I caught a marathon of British Isles – A Natural History while channel-hopping, and I guess I must just have been in the mood for an unfussy, really well made documentary, because I watched the entire thing in one sitting. I love that sort of thing – tectonic plates, fossils, dinosaurs, glaciers and cavemen. It takes me back to the huge science encyclopaedia I had as a kid.
British Isles – A Natural History is an eight-part series presented by Alan Titchmarsh. The BBC originally screened it in 2004, but it was picked up by Yesterday and shown, uh, yesterday. The programme spans from 3 billion years ago to the present day, showing how Britain was once on the equator during the Pangea days, and the resultant desert made the earth rich in iron, which manifests today in the exceptionally lush grass in the West Country.
Did you know there were polar bears in the UK once, too? Or that the Yorkshire Dales were a sea with coral reefs? Or that the entire population could fit into a football stadium 8,000 years ago?
I learnt that the vast forests that cover much of the country were planted during WWI to compensate for the huge amount of deforestation that took place during The Great War – but the fast-growing pines aren’t nearly as habitat-friendly as the native oaks and beech trees.
The one disappointment was the very dodgy CGI, which unnecessarily illustrates some parts of the story. Sure, it’s great when they’re discussing the Jurassic era, but is just silly when they show a dinosaur running down Oxford Street.
If you enjoyed the Beeb’s Planet series, this is a low-rent but still very entertaining accompaniment. It will undoubtedly be on again, so if nature docs are your poison, enjoy tuning in.