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.
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.
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.
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.