Whitstable to the Isle of Wight Coast


Whitstable to the Isle of Wight

A journey around the British Isles. Neil Oliver visits the Oyster Festival in Whitstable and Nick Crane explores the geology of the Isle of Wight.


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Transcript


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It's good to be back.

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We love to be beside the sea.

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It's where we're free to express ourselves,

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and it's shaped our lives through thousands of years of trade,

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migration and war.

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Amen.

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But it's the mix of people in Britain

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that really connects us to the wider world.

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And in this new series, we're going further than ever before

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in search of those connections.

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'You'll feel a fair sensation of G.' Wow, yes!

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I'm definitely feeling G!

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We'll discover brand new stories close to home,

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and also journey beyond the edge of our islands to meet the neighbours.

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Far, far north to the coast of Norway...

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..and south to Normandy...

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..and out into the deep Atlantic

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to the Faroe Islands.

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Viking traders,

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Norman invaders,

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we share a common bond coast to coast,

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all part of the ever expanding story of our shores.

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It's a brand new adventure, but with some familiar faces.

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This time, Nick Crane explores lost worlds on England's largest island.

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Alice Roberts takes to the air, six inches into the air.

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There's quite big waves out here.

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Archaeologist Mark Horton searches for a Victorian railway

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that ran underwater.

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Ian, this is completely mad!

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And launching another expedition to uncover our coastal wildlife

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is naturalist Miranda Krestovnikoff.

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Me, I find new direction in life as a director

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re-living the glory days of Britain's own Hollywood on Sea.

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This is our Coast and beyond.

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For the first leg of our new adventure,

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we're heading for The Needles on the Isle of Wight,

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on a 200-mile journey along the South Coast.

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Our starting point is Whitstable, famous for its oysters.

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There's been a festival of one kind or another to celebrate

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the local catch ever since the Romans first invited themselves over

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around 2,000 years ago.

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'That's 2,000 years of coming down the sea for pleasure,

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'for nourishment...'

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Oh, my goodness! It's Moby Dick in here. OK, down the hatch.

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'..To build stuff.'

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Right, you show me what to do.

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Hereabouts the children don't make sandcastles,

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they build something called a grotter,

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tottering towers made from oyster shells.

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No-one's quite sure how it started, but the construction

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usually coincides with the ancient feast day of St James in July.

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At the end of it, these miniature shrines are offered up to the sea

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to be washed away by the tide.

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We do seem to have a tradition of building strange stuff on the coast.

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We're six miles offshore, north of Whitstable.

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Aren't these fantastic? From this angle they almost look

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as if they're moving, there's a hint of every robot monster

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that you ever saw in a sci-film, but more than anything

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to me, they look like the Martians in the War of the Worlds.

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This group of odd looking towers is the Red Sands Sea Fort.

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Built in 1943, it was a late addition to London's air defences,

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the vision of engineer Guy Maunsell.

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As building offshore in wartime was dangerous,

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Maunsell had to pioneer a new technique of construction.

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Each of the 750-ton towers was assembled on land,

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then floated out on pontoons and dropped onto the seabed.

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When in place, the individual towers of the fort

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were linked by aerial walkways.

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The fort housed up to 265 men,

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stationed here for a month at a time.

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This is a very strange place.

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On the one hand, it's all this rusted metal and rivets,

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it feels like the rusting hulk of an old battleship,

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but then you come in here, and there's beds,

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because since the war it's used intermittently as a radio station.

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It just adds to the sense of it being, I don't know,

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vaguely haunted out here, strange place.

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This was one of three forts built in the Thames Estuary.

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They were the result of hard lessons learnt early in the war

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when German bombers had used the Thames

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as a route to navigate to the capital.

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From the top of the towers anti-aircraft guns had a clear shot

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at planes trying to get to London.

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They destroyed 22 of them as well as 30 flying bombs.

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For Maunsell, it was an engineering triumph.

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Every now and again you can feel the whole thing move,

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and that's because, 750 tons or not, the strength of the fort

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comes from the fact that the legs can move, they can settle

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into the constantly shifting sand,

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and it can roll with the waves and the wind much like a tree does.

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They say that even if one of the legs was blown out,

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the individual tower would still remain standing.

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I don't really fancy trying that myself.

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Maunsell's sea fort design was to serve Britain

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one more time after the war.

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In 1955, the very first offshore drilling platform in the North Sea

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was adapted from his tower design,

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a clear inspiration for the oil rush ten years later.

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But whatever plans we have for building on the coast,

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it seems the coast has ideas of its own.

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800 years ago there was a major seaport here,

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now it's not even on the coast.

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Sandwich, although still a port in name, is two miles inland.

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Here, the coast has rebuilt itself.

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In the 13th century it looked out over the mouth of a sea channel,

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a shortcut from London to France.

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But centuries of silting up have reclaimed the land,

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and re-drawn the map.

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Whilst Sandwich may have taken a back seat,

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along the coast another port with an ancient pedigree

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is still very much on the front line.

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There's a ceaseless movement

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of people and goods at the heart of Dover.

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14 million people each year catch the ferry to France.

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As sea journeys go,

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the 20 miles or so to Calais is hardly an ocean cruise,

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more functional than fashionable,

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but Alice Roberts is finding out when a Channel crossing

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was THE glamour ticket.

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In 1974, local girl Angie Westacott applied for a new job.

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It was to be the start of a 20-year-long love affair

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with the hovercraft.

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I never ever got tired of seeing that, and to this day

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if it came up I'd still be looking at it and thinking,

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"Oh, wow, that's fantastic, absolutely amazing."

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So you got the job? Got the job, yes,

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and after a couple of days got used to the movement and the motion

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and absolutely loved it, and a lot of us did.

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It was the futuristic way to cross the Channel.

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This was the age of Concorde,

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the moon landings and giant passenger hovercraft.

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"With it's payload of 90 tonnes, it can carry 416 passengers

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"and 60 vehicles in airline-style comfort,

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"at a cruising speed of 65 knots."

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They flew for 30 years before being wound up

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and the hover port at Dover abandoned.

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So what happened?

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Didn't the passenger experience live up to the glamorous image?

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There's only one way to find out for sure,

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and that's to cross the Channel in a hovercraft ourselves,

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with Angie and some of her former crew-mates as our guides.

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But in order to get to grips with the highs and lows

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of hovercraft history,

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I'm going to have to go right back to the beginning

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to where it all took off.

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The passenger hovercraft was British through and through,

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the brainchild of Christopher Cockerill, engineer and boat builder.

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He started experimenting in the early 1950s,

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and actually worked out the physics in his kitchen.

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Hovercraft historian Warwick Jacobs is going to show me how.

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Warwick, these are the things Cockerill was playing around with.

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Yes, just household objects,

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pair of kitchen scales, coffee tins and an ordinary air blower.

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A hairdryer in fact.

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Let's see what that can lift with just a jet of air onto the scales.

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OK. Try it with one ounce first. So on this flat side.

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Yep, try it on the flat side, cos less air is going to escape.

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And that will easily lift one ounce.

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No problem. Let's see if it will lift the two.

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No, so what we're going to do now is to create, as Cockerill did,

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what we've got here is two tins, one tin inside the other tin,

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and the jet of air comes down between the two tins

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forming a curtain or jet of air, which stops this inner air escaping.

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That's much more effective than just having a single jet of air

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turning it into a ring. Exactly, the same amount of air

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doing twice as much work. Go back to one,

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and we'll see it should do that easily.

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No problem at all.

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Try it with the two.

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Easy. Yeah. Let's see if it'll do the three.

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Yes, and I'm still not touching the plate, moving around on it.

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Will it do the four?

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And if lifts four ounces.

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If you scale that up,

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the bigger it gets, the more efficient, and it works better.

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So it's a curtain of compressed air pushing down

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that gives the hovercraft its lift.

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The first successful cross-channel flight was in 1959,

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Christopher Cockerill hanging on for dear life on

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the front of his prototype to keep it weighed down.

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So how do you control what is effectively

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a big floating hairdryer?

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Time for a flying lesson.

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Whay!

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Wow, I'm just...

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I'm travelling on a frictionless cushion of air,

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but my instructor Russ tells me I'm not properly hovering yet.

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What you're doing is just blowing a big hole in the water

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and because you keep losing confidence, slowing down

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and turning too tight, you're falling into that hole in the water.

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Right, OK. You've got to keep moving,

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you've got to keep your turns gentle and keep you speed up.

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Wow, there's some quite big waves out here.

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I'm hanging on for dear life here.

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Those early pilots learning to drive these things

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really had their job cut out for them.

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Can I have another go, Russ? I don't see why not.

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Once mastered, I can see it was a lot of fun for the early pilots,

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and when the commercial service started in 1968,

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the public loved it too.

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What went wrong then? Was there something about the ride

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that made the thrill fade?

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To find out, we need some passengers. I've brought Warwick and my dad.

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He's an engineer, and he also rode on the hover service in the '70s.

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We're going to fly the old route to Calais in this 12-seater hovercraft,

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with former crew members Angie, Vanessa and Brian.

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Really strange, I've never been in a hovercraft before.

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It's really quite bizarre. It is like flying.

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What was the quickest you did a crossing to Calais in, Brian?

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25 minutes.

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Angie, you were handling drinks out to people. We were, yes,

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and in fact it was so quick that we didn't have time

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to serve all the passengers,

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so we'd phone the flight-deck and say, "Can you slow down?"

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Dad, I thought I'd find you up here with the pilot. Yes, of course.

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From what I can see you're skidding all the time, isn't that right, Rob?

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Like on ice, we're chasing a bar of soap around the bathtub,

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a bit like that, trying to grab this bar of soap

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and you can't quite grab hold of it.

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In its heyday, no other crossing could match the hovercraft for speed.

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The big craft could take on three-metre high waves,

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but it wasn't always a comfortable ride.

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Stylish maybe, smooth, that was another matter.

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30 bone-rattling minutes in,

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we're experiencing the ups and downs first-hand.

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Our pilot Rob has just decided to turn around and go back to Dover.

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We made it halfway across the Channel, but the swell got too big,

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just over a metre, so we're now heading back.

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White cliffs of Dover.

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But it wasn't the occasional rocky ride that brought about

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the end of the Dover service. Even when the Channel Tunnel opened

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passengers were still queuing to catch the hovercraft.

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Warwick, it seems like such a fantastic form of transport,

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so why on earth did it wind down?

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It was the ending of duty-free which finished the hovercraft.

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They could beat the tunnel, no problem, they were still faster

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right to the very end, but duty-free supplemented the hovercraft service.

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In fact, duty-free sales didn't just supplement the service,

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they became its main source of income.

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With spiralling fuel costs and no chance

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of replacing the ageing hovercraft, they were grounded in October 2000.

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After all those years of working on the hovercraft,

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it must have been sad to see them finally stop. It was. End of an era.

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It's still sad, actually. Coming on this today is just fantastic

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because it just brings it back even more.

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The hovercraft's inventor, Christopher Cockerill, predicted that

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we would travel across the Atlantic in huge nuclear-powered hovercraft.

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In the end, it was a dream that stalled in the Channel.

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When we've such a spectacular coastline,

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it seems a shame to leave it behind.

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For some, the Channel isn't a way out, it's a way round.

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These are outdoor swimmers, a hardy breed, experienced in the water.

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I'm Kate Rew, and I'm an outdoor swimmer.

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There is nowhere more exhilarating than the sea.

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Whatever mood I'm in, whatever kind of day I've had,

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however many spreadsheets, worries, or just tedious traffic jams,

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if you go for a swim, your day is made.

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I always make a point of talking to locals before I get in,

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and if I'm doing a sea swim

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I generally tell the coastguard where I'm going,

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because they're unused to the idea that anybody might swim

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along the length of coast. They'll try and rescue you

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unless you forewarn them.

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You just go along a length of coastline

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and you get to see everything from a very different perspective.

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Swimming at the bottom of the cliffs

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is just a wonderful experience because they look so majestic

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when you're bobbing along beneath them, 300ft of pure chalk above.

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Most outdoor swimmers around here

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would be heading off across the Channel, which I find remarkable,

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because like most people I share this universal fear of deep water.

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I get a feeling as I get further and further from the shore

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that something awful might be under the water.

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So, for me, I'm going to do two miles along the coastline

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and stay quite close to shore.

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I love the fact that it makes you fit, that it gets you outdoors,

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but I mostly like its psychological effects,

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that whatever mood you're in, by the time you get out,

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you feel you've had a really good day.

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25 five miles on from Dover,

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and the chalk cliffs have temporarily run their course,

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although their presence is still felt at Romney.

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Ten centuries ago, this was a sandy bay,

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but flint pebbles washed out of the nearby chalk formed a huge barrier,

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drying out the land behind and creating the Romney Marshes.

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Across the sparse terrain, a strange chorus rings out.

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CHIRRUPING AND CROAKING

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Like so many of us on these islands,

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these noisy little frogs can trace their ancestors to foreign shores.

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The local story says they were brought to Romney in the 1930s

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by a Mrs Percy Smith.

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She'd acquired them in France, intending to eat them.

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Unfortunately for Mrs Smith,

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they weren't the edible variety of frog.

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In fact, they weren't even French.

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They're actually Hungarian marsh frogs, not very tasty,

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but right at home in the wetlands of Romney.

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When Mrs Smith thoughtfully released them into her garden pond,

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they wasted no time escaping,

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and they've been making themselves heard ever since.

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Despite being Europe's busiest seaway,

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the Channel is rich in wildlife,

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and people take every opportunity to land a catch...

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..although sometimes it can be a frustrating business.

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The cliffs make it impossible to launch fishing boats.

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Even when there is a gap, nature doesn't make things easy.

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In Hastings, the efforts to build a harbour have either been washed away

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or run out of money,

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so the fishermen were forced to think again.

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Miranda Krestovnikoff wants to discover their ingenious solutions.

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When you don't have a harbour to launch your boat from,

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there's only one place you can go, the beach.

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Hastings is home to Europe's largest beach-launched fishing fleet.

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They've had to modify their boats,

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but for centuries they've also adapted their fishing techniques

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to suit the seasons and the different catches they bring.

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In winter, it's cuttlefish,

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a creature I've had a few encounters with myself off Selsey Bill.

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It's very big, couple of feet long.

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They're a popular dish in Italy and Spain,

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and for Paul Joy, who reckons his family have been in Hastings

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since William the Conqueror, it's a relatively new catch.

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These are cuttlefish pots, and we've worked with these generally

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for the last 15-16 years. How does it work, then?

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Well, you put a female cuttlefish in,

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then the males and females go through and they congregate.

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Next morning you pick it up, pour the cuttlefish out

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and put a fresh female back in, and so on the next day.

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What I find ironic about cuttlefish nets

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is that cuttlefish really like to lay their eggs here,

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and it seems a shame that those eggs are wasted.

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No, they're not wasted, we get them back in the sea as soon as possible

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for our next generation. Great stuff.

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Equal care and stealth is required for the summer catch, Dover sole.

0:23:440:23:51

These flatfish live on the seabed, burying themselves for protection,

0:23:510:23:55

and so require a very specific kind of net.

0:23:550:23:57

This is one of your trammel nets then. Yes, this is a trammel net.

0:23:570:24:01

How does it work? Effectively, visualise a tennis net

0:24:010:24:05

sitting on the bottom of the sea and the lines are tied.

0:24:050:24:08

It only stands about four foot high at most in the slack water,

0:24:080:24:11

and when the tide is running, it's very low.

0:24:110:24:13

The fish comes swimming along near the bottom. It hits,

0:24:130:24:17

goes through the larger outer mesh, hits the inner mesh,

0:24:170:24:20

then forms a pocket behind the fish, like a system of traps.

0:24:200:24:24

Where does this net originate from?

0:24:240:24:27

We believe it originated from France,

0:24:270:24:29

but it could have come from the Mediterranean

0:24:290:24:32

where they've used this type of net, but much smaller mesh,

0:24:320:24:35

for many generations. So it's a very ancient tradition.

0:24:350:24:38

Trammel nets are an ancient fishery.

0:24:380:24:40

Flatfish are most active when it's dark,

0:24:420:24:44

so the trammel nets have to be left out overnight.

0:24:440:24:47

It's the crack of dawn, and it's a real struggle

0:24:500:24:53

just getting the boats down the beach into the water

0:24:530:24:56

so they can go and catch fish.

0:24:560:24:58

We're off to check the nets for Dover Sole, and it takes a while.

0:25:010:25:06

Each boat is painstakingly launched using ropes, winches and bulldozers.

0:25:060:25:11

Most of the craft are less than 10 metres long.

0:25:130:25:16

Any larger and they couldn't get off the beach.

0:25:160:25:19

And we're off, it's an absolutely beautiful morning.

0:25:230:25:27

We've got about 2.5 miles to sail out to sea to check the nets

0:25:270:25:30

and see if all that hard work's really going to pay off.

0:25:300:25:34

For Graham and his crew, the first haul is always an anxious moment.

0:25:420:25:46

There are no guarantees with this method of fishing,

0:25:490:25:53

even with their years of experience.

0:25:530:25:56

It looks as if they've hardly caught anything.

0:25:560:25:59

In fact, with their trammel nets,

0:25:590:26:01

they've managed to target exactly what they were after, flatfish.

0:26:010:26:05

This is average for this time of the year, not bad, just average.

0:26:050:26:10

I'm amazed at how selective the nets are here,

0:26:100:26:14

very little's coming up that's not a flatfish.

0:26:140:26:16

No, these are a selective way of fishing.

0:26:160:26:18

What's the smallest size you're allowed to take?

0:26:180:26:21

Cos there's a measurement, isn't there?

0:26:210:26:23

9.5 inches. 9.5 inches. Just under three years old.

0:26:230:26:26

So you're not catching fish so young they haven't bred yet? Yes.

0:26:260:26:30

Understanding the behaviour of the fish and their lifecycle,

0:26:300:26:33

how important is that when you're fishing? Very important.

0:26:330:26:36

We've had scientists onboard doing surveys with us, and they said

0:26:360:26:41

it is the most eco-friendly way of fishing that can be devised.

0:26:410:26:45

Working with the rhythms of nature in small boats with specialist nets

0:26:450:26:51

doesn't bring in huge a catch, but it has brought other benefits.

0:26:510:26:55

Fish stocks here have remained healthy, in some cases increasing,

0:26:590:27:05

which means the ancient beach fleet of Hastings

0:27:050:27:08

could be here for the long haul.

0:27:080:27:10

NEIL OLIVER: A stone's throw from the shingle beach

0:27:170:27:20

is a miniature Battle of Hastings.

0:27:200:27:22

There are golf courses all along this coast.

0:27:240:27:27

Even the smallest ones attract players from foreign shores.

0:27:270:27:32

It may seem crazy to us, but it's a serious business for them.

0:27:320:27:36

My name is Jouni Valkjarvi,

0:27:380:27:41

I come from Finland.

0:27:410:27:43

I came over here to Britain to play miniature golf.

0:27:430:27:47

I'm here in Hastings to prepare for the British Open.

0:27:470:27:51

Now that I've warmed up at the crazy golf course,

0:27:570:28:01

I'm going to try out this adventure golf course.

0:28:010:28:05

Adventure golf is more about the surroundings than the course itself,

0:28:060:28:10

with waterfalls and stuff like this.

0:28:100:28:13

When I approach a new hole I haven't played before,

0:28:130:28:17

I take many practice shots, I make a note of where I placed the ball,

0:28:170:28:23

where I tried to aim to find the best line.

0:28:230:28:27

Oh, dear!

0:28:270:28:28

We do have a lot of different balls we are allowed to use.

0:28:280:28:32

Those balls have different properties

0:28:320:28:36

in jump, weight and hardness.

0:28:360:28:39

If I think I need to play a rebound shot, or go straight to the hole,

0:28:390:28:43

I choose the right ball for that particular hole.

0:28:430:28:47

I've been coming to England for this tournament...this is my fourth time.

0:28:480:28:52

I hope to win. It won't be easy,

0:28:530:28:56

but I just hope I'm happy with my own game.

0:28:560:29:01

NEIL OLIVER: And if you're wondering, Jouni finished the British Open

0:29:050:29:10

in a creditable third place, beaten by two Swedish players.

0:29:100:29:14

Hastings has seen an ebb and flow of people

0:29:170:29:20

as much as any place on this coast.

0:29:200:29:23

But when the Normans arrived in their longboats,

0:29:230:29:26

it's generally acknowledged that they didn't land in Hastings.

0:29:260:29:29

Pevensey, 10 miles west, was ground zero in 1066.

0:29:320:29:36

From Beachy Head to Brighton, the chalk cliffs form a barrier

0:29:490:29:53

with only a few natural breaks.

0:29:530:29:54

One chink in this coastal armour is at Rottingdean.

0:29:580:30:02

It's been an obvious temptation to invaders and marauders for centuries,

0:30:060:30:11

but Mark Horton has been drawn here by Rottingdean's hidden treasures.

0:30:110:30:16

For me one of the best things about the coast

0:30:170:30:22

is the way low tide reveals lost secrets of the sea.

0:30:220:30:27

I'm looking for clues to a mad piece of Victorian engineering.

0:30:270:30:32

An electric railway that ran under the sea.

0:30:340:30:38

It was built by engineer Magnus Volk in 1896.

0:30:390:30:44

He wanted to create an electric railway

0:30:440:30:47

that could run along the beach, even at high tide.

0:30:470:30:51

Quite how he did it

0:30:530:30:56

would only become clear to me once the tide has gone out.

0:30:560:31:00

So I've time to look into why he would want to build it here

0:31:010:31:05

in the first place.

0:31:050:31:08

Volk, the son of a German emigre,

0:31:080:31:11

wasn't the first person with foreign connections

0:31:110:31:15

to influence the town.

0:31:150:31:17

By the Saxon pond, next to a Norman church,

0:31:190:31:23

the connections go even further.

0:31:230:31:26

Sue, Glenda and Catherine from the local Preservation Society

0:31:270:31:32

want me to see the former home

0:31:320:31:34

of a celebrated son of the British Empire

0:31:340:31:38

who put Rottingdean in the public eye.

0:31:380:31:42

I feel like a rubbernecking tourist!

0:31:420:31:45

So who's house is that? Rudyard Kipling's.

0:31:450:31:47

Do they really bring ladders to look inside? No, no.

0:31:470:31:50

One of the local pubs ran a double-decker horse-drawn omnibus

0:31:500:31:53

for the tourists, and they came round,

0:31:530:31:57

parked outside the wall, the tourists rushed to the top deck

0:31:570:32:00

and looked over the wall at Kipling, and this is where he was standing.

0:32:000:32:03

Kipling arrived in 1897, already a household name.

0:32:030:32:09

His most famous work, The Jungle Book,

0:32:090:32:13

had been published three years before.

0:32:130:32:15

And did Kipling living here, did it make a more famous place?

0:32:150:32:20

Absolutely, he brought all his famous friends, artistic friends,

0:32:200:32:23

and suddenly tourism started,

0:32:230:32:25

people wanted to see them, so they flocked here.

0:32:250:32:28

Rottingdean, popular with day-trippers,

0:32:290:32:32

now had celebrity status, a boon for Volk and his electric railway.

0:32:320:32:38

And now, exposed by the tide, is what I've come to see.

0:32:450:32:50

Ian Gledhill has written a history of Volk's eccentric railway.

0:32:520:32:57

Ian, this is completely mad!

0:32:570:32:58

It is unbelievable that there should be a railway along the beach.

0:32:580:33:02

The track ran on these concrete blocks, this is one set of tracks

0:33:020:33:05

and there was another set further over.

0:33:050:33:08

Hang on.

0:33:080:33:09

You can see its line running along here. Yes, four rails,

0:33:110:33:14

two rails on here, and two over there, 18 feet between the two,

0:33:140:33:17

it had the widest track gauge of any railway ever built.

0:33:170:33:20

It stretched for three miles towards Brighton.

0:33:200:33:24

The track was underwater at high tide,

0:33:240:33:27

so what sort of train could run on it?

0:33:270:33:29

This is a model made by Magnus Volk in 1893.

0:33:290:33:34

The final one looked somewhat different from that,

0:33:340:33:37

but that was his first idea of it.

0:33:370:33:39

Isn't that wonderful? It must have been an extraordinary sight.

0:33:390:33:43

It was absolutely enormous.

0:33:430:33:46

It stood on legs 24ft high, the deck was 50ft long,

0:33:460:33:49

on the top was a cabin that could carry 30 passengers in comfort

0:33:490:33:53

with stained-glass windows, chandeliers.

0:33:530:33:56

Can I just ask the simple question?

0:33:560:33:59

It operated by electricity. Yes.

0:33:590:34:01

It's going underwater. How did it work?

0:34:010:34:04

Well, there was an overhead wire mounted on posts alongside the track,

0:34:040:34:08

the current came through the motor and the return was through the rail,

0:34:080:34:12

so that meant at high tide, it was through the sea itself,

0:34:120:34:16

but there wasn't a Health Safety Executive in those days.

0:34:160:34:18

I don't know what they'd have said if he'd proposed it now.

0:34:180:34:22

And this is the only footage of Volk's creation, the Daddy Longlegs,

0:34:220:34:29

as it came to be known, at high tide.

0:34:290:34:33

But the Daddy Longlegs was created as an extension

0:34:340:34:39

to a railway Volk was already operating in Brighton.

0:34:390:34:44

This is him on the footplate on its opening day.

0:34:440:34:48

Over 125 years later,

0:34:490:34:51

it's still running along the seafront in Brighton.

0:34:510:34:56

I'm curious to know about Volk the man.

0:34:580:35:00

His granddaughter, Jill Cross, remembers him from the 1920s.

0:35:020:35:07

He was a very inventive person.

0:35:080:35:10

His house was the first one in Brighton to be lit with electricity.

0:35:100:35:16

Also he was an honorary radiographer

0:35:160:35:21

at the Children's Hospital.

0:35:210:35:23

As a teenager, Jill used to visit her grandfather

0:35:240:35:27

at his workshop, which is still being used by the railway today.

0:35:270:35:31

Such a small door.

0:35:310:35:33

Well, he wasn't very big himself.

0:35:330:35:36

About 80 years since I came here last.

0:35:360:35:40

What was this space used for?

0:35:430:35:45

They had the dynamos here

0:35:450:35:48

to power the electric railway.

0:35:480:35:50

Nearly there.

0:35:530:35:53

So, Jill, do you almost expect to see your grandfather there?

0:35:530:35:57

Yes, sitting at his desk, and keeping an eye on things out there,

0:35:570:36:02

watching the trains go up and down.

0:36:020:36:05

That's wonderful.

0:36:050:36:06

You can see why he chose this spot for his office.

0:36:060:36:09

Oh, yes, to see what's going on.

0:36:090:36:11

That's good.

0:36:110:36:12

So Volk's original railway is still here, but what happened to his Daddy Longlegs?

0:36:120:36:19

MAN: There was the most appalling storm in 1896.

0:36:190:36:23

Daddy Longlegs fell over and was totally destroyed,

0:36:230:36:26

and it had only run for six days.

0:36:260:36:29

Imagine the frustration Magnus Volk must have felt!

0:36:290:36:32

But he re-built it, and it ran for another four years after that.

0:36:320:36:36

That must have cost investors a huge sum of money?

0:36:360:36:38

It was probably half a million pounds in modern terms to re-build it,

0:36:380:36:42

and it never made money after that which was one of the reasons why it didn't last.

0:36:420:36:47

In the end, Volk had to abandon the Daddy Longlegs

0:36:490:36:54

because he couldn't afford to move the tracks to make way

0:36:540:36:58

for new coastal defences.

0:36:580:37:00

His electrifying attempts to conquer the waves were claimed by the sea.

0:37:010:37:07

NEIL OLIVER: There's been a steady flow of people with new ideas along this coast.

0:37:150:37:19

Brighton, officially the city of Brighton and Hove,

0:37:210:37:25

was in the 1820's the main terminal for ferry travel to France.

0:37:250:37:30

Before the railways it was the quickest route from London to Paris,

0:37:330:37:37

which may explain its earlier attraction to a bohemian crowd of artists and free-thinkers.

0:37:370:37:43

At the turn of the 20th century, they were joined by another group, pioneers in a brand new field.

0:37:450:37:52

They invented something so fundamental that we use it all the time while making Coast.

0:37:520:37:57

In fact, we used it just now,

0:37:570:37:59

and now,

0:37:590:38:00

and now.

0:38:000:38:02

These pioneers were Britain's early film-makers

0:38:070:38:11

and they helped create the modern movie, because they invented, among other things, the close-up.

0:38:110:38:17

In the late 1890's, when Hollywood was little more than a citrus grove on the West Coast of America,

0:38:200:38:26

the South Coast of England was a hotbed of movie making.

0:38:260:38:30

Long hours of summer daylight made it ideal,

0:38:320:38:36

but the very first films were pretty static by modern standards.

0:38:360:38:40

Simple records of daily life, these early films were known as "animated photographs".

0:38:420:38:48

They captured events as they unfolded in one continuous un-edited shot.

0:38:480:38:53

But George Albert Smith, a Brighton showman turned film-maker, had some new ideas.

0:38:560:39:02

Frustrated by these single-shot films, he was about to transform this infant medium.

0:39:020:39:09

Film historian Frank Gray is showing me how.

0:39:110:39:15

What Smith did was to begin to imagine you could build a film sequence.

0:39:150:39:19

Instead of conceiving of a single shot like the frame, you could move

0:39:190:39:23

from that and you could look at what I'm seeing now of you,

0:39:230:39:28

how you're looking at me, and also too the sense in which the sea,

0:39:280:39:32

the sky, the shingle and then the kind of wider space in which we're in.

0:39:320:39:36

'Just as we move OUR camera to get different shots, Smith did the same thing,

0:39:360:39:43

'except he was the first to think of it.'

0:39:430:39:46

And in this early film he shows another first, the close-up.

0:39:460:39:51

So does this approach enable the director to trick the audience?

0:39:530:39:56

All the time, film's always about trickery.

0:39:560:39:59

You're working with a set of shots which create an illusion of a

0:39:590:40:03

continuity of time and space, and I think that's why we love the medium.

0:40:030:40:08

THUNDER RUMBLES

0:40:080:40:10

Strange to think THIS is where the modern movie was created, around 1900.

0:40:100:40:15

It can't have been without its problems.

0:40:170:40:19

Moving the big hand-cranked cameras.

0:40:190:40:21

Working with actors instead of just recording life as it happened.

0:40:230:40:28

To understand the challenges they faced, we're going to try making

0:40:280:40:31

a movie using only the equipment available to those early film-makers.

0:40:310:40:37

Our drama will re-create this production from 1920, an adaptation

0:40:380:40:42

of Thomas Hardy's The Mayor Of Casterbridge, made by the ambitions sounding Progress Film Company.

0:40:420:40:50

They were based in Shoreham, a few miles up the coast from Brighton.

0:40:500:40:54

We're also using one of their original locations, an old fort.

0:40:540:40:58

Shoreham was a rather heady place in the 1920s.

0:41:000:41:03

Glamorous London actors spent their summers here,

0:41:030:41:07

a ready-made cast of luvvies for the Progress Film Company.

0:41:070:41:11

'But what was it like to make films here?

0:41:140:41:17

'Gillian Gregg's grandfather actually ran the Progress Studios and her mum was a child star.'

0:41:170:41:22

This is my mum. And what age is she there?

0:41:220:41:26

Only 16, she acted under the name of Mavis Claire.

0:41:260:41:29

And it's The Mayor Of Casterbridge, so this is a still taken during the film.

0:41:290:41:34

So if this scene here is being shot in a studio,

0:41:340:41:37

where were those buildings in relation to where we are?

0:41:370:41:40

Well, the best evidence I have of that is in this other album.

0:41:400:41:44

This was the glasshouse where they did a lot of the filming because of all the natural light.

0:41:440:41:50

The glasshouse was just down there on the shingle,

0:41:500:41:54

and the studio rest and the bungalows were all along the shingle along here.

0:41:540:41:58

So there was a Hollywood by the sea.

0:41:580:42:01

Yes, I think it was. What did your mum talk about when you got her onto the subject?

0:42:010:42:04

She talked a little bit about The Mayor Of Casterbridge, and they

0:42:040:42:08

went over to Dorchester to meet Thomas Hardy who watched the set.

0:42:080:42:12

Really?! Thomas Hardy?

0:42:120:42:14

Yes, Thomas Hardy. Fantastic.

0:42:140:42:16

I wonder how he felt seeing his book being adapted.

0:42:160:42:20

I think he was pretty pleased with it, and about my mum he said, "Mavis Claire, she is my Elizabeth."

0:42:200:42:25

Really, so he named-checked her personally.

0:42:250:42:28

Yes.

0:42:280:42:30

Most of the Progress Company's features have been lost, but luckily

0:42:310:42:35

The Mayor Of Casterbridge has survived.

0:42:350:42:38

And as an added bonus, I've got Gillian's mum's copy

0:42:390:42:44

of the original script, complete with director's notes, look at that!

0:42:440:42:48

Thomas Hardy handled this script, and now I've got it.

0:42:480:42:53

But for our film-making experiment, the first thing I need to get to grips with is the camera.

0:42:550:43:00

This looks more like a bit of furniture than a camera, John.

0:43:000:43:03

Yes, this goes back to the 1920s.

0:43:030:43:05

Early cinema enthusiast John Adderley is going to help me.

0:43:050:43:08

It's the gauge that Edison patented. For lining up, what you do is you pull it around to that position

0:43:080:43:14

and you can see there's a viewing system, and you can actually look through the lens.

0:43:140:43:20

And it's upside down.

0:43:200:43:21

Yes, yes. And you can see that's all the gubbins in here.

0:43:210:43:26

So gorgeous, though, look at it.

0:43:280:43:30

We've assembled our cast of local actors,

0:43:320:43:35

but there'll be no relaxing in the Winnebago for them.

0:43:350:43:39

Just as in 1920 we've no electric lights, so we must make most of the daylight.

0:43:390:43:45

All we need now is a director.

0:43:450:43:48

That would be me.

0:43:480:43:50

OK, everyone, silence please.

0:43:520:43:54

We're going to do a scene now.

0:43:540:43:56

First positions, please.

0:43:560:43:58

Mr Henchard, sitting down, thank you.

0:43:580:44:00

That's good, keep going.

0:44:010:44:02

'I have to get the cranking just right, a constant 16 frames a second,

0:44:020:44:08

'otherwise the action will appear jerky, unlike the original.'

0:44:080:44:11

We're burning daylight here you know.

0:44:140:44:17

And, action!

0:44:190:44:20

And if you're wondering about the bizarre make-up, so am I.

0:44:220:44:27

The film was autochromatic, it wasn't sensitive to reds, it's more sensitive to blue, so blue comes out

0:44:270:44:33

quite light, and red goes absolutely black, so that's why we put the blue on the lips, and around the eyes.

0:44:330:44:39

So, in an autochromatic film, they were look a good deal more lifelike and realistic

0:44:390:44:43

than they do to naked eye?

0:44:430:44:45

Yes, yes, hopefully.

0:44:450:44:47

We're moving the camera.

0:44:470:44:48

Haven't got all day.

0:44:490:44:51

'It's time to put George Smiths' ideas into action, and get a new angle on the scene.

0:44:510:44:57

'It's an involved process setting up a new shot.

0:44:570:45:00

'I can see why mainly early film-makers didn't move the camera at all.'

0:45:000:45:05

A bit faster. And, action!

0:45:070:45:10

'But on the plus side, as this is a silent movie, I don't have to be.'

0:45:100:45:14

Susie, step into the gap...

0:45:140:45:17

And cut!

0:45:170:45:19

That was good, yeah, yeah, cos you let it...

0:45:190:45:22

That's the first time you've said that.

0:45:220:45:24

SIGHS: There we go, wrapped my first movie, great fun.

0:45:240:45:28

The most satisfying part was that it was hand-cranked, you got a real sense of the moment being recorded.

0:45:280:45:34

It's definitely the future for me.

0:45:340:45:37

We've rushed the film to the labs for developing, and at the end of

0:45:380:45:42

the day, like the early pioneers, we nervously check our rushes.

0:45:420:45:47

Only the whole of Brighton seems to have been invited along.

0:45:480:45:52

Look at that close-up, look!

0:45:580:46:00

The cranking seems to have worked as the action is smooth, the light is good too,

0:46:070:46:12

and that autochromatic film has made the blue make-up look almost natural.

0:46:120:46:17

ALL: Ah!

0:46:200:46:21

80 years on from the original, it's still a crowd puller.

0:46:210:46:26

Selsey Bill.

0:46:520:46:54

Its shallows and riptides have made it treacherous for shipping for centuries.

0:46:540:46:58

As a result, much of the history of this headland lies at the bottom of the sea.

0:46:580:47:04

But these divers from Southsea Sub-Aqua Club aren't hunting for shipwrecks...

0:47:070:47:12

..they're in search of shells,

0:47:140:47:17

World War II shells.

0:47:170:47:19

And the tanks that never got to fire them.

0:47:210:47:26

There are two tanks and two bulldozers from D-Day,

0:47:260:47:31

they didn't actually make it across to the Normandy Beaches, and

0:47:310:47:34

we're trying to find out the types of tanks they are,

0:47:340:47:38

and also how they ended up lying on the seabed.

0:47:380:47:41

There are around 20 officially protected wreck sites along this stretch of coast.

0:47:440:47:48

Much of the initial measuring and recording is done by amateur divers.

0:47:480:47:52

Most recreational divers, they go down to dive

0:47:540:47:57

to just have a pleasant time,

0:47:570:47:58

to enjoy themselves, and hopefully come back safe and sound.

0:47:580:48:01

These divers have actually challenged themselves

0:48:010:48:04

to do a job of work, and they're doing it really well.

0:48:040:48:07

And finally they find those shells.

0:48:090:48:12

Intended for D-Day, they've been at the bottom of the sea for more than 60 years.

0:48:120:48:19

Just coming up should be the metal round plates which says that they're Centaurs.

0:48:190:48:26

There it is, there you go, definitely.

0:48:260:48:29

So there's your identification.

0:48:290:48:31

These Centaur tanks are pinpointed, recorded, and put on the map of the British coastline,

0:48:310:48:37

to become part of our maritime history.

0:48:370:48:41

Approaching Portsmouth,

0:48:480:48:50

looking out over the Solent, a reminder of the start of our journey,

0:48:500:48:56

sea forts,

0:48:560:48:58

and hovercraft.

0:48:580:49:01

The UK's only regular passenger service flies just above the sea out to the Isle of Wight.

0:49:010:49:09

On this restless coastline everything's on the move, even the land.

0:49:090:49:16

The Isle of Wight seems so permanent and immoveable, and yet it's on a monumental journey.

0:49:160:49:22

Nick Crane's crossing the Solent, in search of where the island's been,

0:49:220:49:27

and what's happened to it along the way.

0:49:270:49:30

Sailing around the Isle of Wight you get some sense of its size.

0:49:350:49:38

At 23 miles across its England's largest island.

0:49:380:49:46

It seems like a lost world.

0:49:460:49:48

In fact, it's a time capsule containing

0:49:480:49:51

clues to a journey the whole of the British Isles has been on.

0:49:510:49:55

On a lost world you'd hope to find dinosaurs, and you wouldn't be disappointed.

0:49:560:50:03

This is a dinosaur footprint,

0:50:030:50:05

the beach is absolutely littered with them,

0:50:050:50:08

they've fallen out of the cliff above me as the sea has eroded.

0:50:080:50:12

It belongs to a four or five-tonne Iguanodon,

0:50:120:50:14

and look you can see one articulated toe here, here's another one,

0:50:140:50:17

the third toe has been snapped off, and here is the heel.

0:50:170:50:20

These massive beasts tramp along this beach 130 million years ago,

0:50:200:50:26

except that back then this land wasn't even here.

0:50:260:50:29

And that's because the Isle of Wight has been on the move for ages, geological ages.

0:50:310:50:36

And the evidence of its epic voyage is everywhere.

0:50:380:50:42

This chalk is created from the remains of plankton which died

0:50:430:50:46

78 million years ago in a very warm, very clear tropical sea.

0:50:460:50:52

There certainly aren't tropical seas here now, so where was the Isle of Wight when the chalk was laid down?

0:50:550:51:02

Well, a lot further south, and at the time it wasn't

0:51:020:51:06

even an island.

0:51:060:51:08

10,000 years ago it was part of the landmass of Britain.

0:51:090:51:14

Step back 10,000 more and Britain was attached to the European mainland,

0:51:140:51:20

but rewind a colossal 135 million years to the time of the dinosaurs

0:51:200:51:26

when the continents were a lot closer together, Europe was 1,000 miles further south than now.

0:51:260:51:33

The Isle of Wight has seen a lot of action on its journey north, and not

0:51:350:51:39

surprisingly has picked up a few knocks along the way.

0:51:390:51:43

You can see the bruises from those knocks in the landscape.

0:51:430:51:49

Overlooking the multi-coloured cliffs at Alum Bay,

0:51:490:51:52

geologist Alasdair Bruce is helping me get my eye in.

0:51:520:51:56

What we're looking at it the huge fold in the earth's crust.

0:51:560:52:00

So if I elaborate by showing you this, that is essentially what we're looking at end-on.

0:52:000:52:04

So this bit of the book is that peninsula sticking out in the sea?

0:52:040:52:08

Yeah, those horizontal beds in the distance,

0:52:080:52:10

and as you come further into the bay and into the Alum Sands themselves, they've now been tilted vertically.

0:52:100:52:15

And that's the vertical part. That's the centre. This bit here?

0:52:150:52:20

Indeed. OK. So what caused the fault?

0:52:200:52:23

Well, millions of years ago when Africa thundered into Europe to create the Alps.

0:52:230:52:26

These are the plates covering the surface of the planet

0:52:260:52:29

that shift around. Constantly moving.

0:52:290:52:31

And as a result of that collision

0:52:310:52:33

we all had to make way, geologically speaking, and our contribution in

0:52:330:52:36

Britain was this large fold, and this essentially forms the backbone of the Isle of Wight.

0:52:360:52:42

Switzerland got the Alps, the Isle of Wight got the fold.

0:52:420:52:44

The chalk ridge running the length of the Isle of Wight, is in fact the last ripple of a colossal shockwave,

0:52:460:52:53

the result of a continental car crash between Africa and Europe 65 million years ago.

0:52:530:53:00

But even that didn't dislodge the Isle of Wight from the mainland of Britain,

0:53:000:53:06

and you can still see the evidence of where it was connected, at The Needles.

0:53:060:53:11

Alasdair, can you describe exactly what we'd have seen 10,000 years ago

0:53:130:53:17

if we'd looked from here towards what is now Dorset?

0:53:170:53:20

We'd have seen a line of white chalk cliffs, and behind that you'd have had sort of like cliff

0:53:200:53:25

tops covered in primitive grasses, and as you walked away from that sort of coastal environment,

0:53:250:53:30

you'd have walked into ancient woodlands and slowly down to shores of the estuary of the River Solent.

0:53:300:53:35

Sounds like a paradise. Indeed.

0:53:350:53:37

So how did that woodland paradise become an island?

0:53:390:53:42

20,000 years ago, Northern Europe and most of Britain

0:53:440:53:48

was covered with a layer of glacial ice over a mile thick.

0:53:480:53:52

It started to warm up, the ice melted and water levels rose,

0:53:520:53:57

but that wasn't the only thing that helped create the Isle of Wight.

0:53:570:54:02

The other process is best illustrated by two men with an inflatable bed.

0:54:030:54:08

OK, this is a primitive United Kingdom, we're going to have Scotland at one end,

0:54:090:54:13

and the Isle of Wight on the other end. This is the North?

0:54:130:54:16

It is, and it's very malleable as you can see.

0:54:160:54:18

So you're saying that the surface of the planet is this bendy in places? Yes, geologically speaking.

0:54:180:54:23

20,000 years ago, Scotland was covered with two kilometres thick of ice,

0:54:230:54:27

an enormous amount of weight, and I want you to be that weight, so in you go. I'm Scotland, covered in ice.

0:54:270:54:33

If I bring in the Isle of Wight, put that in place,

0:54:330:54:35

then we wind the clock forward to about 12,000 years ago,

0:54:350:54:39

the glaciers are melting away from Scotland really rapidly, so off you get.

0:54:390:54:43

This drops, sinks down a bit, that is called "isostatic rebound".

0:54:430:54:48

But what's happened to the Isle of Wight is, not only have we got sea levels attacking it,

0:54:480:54:53

sea levels rise from all the glacial water going into the sea,

0:54:530:54:56

but you've got the isostatic rebound happening, so the sea is now going to come churning around this particular

0:54:560:55:01

lump of rock and turn it into the Isle of Wight that we see today.

0:55:010:55:04

So it's being hit by a double-whammy.

0:55:040:55:06

It was this combination of rising sea levels and the sinking landscape

0:55:070:55:11

that would eventually separate the Isle of Wight from the mainland.

0:55:110:55:16

The sea was rising, biting away at this chalk cliff,

0:55:160:55:19

and at the same time the River Solent doing its thing at the back,

0:55:190:55:22

so there would come a point where it would become a very narrow knife-edge blade

0:55:220:55:26

going out across the sea, and then finally one stormy night it was breached, and the sea

0:55:260:55:31

basically flooded into this area, and got rid of what was the River Solent.

0:55:310:55:35

It took a few thousand years before the Isle of Wight was totally cut off as we see it today,

0:55:380:55:44

but that's a blink of the eye compared to its multi-million year trek,

0:55:440:55:50

and this restless traveller is still moving, still evolving,

0:55:500:55:55

part of the epic journey that the whole of the British Isles is on.

0:55:550:55:59

'At the end of MY journey I'm also off out to The Needles.

0:56:060:56:12

'It's not great conditions for studying rocks, but it is good for my passion.

0:56:120:56:17

'This is after all the sort of weather lighthouses were made for,

0:56:170:56:22

'and I enjoy a good lighthouse, me!'

0:56:220:56:25

So I couldn't resist a visit to this one, on The Needles,

0:56:250:56:29

especially when I found out they're about to clean the lens.

0:56:290:56:32

Everything about a lighthouse reminds us that we are connected to other shores.

0:56:380:56:43

As we come to this leg of our journey, I'm struck by how much we have reached out across the water.

0:56:450:56:52

From flying the Channel in hovercrafts,

0:56:520:56:55

to the ideas of Brighton's film-makers that travelled around the globe.

0:56:550:57:00

We're surrounded by water, but we're not cut off by it.

0:57:000:57:05

Even the specialist lens used in lighthouses is an invention from across the Channel from France.

0:57:050:57:12

How often does the lens get cleaned, then? Just once a year.

0:57:120:57:16

It's going to take about that long.

0:57:160:57:19

I'd hate to be responsible for a smear.

0:57:190:57:22

This really does feel like the edge of Britain,

0:57:260:57:29

but of course the light from here continues on, travelling far beyond our shores and actually

0:57:290:57:35

crossing the beam of the Gatteville lighthouse on the French coast.

0:57:350:57:39

Even the light wants to bridge the gap.

0:57:390:57:41

It kind of makes you want to reach out yourself and meet the neighbours.

0:57:410:57:45

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:57:550:57:59

Coast takes a journey around the British Isles and also visits the shores of their European neighbours.

Beginning at the famous Oyster Festival in Whitstable, Neil Oliver ventures offshore to the remarkable Red Sands sea forts. Built as air defences in the Second World War, they went on to inspire the design of the first North Sea oil rigs. Neil also becomes a silent movie director as he films a scene from The Mayor of Casterbridge using an antique camera, to reveal how pioneers in Brighton taught the world to make movies long before Hollywood shot a frame.

In Dover, Alice Roberts relives the glamour days of the hovercraft crossing to France. She takes to the waves to learn how to fly a hovercraft and discovers the science behind this British invention. She also finds out what brought the cross-channel service to its untimely end. Miranda Krestovnikoff joins a 1,000-year-old battle between men and fish in Hastings, and shares tricks of the fishermen's trade, including eco-friendly nets.

Mark Horton visits Rottingdean to peek over Rudyard Kipling's garden wall and follow in the footsteps of Victorian celebrity hunters, before unearthing the history of a unique Victorian electric railway which ran underwater: Magnus Volk's bizarre and beautiful Daddy Long-Legs.

Nick Crane explores the geology of the Isle of Wight, England's biggest island. It's a unique time capsule containing clues to an epic journey that the British Isles have made around the Earth. Nick discovers dinosaur footprints, ancient chalk seabeds, and evidence of a 'continental car crash' between Africa and Britain millions of years ago, when the two landmasses were on the move.


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