Radio review: Tollymore proves a refuge from the whirl of life

Nuala McCann

Breakfast: Into the Forest Radio 3

A Mile in My Shoes Podcast – the Empathy Museum

For those of us looking for a little enchantment, escape and even a bit of magical danger, there's always the deep dark woods... for the rest there's football.

For Radio 3 Petroc Trelawny travelled to five forests across the UK, including Tollymore. This was slow early morning radio, far from the crowds, featuring the sounds of woodland and music beneath the boughs. The only scores were musical.

There's something about the hush of early morning in a forest. You could almost hear the gently flowing Shimna in the Tollymore programme and see the strong oak wood – it was used in the construction of the White Star liners, including the Titanic.

There were Irish folk songs too and, for hopeless romantics, the last rose of summer.

It felt like a true refuge from the whirl of life.

A mile in my shoes is a podcast from the Empathy Museum that invites you to walk a mile in someone else's shoes.

It's the kind of podcast you really should listen to while walking.

The man who introduced us to Sian Phillips had a warm Scottish buzz – he described her black boots, laced and sensible .. a working person's boots.

Sian herself took us walking with her along the Thames. It felt very personal – a one-to-one chat.

She shared her love affair with water, the inky black oily water and why it matters to her to be near it.

Her grandmother lived right on a harbour, she said, and she'd put candles in the attic window at night to let the sailors know where land was.

As a child, Sian was entranced by the story of Grace Darling – the little girl who rowed out into the waves with her father to save people from a shipwreck.

She grew up wanting to rescue like Grace. She became a volunteer lifeboat woman on the Thames.

But nothing is simple. She ended up helping people who were extremely relieved to be rescued and then there were the people who did not want to be rescued.

Some people felt they'd quite like to just be left, she said.

She found one man face down in the river near Blackfriars Bridge on a cold March day. He was completely unconscious and she and another volunteer resuscitated him.

“He asked me why I had saved him. He said he didn't deserve it,” she said.

There were no words; she held his hand.

The shoes and the stories behind come from all over the world. They're intimate, moving and sometimes uncomfortable, but worth hearing.

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