86 of 86 people found the following review helpful
History, geography & entertainment. A splendid series,
This review is from: Great British Journeys : Complete BBC Series 1 [DVD] (DVD)
Great British Journeys is excellent viewing. Nicholas Crane is an enthusiastic and well informed presenter who is obviously at home exploring the history of the British landscape. The series is well researched and carefully explained, so each programme offers a carefully constructed insight into a certain place at a specific time. It's thoroughly enjoyable and sneakily educational. You'll be saying 'I never knew that!' all the way through.
Nick Crane follows the trails of various historic explorers/geographers, and across eight programmes this means he travels around most of the British isles. Much of the action takes place in wild countryside, where Crane gets to stride across desolate boggy marshes and tumbles down steep wooded hills -- you can't but help respect a man who gives a considered expert presentation to camera while wrestling a mountain bike down a 3-in-1 slope covered in mud!
Crane explores how the landscape and society of Britain has changed since the original journeys were made. He investigates the original routes and tries to reconstruct them. He examines the political and sociological turmoil of the time in question, and reviews it from our modern perspective. On top of that you have stunning locations and great photography. It's excellent TV, no doubt about it.
Crane also experiments with modes of transport which may have been used by his original explorers, and tries to marry up their descriptions with the modern landscape. Sometimes his field experiements succeed brilliantly -- at other times it all goes pear-shaped. And we get to see both outcomes! Crane uses various modes of transportation, from Shanks' pony to bullnose Morris, from sailing ship to canoe, and inevitably does one heck of a lot of walking. So you see the countryside around him at the speed of our ancestors -- a far slower pace than the one we rush around at today.
There are flaws; there's some snazzy camera work which is entertaining the first time you see it and then vaguely irritating. The time scale was obviously tight and much of the series was filmed in poor weather (mind you, in some of the locations there's not very much in the way of good weather!). But overall this doesn't spoil the series. I've seen it twice, and in a year or so I'll probably be happy to watch it again.
There have been several similar TV series of late (Nature of Britain; Mountain; Coast). But while the other series tent to scatterwit around the place, hopping from one location and subject to the next in six minute segments, Great British Journeys develops its theme over 45 minutes -- and it's a superior programme because of it.
Thoughtful TV for anyone with an interest in the UK. Recommended.