Like Dickens, we’re learning the value of plodding through our frigid streets | Rachel Cooke

Rediscovering long walks has been one of the delights of lockdown, as a new TV series will show

The walk from Ravenscar in North Yorkshire to Robin Hood’s Bay, further up the coast, isn’t hard going. High on the cliffs, the way ahead is marked by a cinder path that follows the course of the old railway line from Scarborough to Whitby; once you’ve dropped down to the beach, you need only stroll along the sand for your target (the pub!) almost to be in sight. Yes, it can be blowy. You look at the scant, gnarled trees and wonder at how the wind, like some malevolent sculptor, has turned them all into hunchbacks. But the beauty of it is that this stretch can be done with ease between lunch and tea even in midwinter, when the Yorkshire days come with their own particular concision.

To pinch from Robert Macfarlane, paths run through people as surely as they do through places. A familiar walk is etched on the heart, a ragged line one can retrace in good times and bad, in both reality and the imagination, and thanks to this, I felt a little proprietorial as I sat down to watch a new series in which the poet laureate, Simon Armitage, follows precisely the route I’ve described. This part of Yorkshire is especially beloved to me and never more so than at this time of year, its vast, grey-pink skies bringing to mind mascara on a tear-stained cheek. Yet, for now, I cannot travel there. Why, I thought enviously, should he be allowed to have his taciturn-lyrical way with it, roaming its Jurassic outcrops with such abandon, when I must remain in captivity in London?

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