They know how much I love nature and why eco living is so important to me […] they’re aware it’s something I’m passionate about and have campaigned for. But equally, they all love nature themselves. They love being in green spaces – one of my girls is a massive climber and if we go anywhere on holiday, we have to look up not down to find her, because she’s normally up a tree somewhere! My little boy is very concerned about nature as well; he’s just been made the eco captain in his year at school, which we’re really proud of! So, it’s fair to say my love of the outdoors has rubbed off on them.
What do you think could be done to help get people spending more time in nature?
If people understood that nature is key to our health then we would prioritise it more. It can help you on every level. What we’ve got to do is get people loving their local parks, their woodland, local canals and really looking out for nature. Even just growing something at home; it’s not about becoming Monty Don, just plant some seeds or herbs! It might sound silly, but it’s an easy way of connecting to nature and there is something important about nurturing a living thing. I think when we have a better understanding that health is not just a fitness thing, but a holistic approach to life where we keep our mind and body healthy, that is what will help prolong our lives and make us all happier.
What does healthy mean to you?
Healthy to me is having energy, feeling good, but also being able to deal with the bad stuff. You have to be resilient and continue to pick yourself up when stuff doesn’t go your way and I think that enables you to be healthy. The time I spend outdoors, doing practical activities such as camping and hiking, those things build your resilience as you learn to operate in a different way. There is no escaping the bad stuff; we‘re going to lose people in our lives, pets die, or sometimes we don’t get the job we really want. Those things all happen, and of course, certain hardships are difficult, but being aware and knowing how to cope is a really important tool to have.
How do you keep active?
Yoga, walking and weights! I use YouTube for a lot of classes and I do high-intensity training once or twice a week. As I get older, I think it’s important not to punish myself. It’s important to stay fit, but I’m not trying to scare my body into anything. It’s really about balance. My high-intensity training isn’t something I look forward to doing, but afterwards, I love it. You get a real high from it! A couple of times a week I’ll do yoga and I’ll walk every day as well.
When did you last challenge yourself?
I always challenge myself in yoga. Just like you can never do all the walks in the UK, you can never do all the moves in yoga. I try to learn new positions and improve my technique all the time. I’m trying to push myself out of my comfort zone when it comes to reading new books as well – I started reading a history one the other day! I did a mindfulness retreat a few weeks ago and we did a creative writing class there – that was something new but so enjoyable! I think I challenge myself quite a lot […] maybe that’s got a lot to do with the fact I’m an older mum – I feel it’s my duty to stay on top of my game and make sure I’m a very present parent.
What keeps you feeling mentally fit?
Walking, for sure. There’s something about taking a stroll that helps me process my thoughts. I also try to have 10 minutes every day where I do something quiet, just sitting still and thinking. I journal as well; I’ve always got notebooks on the go! Sometimes I’ll just write down gibberish about my day, but I’m obsessed with words and sentences. Writing is an important part of human behaviour and it’s something we’ve lost touch with.
What is the best thing about being in your 50S?
You’ve got the experience of the past 20 years under your belt! I feel like I’ve learnt from my mistakes and I think being older means you can shape yourself to be the best possible version of you. It’s not that your wiser, it’s just that you’ve done more and with that comes a level of comfort and confidence.
What inspired you and your sister Gina to launch the waterproof and wellies project?
We heard a statistic that 40 percent of children don’t play outdoors, so we wanted to get as many sets of outdoor gear to as many children as possible over the next five or six years. One of the barriers for parents is that they can’t afford outdoor gear for their children and I love the UK, but we don’t know when it’s going to rain, so we need those wellies and waterproofs! Our mission is to get at least 10 sets of wellies into 20,000 primary schools across the UK and our message is to simply spread the word about the outdoors and how vital it is for our health.
Let’s talk about your dream walk
I absolutely love the Peak District because it’s where I started to walk with my dad. I think the peaks have got such a variety; you have the white peaks, the dark peaks, the river walks and so if I had to pick just one it would be tricky. But as well as the peaks, I adore the Lake District and there are hundreds of walks there I still haven’t done.
What motivates you to get outdoors?
That’s the ultimate question, isn’t it! I’ve worked to change my mindset; so rather than it being a task, I try to think how lucky I am to have 10 minutes or 30 minutes to do this and how I’m going to use it to solve a problem. I genuinely believe that self-care is so important. If you’re not healthy and happy you won’t be productive. Once you stop taking care of yourself, the domino effect is enormous. We owe it to ourselves to do that walk we’re putting off – it shouldn’t be a chore to be healthy and happy.