We British like to content ourselves with how wonderful our TV programmes are, we look now our noses at our transatlantic cousins but to be honest I do wonder why. If you ask me most evenings its a pile of pants! Soap Opera, reality show, food show, property show, soap opera again BLAH BLAH
Luckily I now have freeview, this means I get to see repeats of Morse, Poirot, Dr Who, Sharpe etc. It also means I get BBC4! BBC4 is only on for a few hours each day but has some of the most interesting programmes of the week.
For instance the series Britain's Best Drives sees Richard "One foot in the Grave" Wilson going on drives recommended by 1950's guides. Wilson is a bit irritating and a bit of a luvvy but we get to see some nice scenery and visit some nice places (last week it was the road from St Ives to Land's End, a cracking drive and next week its the Lakes).
The best one though was a two-parter (now finished) with David Heathcoat called Toruing Britain. The first featured Heathcoat following an 1887 Baedeker's Guide. It was fascinating to see the different places including Roman remains in a fast food restaurant in Chester.
You can get a facsimile of the 1890 guide.
Last weeks followed the shell guide, half of the programme was about Dorset and half about Cornwall.
The shell guides were deliberately idiosyncratic, you often see them in second hand bookshops and they are streets ahead of anything I see today.
Heathcoat laments that the car has blighted many lovely places but at the same time understands it has liberated many. He uses Betjeman's Cornwall Guides (the first from the 30's and the second from the 60's. Like me he gets frustrated trying to park at Padstow (you have to get there early! its pretty when no one is there) and like me he has been over the river to the delightful Rock church.
He arrives at Polperro on a drab out of season day and the size of the car park dispirits him, but cars of non residents are banned from the village and he admits this has helped it retain some charm (alas locals can't afford to live there).
He uses the 1936 Shell Guide to Dorset by Paul Nash and takes in the gorgeous Lulworth Cove and the excellent jurassic coast. Lulworth is very touristy but the cove amazing (i'd go out of season!)
If you find it being repeated on BBC2 then do check it out.