Stand up comedian and TV warm up act Mark Olver grew up in Bristol and, when he’s not travelling the country doing shows, he likes to relax by taking a stroll through his home city. He tells us a bit about his favourite walk…
Tell us a bit about your preferred Bristol walking route and why you love it so much.
For me, walking isn’t something I go out specifically to do as a hobby, I just fit it in around things I’m already doing. I might take stops along the way to have something to eat or look in a shop and it’s all very relaxed.
I live in Brislington, so a typical walk for me would be cutting through Arnos Vale Cemetery, going up the steep hill and into Totterdown, where I’ll cut through to the Wells Road. I’ll walk through Totterdown and go up through Victoria Park, wind my way around Windmill Hill and perhaps stop at the City Farm; they do an amazing breakfast there. I often take a shortcut through Asda Bedminster, going in one entrance and coming out of the other onto Coronation Road, walk over the bridge and through Wapping Wharf, where I’ll sometimes stop for a coffee, or I might continue on to the Arnolfini book shop for a browse.
Sometimes that’s enough for me, but if I’ve had a break and feel like it, I occasionally continue on past the library and the Cathedral, up St George’s Hill and Brand Hill and sit by Cabot Tower for a bit. If I’m feeling really adventurous or there’s something I need to buy, I’ll sometimes carry on up to Constitution Hill, have a look around Clifton Village at the shops and perhaps check out the Suspension Bridge, but then I’d definitely get the bus home because that’s a really long walk!
What I love about walking through Bristol is that it’s a city that really rewards exploring. There’s always something new to see, or some hidden corner you might not have discovered yet.
How do you feel when you’re out for a walk? Does it change your state of mind?
Comedians are generally very good at spending time on our own. When you’re surrounded by people at work, in your spare time it’s nice to take some time on your own – and doing a walk is a good way to do that. I spend my life travelling around the country in cars and on trains, so taking some time out to walk is helpful for clearing my head. The fresh air does me good.
Have you experienced any health benefits from walking?
Oh yes, 100%. In the industry I work in, you’re always surrounded by food – at live gigs you usually have a meal, and at TV studios there are always bowls of snacks and chocolates around. I love food! I don’t get much time to go to the gym because I work long hours, so walking stops me from getting overweight. I don’t drink either – I’ve always been teetotal – so that, combined with the walking means I’m not packing on the pounds.
Do you have any particular kit you take with you when you’re walking? If so, what do you take and why?
I have a lot of Berghaus kit – walking boots, jackets, the lot – which they gave me when I did a walk from Bristol to Edinburgh in 2008 for a show. I set off in June and walked all the way to Edinburgh, stopping to do previews of my show in various places along the way, before arriving in August to do the final performance. I took my time, walking up the Welsh border, all the way to the Lake District and up the North East coast into Scotland. As part of it, I did some writing for Berghaus and in exchange, they gave me all the kit I needed, and it’s lasted really well.
That sounds like quite a challenge! How did you feel afterwards?
It absolutely destroyed me! It’s funny because I don’t have a lot of memory of the shows, but I do remember loads about the walks. I saw so much of the country and met lots of people. My girlfriend at the time came with me, and a few other comedians joined in at various places. That’s also when I first got into audio books – they’re really good for while you’re walking.
Did you know that the average person walks 3 miles an hour? I discovered that before I went, so I planned to walk 5 hours a day, covering 15 miles each time. I’d do 3 hours in the morning, stop for lunch and then do another 2 – 3 hours in the afternoon, before checking into a hotel for the night.
Now that you’ve done this epic walk, do you have any advice for others who might be thinking of getting into walking?
I’d say that it doesn’t have to be an epic walk. You can be quite chilled about walking, as long as you enjoy each little one you do. Just because someone else is running a marathon or walking from Bristol to Bath, or whatever, you don’t have to. You can start by walking around where you live and then make the walk slightly longer each time. If you don’t think about it too much, your walks will gradually get longer as you do them more often anyway. Just do it for you. That’s the joy of walking – a bit of time for you.
Bristol Walk Fest, the UK’s largest celebration of urban walking, takes place from 1 – 31 May 2018. See what’s happening and when on our events calendar page.