Tag Archives: bbc

A taste of the South Downs on the BBC

4 Mar

I don’t watch a lot of television these days, but occasionally a programme comes along that justifies taking time out to watch on BBC iPlayer. Such was the case with The Great British Countryside which saw Julia Bradbury and Hugh Dennis exploring the South Downs.

The hour long programme gives a wonderful taste of the South Downs, never lingering long in one place and covering the length of hills from the Seven Sisters on the East Sussex coast, through to the watercress beds of Hampshire.

There is some wonderful scenery, as one would expect, but also some explanation of how the Downs were formed and some of the properties of chalk and flint. Hugh Dennis climbs the chalk cliffs (presumably one of the Seven Sisters) and sees just how soft and crumbly the chalk is. We also learn how the chalk impacts on things like horse racing and growing grapes.

Subjects are varied, taking in the history, agriculture, industry and leisure aspects of the South Downs, in short a real cross-section of how man has interacted with the Downs over the centuries.

This programme is a great introduction to the South Downs and even those like me who have grown up in it’s shadow may learn a thing or two about this wonderful landscape.

This episode of The Great British Countryside is available to watch on BBC iPlayer until Thursday 15th March 2012.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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New series of Digging Up Your Roots from BBC Radio Scotland

10 Jan

A new series of the BBC Radio Scotland genealogy programme Digging Up Your Roots started last weekend (I only noticed this because the podcast popped up on Google Reader, otherwise I would have been none the wiser).

According to the BBC website this is the sixth series, although the presenter (Bill Whiteford) says in the introduction that it is series seven, so I am not sure who to believe.

The first episode is about High Achievers, people who left their mark on Scotland and the World (in a good way). In some respects this episode felt like an antidote to the stream of celebrity family trees that regularly try to make the headlines.

Apart from the few famous people in this episode the programme is largely devoid of celebrities, either as guests or subjects, and it is quite refreshing to hear about the lives of ordinary people and the research of ordinary people.

Although my family tree is very short on Scottish ancestors it is interesting to hear about family history from a Scottish perspective, and it is also good to hear from a genealogy expert (in this case Dr Bruce Durie) other than the ubiquitous Nick Barrett.

Even if you don’t have Scottish ancestors it is well worth listening to, if you are not fortunate enough to live in Scotland then it can be found on the BBC iPlayer and is also available as a podcast, although I can’t seem to find it on the BBCs podcast page, but this feed seems to work for me.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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All Roads Lead Home and natural navigation

25 Oct

Regular readers of my blog will know that I don’t watch much television (I never even got around to watching the latest series of Who Do You Think You Are?), but there was one series recently that I made an effort to watch, albeit on BBC iPlayer rather than when it was actually broadcast.

The series was called All Roads Lead Home and was about the subject of natural navigation. There were only three episodes in this series, and the idea of the show was for three celebrities to find their way around the landscape without the use of a map, compass or GPS, and using only the clues provided by nature (and the occasional man-made clues like churches and graveyards).

The series didn’t receive particularly rave reviews, partly I think because people were expecting the celebrities to be dumped in some remote corner of Britain and then be expected to find their way home. Instead the walks they made were much shorter, between fixed points and they were given a guidebook which gave them directions such as “at the next junction take the south-west path”, they just had to use the clues to figure out which direction that was.

I found the series very enjoyable, natural navigation is something that has intrigued me for a while, the expert on the series was Tristan Gooley, and I already have his book The Natural Navigator on my shelf and have been following his blog for a while. It also helped that the celebrities received their training at West Dean House near Chichester, West Sussex, which featured in clips in the series along with the parish church at West Dean and the South Downs.

For the family historian episode two was particularly pertinent, when the group visited Ireland, ancestral home of one of the celebrities, Stephen Mangan. This episode was much more about finding his roots and exploring the landscape of his ancestors. Natural navigation requires that you pay greater attention to your surroundings and not just turning up in a car as they usually do on Who Do You Think You Are? and this is a useful lesson for anyone wanting to really get to know about where your ancestors lived.

I know I am over reliant on maps when I go walking (although I rarely use a compass), and I know that when I first walked the South Downs Way last year I enjoyed it much more when I actually put the guidebook away and began to see the landscape around me. Searching for natural clues or in my case for the waymarking provided is a great way of opening your eyes to your surroundings, rather than having one eye constantly on the map, waiting for the next change in direction. Hopefully this programme will encourage me to put the map away a bit more often when I go out wandering.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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Who Do You Think You Are? on the BBC TV Blog

14 Aug

I still haven’t got around to watching the first episode of the new series of Who Do You Think You Are? featuring June Brown, so I will withhold judgement on that, but if you want to found out more about the making of the series then check out the following post on the BBC TV blog.

In the post Tom McDonald, the executive producer for this series, describes some of the work that goes into making the series and discusses some of the issues faced when dealing with some of the more difficult topics covered in the this and past series.

What really comes across in this blog post is the amount of work that goes into producing each series, with 30 celebrities being researched to produce a series of just ten episodes. It sounds to me as if a programme about the making of each episode would be just as interesting, documenting the research process and sharing the breakthroughs that are made along the way, many of which I am sure that we never see on the finished episode.

Thanks to Gary Andrews of the BBC TV Blog for bringing this to my attention.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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More BBC Domesday Project information

16 May

For those of you able to access BBC iPlayer there is the opportunity to find out even more about the BBC Domesday Project.

An hour-long programme in the Archive on 4 series on BBC Radio 4 was devoted to the story of the project and was broadcast on Saturday 14th May 2011 and is available on the BBC iPlayer until the 21st May 2011.

It is a fascinating look at the origins of the original project and it’s resurrection, the challenges faced in gathering the data and working with the technology. It features interviews with those responsible for different aspects of the project including some of the children involved in gathering data.

It also features archive recordings from news reports at the time, and for people of a certain age just hearing the theme tune to John Craven’s Newsround will bring back memories of time spent sitting in front of the TV after school, watching the “boring” news before something more entertaining started.

Even if you can’t access the BBC iPlayer the programme’s website gives you a taste of what the programme was about. Even if you are not interested in the contents of these Domesday disks, there is a valuable lesson to be learnt in data storage, preservation (or lack of it) and recovery.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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BBC Domesday Reloaded: Was this where it all started?

13 May

I was delighted to read the announcement from The National Archives about the relaunch of the BBC Domesday Project. This was an ambitious project to compile a modern Domesday Book in 1986 and although completed it was pretty much destined to immediate obscurity due to the technology involved.

The resurrection of the project is a fascinating story and a useful lesson on the obsolescence of data storage formats. A lot of effort went into rescuing the data in this project, could you afford the same effort to rescue your genealogy data?

The real reason for my delight was that it was around the time that this project was being compiled that I started to get involved in local history, I don’t think it was actually this project that got me started, it was probably a year or two before that.

I seem to remember it was talked about at school, as we were going one of the groups involved in supplying some of the data. I think however when it came down to it my class had moved on to secondary school and it was left to our successors to actually complete the project.

I think my interest in local history was spurred on by another project, I am not sure what that project was, but I seem to remember an exhibition was going to be put on somewhere, but again we left before it was completed.

I remember viewing the original project at the Science Museum in London on a couple of occasions, and I think the last time I saw it, probably ten to fifteen years ago, it wasn’t actually working anymore. Whether the hardware had failed or whether they had turned it off to try to prolong it’s life I don’t know. In more recent years I have viewed a re-mastered version of the project in the library at The National Archives.

I spent some time last night exploring the project, looking at some places that I remember from my childhood, and was surprised how things have moved on in the last twenty-five years. For genealogical purposes there could be some useful information contained among the data, such as the following entry, submitted by an eleven year old John Gasson (not this John Gasson I hasten to add):

My name is John Gasson.I am 11 years
old.I wake each day at 7.15am.I dress
in my school uniform of grey trousers,
white shirt,green and yellow tie and
green jumper.My mother,father,brother
and I have breakfast together.At 8.30
my father leaves.He works at Banstead
as a structural engineer.My brother
and I leave next.My favourite subjects
are Geography,History,Maths,Games and
Swimming.I am Captain of the School
Football Team and I have played for
Surrey County Football Team.
Two weeks ago Mrs.Morgan took Year4 to
a hotel in Seahuses,Northumbria.We
visited the Farne Islands,Lindisfarne,
Hadrian’s Wall,Vindolanda,Carvoran and
Bowes Museum.It was a very successful
week.We worked hard and learned a lot.
My grandfather has traced our family
as far back as 1461:right back to my
fourteen-times grandfather Buckler.

As you can see the original formatting has been retained, every character counted in those days as they tried to cram in as much data as possible. The good news about this latest incarnation is that you can search the content as well as by place. This was how I came up with the above example, over the next few days I will try some more ancestral places and surnames and see what other delights I can discover.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.

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“Tracing Your Roots” is back for another series

23 Sep

The genealogy radio programme Tracing Your Roots is back for another series on BBC Radio 4, in fact it started last week but I am only just catching up with the news. This is series five and there are five episodes in the series.

Each week presenter Sally Magnusson and genealogist Nick Barratt look at a different aspect of genealogy, mainly focused on investigating particularly tricky or unusual stories around a particular theme. For example the first episode of this series was based around tracing ancestors who vanished without trace.

The programme usually focuses of four or five stories, and features interviews with those carrying out the research and then Nick Barratt will discuss possible avenues of research or the results of his investigations. Unlike the TV series Who Do You Think You Are? this programme features ordinary people not celebrities and each story is quite brief.

Nick Barratt is probably the UKs best known genealogist, so the programme it is a great place to pick up hints and tips to help in your research and to discover new sources and where to find them and how to use them.

One of the best things about the series is that it is available as a podcast, which is great for people like me who can’t be listening to the radio at 4pm on Tuesdays when the programme is broadcast. The other good thing (for listeners in the UK at least) is that you can currently listen to all the episodes from series four online at the BBC website.

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