Article by Chris Butterfield
It’s a love letter to the Dales, and it’s been a labour of love in the making. James Herriot devotees Chris and Lorena Linke have produced a documentary on the Herriot Way after falling head over heels with James Herriot and his books.
James Herriot was the pen name of James Alfred Wight, a rural veterinarian and author whose books have been enjoyed by millions worldwide for generations. His work inspired two films and a successful TV series, All Creatures Great and Small, which ran for seven series between 1978 and 1990. The beloved show was successfully rebooted in 2020 and introduced a new audience to the world of James Herriot. With its third series now complete, the new show is a worldwide hit and garnered a massive following in America.
Fifteen years ago, the couple from Florida, USA, discovered Herriot’s books through a friend and found the original TV series on DVD in their local library. They became spellbound by the wonderfully written characters and the spectacular Yorkshire Dales scenery. They became spellbound by the wonderfully written characters and the spectacular scenery.
But little did they know, this would inspire them to embark on a journey to England to produce a heartfelt documentary about the Herriot Way, the spectacular fifty-two-mile, four-day walk through James Herriot Country.
Although Chris and Lorena had toured the UK in 2006, it wasn’t until 2018, while tackling Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk, that they experienced the picturesque Yorkshire Dales. It was a holiday they would never forget, and they planned to return to the Dales the following year.
They discovered Stuart Greig’s website and his book about the Herriot Way and realised that while walks like the Coast to Coast and Pennine Way were already well documented, the Herriot Way wasn’t. So, Chris then hit upon the idea of documenting their walk. “I think we first approached it as a simple YouTube-style travelogue, but as we got more into the research, we began developing side stories and interviews, and before we knew it, we had a full documentary planned.”
With the structure of the documentary outlined, the locations and all interviews in place, they left for England in June 2019. The first two days went smoothly; however, day three didn’t go as well as hoped. “The Keld to Reeth section became a problem,” explains Chris. “There simply wasn’t enough time to document the day’s walk and get the stories and interviews we needed all in one day.”
They were to return the following summer, but the pandemic put a stop to that. It wasn’t until the UK re-opened for travel that Chris and Lorena were able to return in October 2021 to shoot all the pickups they needed and re-shoot parts they thought they could improve.
Chris Linke has been in video and film production for more than thirty years. He has worked on documentaries in the past and has experience in the whole process, from filming, lighting, sound, writing and editing. Lorena has worked in theatre for many years and is experienced with working on the presentation, scripts, and line deliveries. Chris was a perfectionist, and as the project evolved, he continuously fine-tuned it for months after the original shoot. They even built a sound booth in their home to record their voiceover. Driven by their passion, they combined their creative skills to produce their love letter to the Dales.
The interviews help flesh out the narrative and keep the viewer engaged. They meet up with Stuart Greig, the author of Walking the Herriot Way guidebook, and learn how the route evolved over the years. The audience also discovers what became of some key shooting locations from the original, All Creatures Great and Small show, filmed in Askrigg.
There is a wealth of human history in the Dales that spans thousands of years and has shaped the landscape as we know it today. Chris and Lorena beautifully capture part of Yorkshire’s past with some interesting interviews that give us an insight into how Romans lived and discovered sites of archaeological interest, as well as the detailed history of lead mining in Swaledale.
One key element of the film was an interview with none other than James Herriot’s son Jim Wight, which took place at the World of James Herriot Museum in Thirsk. Jim’s contribution elevates the film and gives the audience a deep insight into his father’s life and love of the Dales. Jim was thrilled when Chris asked if he could read his father’s quotes from his books. These wonderful soundbites feature throughout the programme and blend seamlessly with the visuals.
Everything came together perfectly, and at the end of their long journey, Lorena expressed her feelings “This documentary is a labour of love; we love walking; we love England; we love walking in England; we love James Herriot and All Creatures Great and Small.”
Chris and Lorena have signed a deal with American Public Television to distribute The Herriot Way. Viewers will get to enjoy the film on public television stations and streaming services throughout the U.S. and parts of Canada. Following the US launch, Chris and Lorena will focus their efforts on getting their film aired in the UK, hopefully in 2023.
I first learned of the project when Chris kindly contacted me to assist with the Wainwright segment of the film. It was an absolute honour to be involved, and after seeing the rushes, I was looking forward to the final cut.
The Black Bull Hotel in Reeth was featured in the film and hosted the premiere in June 2022, which coincided with Chris and Lorena’s second Coast to Coast Walk. Many people associated with the production attended this special screening, including Jim Wight, who gave a fantastic speech after the film.
Lorena expressed her gratitude to all involved “The people of the Dales are the most amazing in the world. James Herriot loved the Dales people, and we know why. We could not have done this without the Dales people.”
For further information, please visit theherriotwayfilm.com
Chris and Lorena’s new Herriot Way DVD is now available.
Contact Chris Linke at email@example.comBack to top of page