Fresh from commentating on the winning shot in yesterday’s Ryder Cup battle at Gleneagles Golf Course, broadcaster, author, national treasure and dedicated rambler Clare Balding lit up the Wigtown Book Festival 2014 today with her talk on her new book ‘Walking Home: My family and Other Rambles’.
Bouncing onto the stage in the Scottish Power Foundation marquee like an excited Labrador, Ms Balding exuded oodles girl-next-door charm as well as wit, warmth and a wealth of knowledge about her subject - whether that was her rambles for Radio Four or her television and radio work.
Confessing she was suffering the after effects of partying with the Ryder Cup winners, she none the less was “energised” by being part of telling the nation what was happening on the fairways and green of Gleneagles and admitted that the euphoria of the European victory made her “feel as if I can fly”. Settling to her task, she spoke with passion and eloquence about her love for walking and the people she has met though her rambles and how they have inspired her and changed her perception on family dynamics, relationships, friendships and the general trials of life.
Her ramblings have taken her from the coastline of Cornwall, where she was subjected to the ‘Cornwall face-lift’ when walking into the salt-laden winds blowing in from the Atlantic, to Windermere, up to Aberdeen and even to the Mountains of Mourne in Ireland, where a walking group was set up 25 year ago by one woman to help heal the religious and political divides there.
One chapter in the book is dedicated to getting her family, famously more interested in animals that walk on four legs than two, to walk with her. And while racehorses trainer brother Andrew and her mother took up her challenge to walk with her, from father Ian there came a flat “No thanks. Why would I want to do that?”.
Having started her ‘Ramblings’ series on Radio Four many years ago, Clare spoke of how walking in the countryside has “grounded her”.
She said: “After you have been walking for two hours you go somewhere different in your head. You are into a rhythm by that time and the walking become therapeutic.”
She confessed that one important lesson she learned about broadcasting came about because she lost her voice just before recording a Ramblings programme. Having no option but to go ahead with the walk, she discovered that handing the microphone over to her subject and letting them talk unfettered produced sprinkles of broadcasting gold dust. This was demonstrated to spectacular effect at the 2010 London Olympics when she interviewed bursting-with-pride Bert Le Clos moments after his son Chad has won swimming gold for South Africa. She recalled meeting him later that night in a branch of Chiquita and being hugged by a still over excited Bert, who exclaimed : “Clare , Clare, my daaaarling! We have gone viiiral! You have made me a star!” Mr le Clos, Clare confirmed, was now the author of two books and the star of three commercials.
After throwing in the story about being the inventer of Mo Farrah’s Mobot pose and looking forward to the Rio Olympics in 2016, Clare returned to her book and touching on the mental health benefits as well as the obvious fitness benefits that walking gives you.
Having already covered 1500 miles for her programme, it has become a huge part of her life and helped her grow as a person which is reflected in her beautifully written and aching funny book.
Never one to stand still for long, Clare announced she is now tuning her mu ti-faceted talent to fiction by writing a children’s book.