Did we like it?
In its best moments, its as if the British Isles has popped a cap on its skull and is letting you gaze upon its hidden, historical beauty; while in its rare bad moments its like being trapped under an ice floe peering up at the hazy impression of the world above.
What was good about it?
• Main presenter Neil Oliver, who looks like cabin-fevered Desmond from Lost, has that particular Scottish accent that conveys enthusiasm so infectiously.
• The swooping aerial vistas of Britain’s wild coasts. Yes, we know this is an easy get-out-of-jail free card for the producers to bewitch and beguile but it always looks flawlessly stunning.
• The chronicle of the previous efforts by French and English engineers to delve a channel tunnel in the 19th century. Both of the pioneers has sideburns so large they resembled hirsute facial peninsulas, and both were thwarted either by lack of finance or government paranoia.
• The stark beauty of the Romney Marshes that stretch down to Dungeness. It looks like nothing else in the country, essentially a wasteland caused by the tides of shingle that have been funnelled along from the chalk coastline to the east. We learned that about one third of all the plant species in the British Isles resides there, and of course to preserve the natural equilibrium the government has sagely built two nuclear power stations in the area.
• The first possible instance of crab lesbianism on British TV. “I’m not sure what they’re up to,” said the startled commentary as two crabs grappled intimately in the shifting surf. “They both look to be females to me.”
• Sydney Little’s architectural innovations from the 1930s in Hastings that included a 400-space car park, a two-tier promenade and an open-air swimming pool. The latter two were brought vividly to life by Betty King who remembered running the length of the lower deck of the promenade and a local eccentric called Pegleg who would set light to himself before quickly leaping into the pool.
• On the Isle of Wight, we learned about Britain’s nascent entry into the space race in which Nazi V2 rockets were used to further missile technology.
What was bad about it?
• When Miranda poked and prodded the aquatic fauna off the south coast, she did much of the commentary through her breathing mask making her sound like David Bellamy had been transformed into Darth Vader.
• The GCSE geography lesson on the causes of coastal erosion.
• Southampton – the Ken Barlow of the British coastline, a gaping yawn fashioned into an ugly metropolis of concrete and metal.
• The piece on Britain’s space rockets was interesting but dragged on for too long; epitomised by the pointless and fruitless lying on a beach staring up at the sky in the faint hope of spotting a dead satellite designed on the Isle.