Thursday, 9 June 2011

Julia Bradbury - Queen of the Castle

"Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy" - Thich Nhat Hanh

TV PERSONALITY Julia Bradbury takes time out from filming BBC’s  Countryfile programme at Chirk Castle to talk to chief reporter David Lawson about what she thinks makes the area so special and why  her  next project is her greatest  challenge yet.

“I FEEL like I should apologise to people when I meet  them,” confesses Julia Bradbury, the smiling face of BBC’s Countryfile and a whole raft  of walking programmes  that  have caught the public’s imagination.
“I’ve suddenly  become one of those people who is  on everyone’s  TVs  all the time,”she laughs, “People are going to start  complaining of Julia Bradbury overload!”
With a little friendly  persuasion, the small crowd of Friday  afternoon visitors  gathered around Chirk Castle’s main gate fall quiet  as  Julia steps  out into the sunshine, repeating an interview  with a National Trust  spokeswoman as her film crew capture it from yet another angle.

The team have been in the area filming a piece for  the 40th anniversary  of Offa’s  Dyke Path, talking to local experts about its ancient woodland and investigating Chirk’s  imposing castle. With her piece to camera finished, Julia  and I head for a nearby bench for a chat while her crew get set up for their next shot.
“We seem to be on some kind of rota at  the moment  that  says  we have to come up to this area at least once every three weeks,”smiles  Julia, “It’s  great, I absolutely  love it  here – I just  wish it wasn’t such a long drive back.”

The last  year  alone has  seen Julia return repeatedly  to the region, from Canal Walks  alongside Chirk’s Llangollen Canal to recording nature pieces  from Lake Vyrnwy’s  RSPB reserve, but  having visited virtually every  part  of the world as  a travel presenter and having now walked across a great  many  of them, I’m curious  to know  what  aspect  of Chirk, Oswestry and our  borderland region she feels sets it apart:
“It’s  the people,”says  Julia without hesitation, “The people here always seem to me to be really feisty, and that’s always appealed to me. I’m a feisty girl myself after all.”
She might  be feisty, but  she’s  also incredibly  popular,her  arrival on Countryfile coinciding with a huge ratings  surge, turning the show  from a sleepy  Sunday  morning affair  into a surprise primetime hit.

As  we continue to chat, school children pouring onto a coach next  to us begin to recognise her, smiling and waving from inside their  bus, with Julia waving and calling back to them. It’s this same genuine, approachable character  that  has  made her  programmes so popular and watchable, yet after presenting so many different types of show from Wish You  Were Here through to Wainwright  Walks she says  she is  still unable to pick out her own favourite.
“Oh, it  really  is  impossible to say, everything I do is  different  and that’s what  makes  it  work for  me. I’d be useless  in an office,”she admits, “I just couldn’t  handle it, but  doing this  job means  each day  I can be doing something new.”

Even so, she certainly appears to have found her  niche with her  immensely successful walking programmes, something that has given her the opportunity to expand into writing books, her latest Canal Walks featuring local sections of the Llangollen Canal: “I absolutely love that!”she enthuses, “I really  enjoy the writing process and I’ve got a great co-author  who I work with, Claire Jones  – another  good, proper  Welsh girl. We have such fun. It’s  definitely something I want to do more of.”

A combination of a tough work ethic and a quirk of scheduling means  you can currently  spend a whole week
watching nothing but wall-to-wall Bradbury, she jokes, from Country File on BBC 1 and Icelandic Walks on BBCFour, to Canal Walks on BBC 2 and constant  repeats  of Wainwright  Walks  on BBC and Sky. Despite this  however, a schedule of constant filming for Countryfile alongside her work for  various  cancer  charities, means  it  doesn’t  appear  as  though she will be disappearing from our  screens any time soon.

So what’s  next? “Having a baby!”she exclaims, unable to hide her  excitement. Currently  five months  pregnant, 40-year-old Julia admits a medical condition called endometriosis  meant  she had not  been sure she would ever  be able to become pregnant. “There’s the Icelandic Walk programme, some other stuff over  the summer  and lots  I want to do in the future,”she says, “but  for I’m just  really  looking forward to being
a mum. I can’t wait!”

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

FILM: Crib Goch Diaries

I had wanted to have a go at some documentary-style film making, so when I began my year long mission to see if hypnotherapy could cure my life-long fear of exposed heights for the paper, I decided to keep a video diary and film my attempt. The film is in two parts below, you can also read the original article here to find out more.

It was quite a steep learning curve. Learning to use new editing software as you go along is tricky enough, but it turns out recording voice over parts is much harder than I thought. It's a little more amateurish than I would have liked, but it was great fun and I would definitely recommend having a go at making one yourself - you'll never watch TV reports in quite the same way ever again.

I must make a big mention of youtube users a7dro and Andrew David (andrewdavid68) whose incredible footage I used in the diaries. I've seen no other footage anywhere that conveys the feeling of Crib Goch like their amazing images - Check out their youtube channels for more great footage!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Don't look down! - Hypnotherapy on test

With the help of hypnotherapist Alan Wick and mountain guide Nigel Shepherd, reporter David Lawson gives hypnotherapy its ultimate test on one of Wales' highest and most exposed mountain ridges, finding out if it can really can cure a life-long fear of heights.

THREE-thousand feet above Snowdonia lies Crib Goch, a knife-edge ridge amongst the clouds, that last year I was prevented from crossing by my life-long fear of heights. Now though I was back, to see if hypnotherapy would finally allow me to conquer my fear.

The challenge began 12months ago after my first attempt on the mountain failed to even reach the summit, let alone its nightmarish mile-long tightrope ridge. I should explain that my fear is not strictly heights, but 'exposure' I love high places, but put me on a ladder and I freeze. Transfer that sensation to the top of Wales' most exposed mountain ridge, dropping away hundreds of feet either side and my legs trembled uncontrollably before grinding to a halt.
It was clear will power was not enough, I needed help, but as a hardened sceptic I had initially dismissed hypnotherapy. As I began to run out of options however, my research led me to hypnotherapist Alan Wick who immediately impressed me with his ability to
explain the logic behind his approach.

Alan explains our brains search for old memories that match the situation before us, to know how to act. In my case the only matches involved fear, so my brain's reaction was to hit the panic button, overloading me with adrenalin and fear, creating yet another destructive memory in the process.
Fortunately however, our brains cannot distinguish between a real and imagined experience and this was how Alan planned to help me, creating new positive memories for my brain to find.

Without exception, everyone I mentioned hypnotherapy to asked the same question; "What if he makes you think you're a chicken?"
It's amusing, but shows what Alan's profession is up against, thanks to TV and stage shows, and is the reason the National Council's code of ethics, prohibits members from performing hypnosis for entertainment.
Hypnotherapy itself felt like a vivid daydream, guided by Alan, visualising the environment that scared me but without the fear. As the sessions progressed the hypnosis became deeper and more effective as Alan built in tools to help me in case I started to panic, the most effective of which involved visualising a dial with which to control my emotions.

Under Alan's expert guidance it was a very enjoyable experience and at every stage I was in control and aware of what we were doing. The first time I was put into a relaxed state, I admit I was taken aback by its effectiveness, but immediately realised I could simply get up and walk away at any time.

Alan says most straight forward phobias can be dealt with in around four sessions and after five weeks, daily exercises and a nightly CD to listen to, I was ready. In the weeks that followed however, an unhelpful voice in my head kept asking "what if it doesn't work?"
Two of my closest friends have accompanied me on all my mountain adventures and had been with me on Crib Goch the previous year, but as desperately as I wanted them there this time, I did not want them to be responsible for me if things went wrong.
That said, I also realised this was not something I could tackle alone. Nigel Shepherd of Penmaenmawr is an international mountain guide and one of the UK's leading mountain experts, so I was delighted when he agreed to join me. With Nigel onboard my preparation was complete and there was only one thing left to do.

I had slept little the previous night and driving through Snowdonia beneath a darkening sky, was painfully aware that months of preparation were reaching their conclusion. As the road curved around the mountainside my heart skipped a beat, as I caught my first glimpse of Crib Goch sliding silently from the mist.

At a windswept Pen-y-Pass I was encouraged to find Nigel enthusiastic and cheerful, but he warned me that what would be a challenge for me in fine weather, may be impossible in high winds
I always thought I knew the mountains, but under Nigel's instruction they took on a new dimension and as we left Snowdon's easy paths, and climbed into the mist, he explained the different coloured rocks underfoot; which would grip even when wet, which would slide and which were likely to crumble at the slightest pressure.

Alan always stressed we were not trying to eliminate my fear, leaving me oblivious to danger, but simply prevent it overwhelming me, and as the route became steeper and we passed the point where I had stopped the previous year, the sensation was like a strong flu medicine. The symptoms were still there, but distant and blunted. No paralysing fear, just an awareness of increased risk.
With Nigel guiding me I continued upwards, making sure of each hold before reaching for the next, until finally we breeched the summit and could look out along the ridge.

Crouched low we waited, allowing the strongest gusts to pass, howling banshee-like as they whipped carpets of mist screaming over the rock edge into oblivion.
Moving along the steep left-hand side, using the peak as a handrail, we worked our way towards the Pinnacles. Even in my nightmares the ridge never held so much fear for me as the Pinnacles, three jagged outcrops guarding the ridge, threatening to ensnare the timid between them. With Nigel's help the first two proved straightforward, but I knew what was coming.

I had always hoped videos I had seen of people climbing the third Pinnacle had been some alternate route for crazy people, but as we reached its base it was clear the only way up was a stomach churning climb out onto the sheer right side.
A few months ago the mere thought of this set my heart pumping. But now, while I could hear my brain's warnings that I was nearing my limit and any slip could surely only have one outcome, I was not paralysed by fear. I used Alan's techniques to calm myself, weighed up the situation and made my decision.
Stepping out onto the first ledge I was instantly aware of the drop beneath me. This was by far the most exposed position I had ever experienced and I paused instinctively, braced against the ice-cold fear sure to come shooting through my veins. But nothing happened. Up onto the next ledge, and the next, and the next and over the top. I could hardly believe it.

From there the descent towards Snowdon was a blur of elation and only when we dropped back below the clouds to Snowdon's gentle paths, did I finally stop to take it all in. Hundreds of feet below, the icy waters of Lake Glaslyn had never looked so blue

For days after I felt quiet, almost humbled. I had been unable to imagine life without this fear and it took time to adjust.
I was unprepared for how powerful and effective hypnotherapy could be, and this in turn impressed on me the importance of choosing the right hypnotherapist.

In the same way that you would only chose an expert like Nigel to guide you on the mountains, I believe you should only chose an expert such as Alan to guide you through hypnotherapy. Not only will this give you the best chance of success, but knowing you are in the hands of an expert will allow you to relax and truly enjoy the experience.


Hypnotherapy Diary

Week One: Initial consultation and given a CD to listen to as I go to sleep. Alan explained our brains naturally filter what people tell us, but as we drift off there’s a period when we still take in information though the our conscious mind is switched off (like falling asleep infront of the TV) this is the best time for that kind of suggestion to work and a similar state to hypnosis.
Week Two: First hypnosis. Lying listening to Alan, I wasn’t sure it was doing anything. Was only when he counted me back out of my relaxed state that I realised just how emersed I had been. Very pleasant. CD is proving effective. First time I used it was surprised to feel myself relaxing.
Week Three: More hypnosis. Listened to CD while properly awake. It’s designed to boost self confidence and I noticed I have been walking taller and feeling noticeably more confident (despite strangling myself with the headphones). Given new self-hypnosis ‘homework’ to do.
Week Four: Hypnosis much deeper and more specific to the mountain now. Building new ‘fake’ memories. Imagining it so vividly I actually felt the sick feeling in my stomach at one stage. Stopped and started again, repeating it until able to experience it without the fear.
Week Five: Developed an ‘anchor’ linking feelings from a happy memory to an action (pressing thumb and forefinger together). Allows you to trigger those feelings at will whenever you start to panic. Also learned to control subconscious by visualising a dial and simply an emotion up or down which seemed particularly effective.


Nigel Shepherd
MOUNTAIN expert Nigel Shepherd from Penmaenmawr is one of the UK’s foremost authorities with over 30 years experience.
- Qualified as a Mountain Guide 1979. Mountain Guides Association Training Officer 1986-1989. President 1993-96.
- Has worked everywhere from New Zealand and Australia to Greenland, Norway and Nepal.
- Author of books on ropework and rock climbing, his photography is also widely published.
- Available for off piste skiing, touring, alpine trekking and climbing.
A GRADUATE of Bristol's Clifton Practice Alan worked in nursing for 20years before using hypnotherapy to quit smoking. Realising its potential, he retrained, established Positive Hypnotherapy, and began refining his Solution Focussed Brief technique.
- A member of the National Council for Hypnotherapy, Alan recommends people only use therapists signed up to a strong regulatory body
- Says hypnotherapy can help with smoking, weight loss, problems sleeping, anxiety and depression, sport, performance, phobias such as flying, spiders and needles, compulsive behaviour, drinking, gambling or drug use, and can even aid pain relief in childbirth.
- Holds clinics in Wrexham, Chester and the Wirral, Oswestry and Nantwich