London to Antwerp Coast


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London to Antwerp

A journey around the British Isles and beyond. The team starts in London, continues along the south coast of England and then explores the coast of Belgium.


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All Aboard!

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Coast is embarking on a new quest...

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connecting the capital to Cornwall,

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linking Scottish Isles to Welsh Valleys

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and taking us far beyond home waters

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to the Baltic Sea and to the shores of Sweden.

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A new journey with familiar faces.

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For this, our first adventure, we're bound for Belgium, but setting out from London's commercial heart.

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Alice is in search of the British seaside landlady.

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So did you all have loads of rules?

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-Only if people were late.

-Late for what?

-Meals.

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In beautiful Bruges, a seaport stranded by time and tide,

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Mark is hunting down the bricks that built Britain.

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-Perfect!

-Miranda is riding her luck to go fishing.

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A surprise attack by Hitler is keeping Neil occupied in the channel.

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We might as well been out there in a rowing boat with peashooters for all the use we were.

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And at Albert Einstein's coastal hideaway, I'm getting fired up by atom power.

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This is Coast and Beyond.

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We're heading for one of Europe's most prosperous ports,

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crossing the Channel to Antwerp. But our journey starts in our own trading capital - London.

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Tidal rivers bring the coast into the heart of many of our big cities

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and with the water comes wealth.

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For as long as we've been a trading nation, the sea's been our commercial highway

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and the winding Thames links London directly with that global thoroughfare.

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It was sea trade that made the Capital rich.

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The Thames shaped the city and its influence still runs deep.

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Now, in the Docklands of London, ships have been replaced by skyscrapers.

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It's a story of spectacular rise and fall that may yet have a twist in its tale.

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The world once unloaded its goods in London.

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Now, could that trade be re-invented by a new generation?

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The 19th century businessmen who carved out these huge enclosures were bold entrepreneurs.

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Sometimes they built before they had customers.

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London's docks helped make Britain a superpower.

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They were the engine room of an Empire.

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Sugar and hardwood from the Caribbean.

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Tea from China.

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Even, in the days before refrigeration, ice from Norway.

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It all landed here.

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"Being in the docks," said one worker in the 1960s, "Was like geography come to life."

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And London's geography also changed.

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Around the docks grew the East End.

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But as fast as the docks grew...

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..the ships would outgrow them.

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Once there were ocean liners berthed at the end of the road.

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Now there's London City Airport.

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It was container ships, those great seagoing warehouses that changed everything.

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In the '60s, when containers first appeared on the commercial seaways,

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many of London's docks simply couldn't cope.

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Eventually the cargo ships stopped coming.

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But there's a new bid to bring the big ships back to the Capital, 20 miles downstream.

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MUSIC: "London Calling" by The Clash

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# London calling Through the far away towns... #

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This is Mariake, a dredger laying the foundations for a brand new port.

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The first of its kind for 20 years.

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This ship is sucking up 12,000 cubic metres of sand and gravel from the estuary every day.

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The Mariake is a giant vacuum cleaner, clearing a channel in the bed of the Thames,

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a passage deep enough to accommodate supersized container ships.

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This dredged material is being pumped onto an ever-growing artificial island.

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Eventually it's going to be a wharf some two miles long for loading and unloading ships.

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A colossal project, at least a decade in the making - London Gateway.

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Its builders are taking their cue from those early 19th century entrepreneurs.

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Confident that if they build the dock, the ships will eventually come.

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London's aiming to catch up with huge European ports like Antwerp, where I'm heading on my journey.

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It'll reconnect the capital with the mighty estuary

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that brought wealth and power into the heart of Britain.

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Curious things grow up along this coast.

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At the mouth of the Thames Estuary is Canvey Island.

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Once a popular holiday destination, traces of its heyday are treasured now,

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like the recently restored Labworth Cafe.

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It's a real gem, designed by the architect behind Sidney Opera House.

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But Canvey Island couldn't match the glamour of foreign shores.

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And when the holidaymakers stopped coming to Canvey in the 1970s, the oil companies moved in.

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Against this backdrop emerged four local lads who shook up the world of rock.

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Liverpool has The Beatles, Canvey has Dr Feelgood.

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# I saw you out the other night... #

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35 years ago, Dr Feelgood helped kick-start a musical revolution

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that became known as Punk.

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My name's Wilko Johnson.

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I'm a musician, a guitar player.

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I was born on Canvey Island, I grew up on Canvey Island.

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I'm one of the baby-boom generation, yeah, after the war.

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Canvey Island then was a kind of a swamp with some shacks on it, I think.

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And Dr Feelgood, we came from Canvey Island.

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The island is surrounded by oil refineries.

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It gives a kind of ferocity to the landscape. Flames glowing in the night time and so forth,

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and in many ways that kind of music seemed suited to it.

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I think the music in the early '70s was, I don't know, a lot of hippies, really...

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PROG ROCK MUSIC

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..People wearing frocks...

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# I'll see you burn. #

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..Singing about pixies and goblins.

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Yeah. Nonsense.

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You know who I'm talking about.

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Dr Feelgood were playing a kind of rhythm and blues music.

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What you want is, you know, a bit of rock 'n roll.

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# London's burning!

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# London's burning! #

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I became friends with many of these punk musicians, you know, the Pistols and The Clash and that.

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And most of them had in fact seen Dr Feelgood and been inspired, if you like, by Dr Feelgood.

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When we where kids, we used to go fishing for crabs along this wooden jetty down here.

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You can do it with a piece of string and a lump of bread,

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and you hang it over the side and the crabs catch it

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and you pull them up. They're fairly stupid creatures, crabs.

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I've been all around the world, and I've seen a lot of things,

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but there's just something, some spirit, something beautiful

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about this estuary, and I think it's wonderful.

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Crossing The Thames Estuary, we find the Kent Coast.

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This is home to some of Britain's first seaside resorts

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and the jewel in its crown - the golden sands of Margate.

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Most see the beach as a place to relax, but others see a business opportunity.

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Alice is seeking out the story of some seaside entrepreneurs

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who sparked a sexual revolution around British shores.

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180 years ago, artist Joseph Turner was down here from London, painting up a storm.

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It was steam ships that linked the capital to Margate, and I've got a postcard here,

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it's a water colour sketch by Turner of a steamship here at Margate

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and by the look of it, a cloudy and blustery day a bit like this one.

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We still have his impressions of the town,

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but much less is known about the other big attraction

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that drew romantic Turner to Margate - a woman.

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Her name was Sophia Booth and she wasn't just Turner's lover, she was his landlady.

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But while Turner gets the limelight,

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Sophia Booth and the army of landladies like her who helped

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to create resorts like Margate have been largely forgotten.

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This modern piece of art dedicated to Mrs Booth

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doesn't REALLY give us an image of who these hard working women were.

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So, I'm in search of the mysterious, almost mythical seaside landlady.

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Helping me to uncover this hidden history is social historian Susan Barton.

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So shall we go and look for some landladies.

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Yeah. It'll be really fun.

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There are still plenty of small hotels in Margate,

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but we're looking for evidence of the woman who ran its boarding houses.

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These were often family homes, where all the available rooms were rented to holidaymakers.

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Now, this is what I expected to find. The typical...

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With the arms crossed like an old battleaxe.

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-..A typical image of the seaside landladies.

-Yeah.

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Boarding houses were the backbone of any seaside resort.

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Cheap, no-frills accommodation. Guests were expected to provide the basics like food and linen.

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Look at these rules. "Breakfast at nine o'clock, luncheon at one. No card playing on Sundays."

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Our search for the origins of the seaside landlady has brought us here

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to a row of typical seafront lodging houses in Margate, dating from the 1800s.

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What do the records reveal about these formidable women?

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If we look at these documents, these are the census from 1881,

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and it can actually tell us who was living in the houses.

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So do we know if there were landladies renting rooms out?

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We do, because Catherine Howard, who's the head,

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who's occupation is lodging house keeper and she was born in London.

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So we've got these women recorded as being the heads of the household.

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They are, which means that these were business women.

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What I've noticed is that seven out of ten of these households were headed by women.

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I find it remarkable that these women are able to be financially independent,

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running their own businesses, and this is a time before women have the vote.

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In the late 19th century, the seaside landlady was a pioneer,

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breaking down the social barriers that prevented women from owning businesses,

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decades before the women's rights movement.

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In 1938, the Holiday With Pay Act changed workers' lives.

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By the 1950s, 17 million people a year came to the coast.

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From Bridlington to Brighton, working class families were able to afford their week on the beach,

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thanks largely to the seaside boarding houses and their tireless landladies.

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I've been running this boarding house now for 13 years.

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I do all the cooking, washing and ironing.

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As for the food, I get sick of the sight of the food.

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But there's no getting away from it,

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landladies had a bit of an image problem.

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They were characterised as rule-making,

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clock-watching tyrants, the butt of seaside humour.

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So do they deserve this dragon image?

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Time to meet the ladies.

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Between them, these ladies have more 100 years' experience of running guest houses.

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-Hello.

-Lovely to meet you, you must be Patsy, hello.

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So, first things first, were they the kind of landladies that laid down the law to their guests?

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Only if people were late.

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-Late for what?

-Meals.

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Because we had it on a set time, it was dead-on one o'clock, five o'clock.

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'Tough love maybe, but their guests couldn't get enough of it.'

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That's Maude and Hubert, they came year after year.

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-Maude and Hubert.

-Yes.

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Maude and Hubert said to my mum, "We love coming here,

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"we're very fond of Brenda and Steve, they look after us so well"

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My mother said, "Well, I wouldn't go to the same place every year".

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We went everywhere with some of the people,

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they just treated us like holidaymakers.

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They took us on day trips to France, any entertainment.

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We were one of THEIR family, you know.

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I've got some photographs here, what I really like about them

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is that the guests are all lined up on the steps of the guest houses.

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So was there great camaraderie amongst the guests?

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-Oh, yes, of course there was.

-They'd be very shy Saturday night, but by Sunday afternoon, they...

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you couldn't get in the dining room for the noise.

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It wasn't just Mum and Dad in one room, it was Mum, Dad,

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two children or three children in one room,

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because it was desperate after the war.

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People would say, "Can't you just put a bed up in the bathroom?"

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-Really?

-Which we have done.

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We did have a dead body once, and it was a bit like Fawlty Towers.

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Get it out of the way, quick, you know.

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Actually it was a relation,

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a distant relation had come to stay, and we'd given him bacon and eggs

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in our quarters, and he suddenly fell forward into my bacon and eggs.

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No! Were they that bad, your bacon and eggs?

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He was dead. Yeah, there you are!

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-Look at the size of our kitchen.

-Tiny!

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But we used to cater for 25 meals in that.

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Really? Do you miss it, Hazel?

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No, the day we sold up, I didn't miss a thing.

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I didn't realise until I took an office job

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and I'd finished that I'd worked so hard.

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The seaside dreams of millions were built on that hard work.

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But the delights of the B&B couldn't compete with cheap breaks abroad,

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and increased regulations brought the golden era of the seaside landladies to a close.

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Yet for so many, our holiday memories are inseparable

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from the redoubtable women who made them possible.

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They gave us all a home from home by the sea.

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Even on this busy coast there are open spaces,

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where the rich and famous have come to get away from it all.

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In the 1950s, novelist Ian Fleming bought one of these houses

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on St Margaret's Bay from the previous owner...

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Noel Coward.

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Whatever secret schemes Fleming may have dreamt up, looking out over the Channel,

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Mr Bond's fictional cliffhangers couldn't match the reality

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of one daring mission played out just around the corner,

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off the coast of Dover.

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Today, taking the ferry to France is as easy as catching the bus,

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but, 70 years ago, a Channel crossing was a deadly affair.

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As Britain looked out on Europe under German occupation,

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the Channel at least seemed secure.

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But at the height of the war, an entire German fleet sailed

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past the guns of Dover and survived to tell the tale.

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Neil is on the trail of the Nazis' Channel Dash.

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It's 12th February 1942. Out there in the Channel,

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three of the German navy's most fearsome battleships

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are steaming at full speed

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just a few miles off the south coast of England.

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The Scharnhorst, the Gneisenau, and the Prinz Eugen.

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They'd been wreaking havoc in the North Atlantic,

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responsible for destroying 22 Allied ships.

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Not surprisingly, British Naval Intelligence had been keeping a close eye on them.

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They thought the ships were undergoing repairs,

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berthed at the French port of Brest,

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almost 500 miles away from Dover.

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But they weren't.

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In a breathtakingly audacious move,

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the Germans had somehow managed to sail up the Channel,

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in broad daylight, right under the nose of Britain's defences.

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In the aftermath of the ensuing battle, The Times reported,

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"Nothing more mortifying to the pride of British sea power

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"has happened in home waters since the 17th century".

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So, how WERE the British so badly caught out?

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Historian Nick Hewitt and I

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are plotting the events that led up to this remarkable episode.

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So, Nick, where were these German ships coming from?

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They're coming from here in Brest.

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The German navy would like to refit them and keep them in Brest

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where they can threaten Allied trade out in the Atlantic.

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Adolf Hitler wants them brought home to Germany and sent to Norway.

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-What Adolf wants, Adolf gets?

-Adolf gets, absolutely.

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By late 1941, Hitler feared an Allied invasion of Norway.

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He believed his warships at Brest were essential to prevent this attack.

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With German troops engaged across Europe, Russia and North Africa,

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he needed his battle ships back, right away.

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The decision is taken to get them home

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by the shortest, dirtiest route possible,

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straight through the English Channel and the Straits of Dover.

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But it's only three battleships, you'd think they could slip through.

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You need to remember, at this point, it's not just three battleships.

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What the Germans had been doing

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is they'd been bringing through escorting ships,

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so by the time that heavy ships sail from Brest,

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there are 63 warships around the fleet.

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And it's not just ships, at no point is there anything less

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than 16 aircraft over the top of the ships from dawn to dusk every day.

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So this is a huge force moving through the Channel.

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Hitler's aim was bold.

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Drive his battle fleet through the Channel at full speed,

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right under Britain's big guns.

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The Nazi propaganda machine,

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confident of success, put cameras on the ships.

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This is the film they shot.

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Surprise was vital. Preparations were so secret,

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even the German crews didn't know the plan.

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We're going to find out what happened next,

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that stormy day in February 1942.

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Our historian Nick Hewitt has tracked down

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a remarkable eyewitness.

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It's the first time August Brunmyer has visited British soil,

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but he has seen Dover Castle once before,

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from the deck of the Prinz Eugen.

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How did you feel when you were told you were going through the English Channel?

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TRANSLATED FROM GERMAN:

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If the mission was a surprise to the German crews,

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it sent the British defenders into a panic.

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They'd been caught on the hop.

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The German ships had left port undetected.

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The British Admiralty were convinced the Germans

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wouldn't venture into the Channel in daylight.

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Shrouded by fog, the fleet was just an hour from Dover before it was spotted.

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Britain's defences were already stretched to breaking point.

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Now, with the Germans on their doorstep,

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they scrambled all they had.

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A handful of small ships and six extraordinary biplanes.

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This is a Swordfish.

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Now, it might look like a throw-back to the First World War,

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but this old-fashioned biplane packed a deadly punch.

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A torpedo dropped from one of these could hurt even the biggest battleship.

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In fact, a Swordfish attack had crippled The Bismarck

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earlier in the war.

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The pride of the German fleet had been left

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dead in the water by the flimsy biplanes.

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Lieutenant Commander Eugene Esmonde was the leader of that sortie against the Bismarck.

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He'd been decorated for his bravery.

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Now Esmonde was facing the largest German flotilla of the war.

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The plan was to protect his Swordfish attack

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with five Spitfire squadrons.

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But the Spitfires are late,

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and the German battleships are steaming beyond range

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at a rate of knots.

0:25:270:25:29

Against overwhelming odds, Esmonde presses on with the attack.

0:25:290:25:34

As the German ships slipped into the Channel, the fog lifted,

0:25:380:25:43

and they could almost touch the white cliffs.

0:25:430:25:46

TRANSLATED FROM GERMAN:

0:25:460:25:48

All too clearly, Esmonde and his men

0:25:580:26:00

were now the frontline of Britain's defence.

0:26:000:26:03

From a British torpedo boat, Reg Mitchell witnessed the battle.

0:26:060:26:10

Reg saw the powerful German fighters

0:26:120:26:14

begin to pick off the British biplanes.

0:26:140:26:17

The Fokker Wolfs were coming up behind them

0:26:190:26:22

with their flaps down

0:26:220:26:23

and their wheels down, and they were revving up all the time

0:26:230:26:27

to try and stop themselves stalling so they could get a good burst in,

0:26:270:26:31

and we would watch them, watch the tracers going into the..

0:26:310:26:34

into the Swordfish, and they got shot down one after the other.

0:26:340:26:38

TRANSLATED FROM GERMAN:

0:26:440:26:46

The German flotilla sailed past Dover unharmed.

0:26:550:26:59

Left in the water, all six Swordfish,

0:26:590:27:02

13 of their crew dead, among them, Eugene Esmonde.

0:27:020:27:07

The boldness and power of the German fleet found Britain ill-prepared.

0:27:110:27:16

But those few who did press home the attack were not forgotten.

0:27:160:27:19

Esmonde was awarded the Victoria Cross.

0:27:190:27:22

This is the citation, together with the stamp

0:27:290:27:32

of King George VI that accompanied the medal.

0:27:320:27:35

"He flew on, cool and resolute, serenely challenging hopeless odds

0:27:360:27:41

to encounter the deadly fire of the enemy".

0:27:410:27:43

"Undismayed, he led his squadron on,

0:27:430:27:46

"straight through this inferno of fire".

0:27:460:27:49

The Channel has always been our great natural border.

0:28:030:28:07

A barrier in times of war, but also our link

0:28:070:28:10

to the trading ports of Northern Europe.

0:28:100:28:13

I've crossed the Channel to Dunkirk.

0:28:140:28:17

The most northerly French port, its name evokes British fighting spirit.

0:28:190:28:25

Its beaches still bear the scars of conflict.

0:28:250:28:29

In the aftermath of two World Wars, a new trade alliance

0:28:320:28:35

grew up along these shores, dedicated to breaking down borders.

0:28:350:28:41

It would become the European Union.

0:28:410:28:44

The founding principle of the original union was to make war

0:28:450:28:49

not only unthinkable but materially impossible.

0:28:490:28:53

It's made it rather difficult to find any borders.

0:28:530:28:57

I'm about six miles northeast of Dunkirk,

0:28:590:29:01

and I'm looking for the border that marks the edge of France.

0:29:010:29:05

You'd think they might have put a flag up or something.

0:29:050:29:09

I've got the co-ordinates of where the border should be in this

0:29:090:29:13

little GPS unit, it's telling me to go up here.

0:29:130:29:16

This cannot possibly be a border post.

0:29:180:29:21

I think I'm on a wild border chase here.

0:29:220:29:25

OK, I've seen something but on the wrong side of the fence.

0:29:250:29:29

This is the border marker, there's an F on this side for France...

0:29:310:29:37

A broken N, that must be the Netherlands, and here, a date, 1819.

0:29:380:29:45

Well, that is not the Netherlands any more.

0:29:450:29:48

190 years ago when this marker was put in the sand,

0:29:480:29:52

the country you're about to enter didn't even exist.

0:29:520:29:56

If that seems a bit confusing, the change in the landscape at least

0:29:560:30:01

leaves you in no doubt you've entered a new country,

0:30:010:30:04

as wild open spaces transform into something a little more concrete.

0:30:040:30:09

Welcome to Belgium.

0:30:110:30:14

Looks like they've had the builders in.

0:30:150:30:18

One of Europe's most densely populated coastal countries,

0:30:260:30:29

it also has one of its shortest coastlines,

0:30:290:30:33

less than 50 miles.

0:30:330:30:34

But boy, do the Belgians make the most of it!

0:30:340:30:38

# Ca plane pour moi Ca plane pour moi

0:30:380:30:42

# Ca plane pour moi, moi, moi, moi... #

0:30:440:30:46

There are no fewer than 16 major holiday resorts

0:30:460:30:49

packed in along this tiny coast.

0:30:490:30:53

And what links it all is the Kusttram - the coast tram.

0:30:550:31:01

Starting near the border town of De Panne,

0:31:030:31:06

the track runs more or less the length of the Belgian coast

0:31:060:31:10

loops around and comes back down again.

0:31:100:31:14

85 miles, all told, making it the longest single-track tram in the world.

0:31:140:31:20

No need for walking boots when you're taking the tram.

0:31:220:31:25

I think a change of outfit is in order.

0:31:250:31:27

I'm curious to know how the tramline helps the Belgians

0:31:300:31:34

cram so much into their coast,

0:31:340:31:36

so at a station in a rare break between high-rises,

0:31:360:31:39

I'm meeting tram man Dirk Schockaert.

0:31:390:31:42

-You must be Nick.

-I am Nick.

0:31:420:31:44

This is one of the most extraordinary rail stations

0:31:440:31:47

I've ever been to in the world. It's on a beach!

0:31:470:31:50

Yes, it's a tram stop in the middle of nowhere.

0:31:500:31:53

Yeah. Why was the tramline built, and when?

0:31:530:31:55

The tramline was created in 1885. In the beginning,

0:31:550:31:59

we had three train stations at the coast, so all the rich tourists came

0:31:590:32:05

from the inside of the country to do their holiday here at the coast,

0:32:050:32:09

and they were stuck at their place.

0:32:090:32:11

So, they were thinking, "Well, we will create a tramline,

0:32:110:32:16

"so that we can transport people," mostly rich tourists.

0:32:160:32:21

And for example, I have here an old poster, touristic poster.

0:32:210:32:25

That's wonderful! The image in the picture

0:32:250:32:27

is very much of a seaside paradise waiting to be opened up.

0:32:270:32:31

Yes, at that time our coast was like that.

0:32:310:32:34

And now, there are everywhere buildings.

0:32:340:32:38

I'd better give you that.

0:32:380:32:40

Oh...it shot past.

0:32:400:32:42

We missed that one!

0:32:420:32:44

It was the Kusttram that really shaped the Belgian coast.

0:32:490:32:53

The resorts just grew up along it.

0:32:530:32:56

But the arrival of the tram did squeeze out a simpler way of life.

0:32:560:33:01

For generations a band of horse-riding fishermen

0:33:010:33:04

have hunted shrimps in the sandy shallows off the Belgian coast.

0:33:040:33:09

Today, horseback fishing is a dying art.

0:33:090:33:13

Miranda's off to see how it's done, before it's too late.

0:33:130:33:16

These days, if you want to find the homes of the shrimp fishermen

0:33:160:33:20

and their horses, you have to head inland.

0:33:200:33:23

Coastal construction has forced the shrimp men to live miles from

0:33:240:33:28

the beach, but they still work to the sea's traditional rhythms.

0:33:280:33:32

Catching the tide means an early start.

0:33:320:33:35

-Morning, Dominique. How are you doing?

-Very good, thank you. And you?

0:33:360:33:39

'At 21, Dominique Vandendriessche is the youngest

0:33:390:33:42

'of the remaining shrimp fishermen, and part of this local tradition which has gone on for generations.

0:33:420:33:49

'Fishing from horseback was begun by local farmers who used the leftovers as fertiliser.

0:33:590:34:06

'Once there were almost 100 shrimp fishermen - now only a handful cling on in this concrete jungle.

0:34:090:34:16

'I must say, I do feel a bit conspicuous.

0:34:200:34:23

'This is one of the last places anywhere that they fish like this.'

0:34:320:34:35

How does it work?

0:34:350:34:37

Those two boards, they are used to open the net in the water, seven metres.

0:34:370:34:43

One side floating on the water,

0:34:430:34:46

and the other side stays on the ground

0:34:460:34:48

because of the weight of the chain.

0:34:480:34:49

-Yeah.

-But the chain is really used to wake up the shrimps,

0:34:490:34:55

because the shrimps live under the sands,

0:34:550:34:57

and what happens is the chain makes a noise, and all the shrimps they jump up and they get caught

0:34:570:35:02

between the two sides of the net,

0:35:020:35:04

they get pushed there in the end of the net, you see?

0:35:040:35:08

'But working in the shallows with this heavy gear would be impossible without the right horse.

0:35:080:35:14

'It takes the exceptional strength of these huge Brabant draft horses to drag the nets through the wet sand.'

0:35:140:35:20

-What's your horse called?

-Jim.

0:35:200:35:22

This is Jim. He's huge, isn't he?

0:35:220:35:25

He's really built for the job. How on earth am I going to get up there?

0:35:250:35:28

You've got longer legs than I have, though!

0:35:280:35:31

'I'm used to riding, but these giants are incredibly difficult

0:35:340:35:38

'to control in the water, so I've got to hitch a ride with Dominique.'

0:35:380:35:42

Ha-ha!

0:35:440:35:46

So...

0:35:460:35:47

HE CALLS TO THE HORSE

0:35:480:35:53

Tell me a bit about Jim - how old is he, what's he like?

0:35:550:35:58

He is seven years old, he's a really relaxed horse,

0:35:580:36:01

he never worries about anything and he never complains.

0:36:010:36:03

So what's it like for Jim in the water. Is it really hard work?

0:36:030:36:06

Yes, the faster he goes, the harder it gets, because the water has not

0:36:060:36:11

time enough to escape out of the net.

0:36:110:36:13

But after a couple of times, the horse realises if he goes slower, it's easier.

0:36:130:36:18

The only thing they get scared of is when the waves come towards them.

0:36:180:36:22

When that happens and they are frightened,

0:36:220:36:26

you turn them around and you make them go backwards to the sea, so

0:36:260:36:30

they don't see the waves, and once they're in it, their fear is over.

0:36:300:36:33

And you obviously have an amazing bond with Jim.

0:36:330:36:37

-Yes, we know each other by heart and soul.

-Yeah.

0:36:370:36:42

Wow!

0:36:510:36:52

This is what we've been catching, little grey shrimps.

0:36:530:36:57

Dominique, what's this sort of catch worth, then?

0:36:580:37:00

-This, maybe two euros.

-Two euros?

0:37:000:37:04

-That's not even enough money to feed your horse for the day.

-No, no!

0:37:040:37:08

'Their meagre catch doesn't make for a living, but a profitable sideline is opening up.

0:37:080:37:15

'Their novelty has made the horsemen into a local attraction -

0:37:150:37:19

'while fishing for shrimps, they're also being paid to haul in the tourists.'

0:37:190:37:24

-So I can try one, yeah?

-Yeah.

0:37:290:37:31

Those are really good.

0:37:330:37:34

-That's about as fresh a shrimp as I've ever eaten.

-Yes.

0:37:340:37:38

'On this coastline, embracing tourism and the changes

0:37:380:37:42

'that come with it helps this traditional way of life to survive.'

0:37:420:37:47

We're on the Belgian coast, riding the tram towards the pretty town of De Haan.

0:37:580:38:04

This small coastal retreat grew up as a quiet alternative

0:38:090:38:13

to Belgium's bustling resorts, the station unchanged since 1902.

0:38:130:38:20

Stepping onto the platform, you get the feeling that time is standing still.

0:38:230:38:29

It certainly did for De Haan's most celebrated visitor,

0:38:360:38:41

who was kicking his heels here some 80 years ago.

0:38:410:38:44

In 1933, this sleepy stretch of coast was

0:38:440:38:49

the unlikely destination for one of the most famous men in the world.

0:38:490:38:53

He was the face of physics, the image of genius.

0:38:530:38:57

Why was Albert Einstein here in De Haan?

0:38:570:39:02

By 1933, at the age of 54, Einstein was world famous.

0:39:110:39:17

His theory of relativity had revolutionised physics.

0:39:170:39:21

It would lead to the concept of the big bang and black holes.

0:39:210:39:25

He'd won the Nobel prize.

0:39:250:39:28

But the world his physics described was undergoing violent change.

0:39:290:39:34

Fascism was on the rise in Europe.

0:39:390:39:41

Hitler had become dictator of Germany.

0:39:410:39:45

Persecution of the country's Jews had begun, sanctioned by the new Nazi government.

0:39:450:39:50

Einstein, both German and Jewish, was in America when Hitler came to power.

0:39:510:39:57

A lifelong peace campaigner, the physicist had spoken out

0:39:570:40:00

against the Nazis, calling for economic sanctions.

0:40:000:40:04

He returned to Europe in 1933, stateless, unable to go home to

0:40:070:40:11

Germany, his life under threat and wondering how, as a man of peace, to respond to the violent times.

0:40:110:40:18

So how did he end up in this small Belgian seaside resort?

0:40:250:40:29

I'm hoping Brigitte Baeten can tell me -

0:40:310:40:34

she's the town's unofficial guardian

0:40:340:40:36

'of all things Einstein, including a statue dedicated to the physicist.'

0:40:360:40:41

-Very nice to meet you. Are you just dusting him down?

-Yes, a little bit!

0:40:410:40:45

I like to have his hands clean.

0:40:450:40:47

Ha-ha!

0:40:470:40:49

How did De Haan come to be looking after the great man?

0:40:490:40:53

Well, actually, it was the royal family.

0:40:530:40:56

As he was a good friend of the royal Belgian family,

0:40:560:41:01

which is our King Albert I, and the Queen Elizabeth,

0:41:010:41:05

it is them who said he would better stay for a while in Belgium.

0:41:050:41:12

It was the friendship with the royal family that bought Einstein to Belgium.

0:41:140:41:19

But it was the need for a quiet place to think,

0:41:190:41:22

a refuge from the turmoil in Europe, that brought him to De Haan.

0:41:220:41:26

-I have first of all...

-Oh, my goodness!

0:41:310:41:33

What an incredible photograph - is this him here?

0:41:330:41:35

He's not wearing any socks.

0:41:350:41:37

He's not, because he used to say, socks are the worst thing in the world, you always have a hole in it.

0:41:370:41:44

That's a logical approach. That's good, I like that.

0:41:440:41:47

He appears a man at ease,

0:41:480:41:51

but the great thinker had a lot on his mind.

0:41:510:41:54

Walking the dunes and avenues, Einstein wrestled with his conscience.

0:41:540:41:58

He believed in peace, but also that Hitler had to be stopped.

0:41:580:42:02

So where is Einstein's house?

0:42:020:42:05

This is the house of Einstein.

0:42:050:42:06

-This one here?

-This one.

-There's a plaque on the front.

0:42:060:42:09

-Look, look at the window, there he is.

-Oh, yes, how funny!

0:42:090:42:11

-Isn't that wonderful?

-And the doors are unchanged.

0:42:110:42:14

Yes, it's all unchanged.

0:42:140:42:17

Excuse me - I'm so sorry to interrupt your supper, but we were

0:42:170:42:21

just looking at the plaque on the front of your home. What's it like living in Einstein's house?

0:42:210:42:25

Do you get fed up with people coming and leaning over the gate?

0:42:250:42:28

Most of them being Belgian, they're pretty polite, so it's not that much of a problem.

0:42:280:42:33

So what about this photograph - could we go inside and try and match

0:42:330:42:37

it up with you? Might be quite interesting.

0:42:370:42:39

-Absolutely, be invited, just follow me.

-Thank you.

0:42:390:42:41

Wow.

0:42:430:42:46

Yes! Brigitte's already done it!

0:42:460:42:49

-Yeah, I think you recognise that part of the house!

-Yes!

0:42:490:42:51

But the fireplace is the same one, isn't it?

0:42:510:42:53

Yes, must be the same, yeah, yeah, yeah.

0:42:530:42:57

It seems that sitting in this living room almost 80 years ago,

0:42:570:43:01

Einstein the pacifist became

0:43:010:43:03

an advocate of war - albeit a war against oppression and dictatorship.

0:43:030:43:09

Einstein told an American professor, to prevent the greater evil it is necessary for the lesser evil,

0:43:110:43:18

the hated military, to be accepted for the time being.

0:43:180:43:22

After a six-month stay, Einstein left Belgium in September 1933

0:43:230:43:27

for a new life in America, committed to fighting tyranny in whatever way he could.

0:43:270:43:35

What he couldn't have known is the part his physics would play in the coming struggle.

0:43:350:43:40

30 years earlier, Albert had written an equation, a formula for the conversion of matter into energy.

0:43:400:43:47

E for energy equals M for mass times C for the speed of light squared.

0:43:490:43:56

Now the speed of light squared is a huge number, so you only need

0:43:560:44:02

a tiny amount of mass to equal a lot of energy.

0:44:020:44:07

Cram that mass into a bomb and the results are devastating.

0:44:070:44:13

Ideas change the fate of nations,

0:44:350:44:38

and nature changes the fate of the coast.

0:44:380:44:42

Now the city of Bruges is connected to the port of Zeebrugge by a mighty canal.

0:44:420:44:48

But 700 years ago it was a different story.

0:44:490:44:52

Mark is exploring how mediaeval Bruges once had a much closer connection to the coast, and to us.

0:44:520:45:00

For me, this is a very emotional journey.

0:45:000:45:04

I first came here to Bruges aged 13.

0:45:040:45:09

I was obsessed with medieval history.

0:45:090:45:14

Now I'm back to rekindle my old passion for the place,

0:45:160:45:20

but also to explore an intriguing connection to England I discovered all those years ago.

0:45:200:45:26

The city's canals give us a clue to its rich maritime past.

0:45:260:45:32

Sea trade made the burghers of Bruges very rich in the 13th and 14th centuries.

0:45:320:45:40

Believe it or not, this was once the main canal

0:45:400:45:44

into the heart of Bruges, where ships from all round the world

0:45:440:45:49

came and unloaded their cargos in the water hall

0:45:490:45:53

in the middle of the town square.

0:45:530:45:55

700 years ago, a bird's-eye view of Bruges

0:45:570:46:01

would have been radically different.

0:46:010:46:03

A sea inlet reached the outskirts of the city,

0:46:030:46:07

linking is directly to the North Sea

0:46:070:46:10

and historic ports like Ipswich and King's Lynn.

0:46:100:46:15

Those links between East Anglia and Bruges I discovered for myself as a 13-year-old

0:46:170:46:24

armed only with a roll of paper and a wax crayon.

0:46:240:46:28

Sint-Salvator Cathedral is a wonderful place for a spot of brass rubbing.

0:46:320:46:39

Unfortunately, it's now discouraged in Belgium.

0:46:440:46:47

But I did a few earlier - 40 years earlier.

0:46:490:46:54

The thing about these brasses is they show the shear wealth and

0:46:550:47:00

prosperity of Bruges. This is a brass of one of these merchants.

0:47:000:47:06

There he is with his wife and his daughter,

0:47:060:47:09

and you can see down at the bottom there

0:47:090:47:11

is an image of a ship.

0:47:110:47:14

But these brasses also tell us about trade between England

0:47:140:47:18

and Bruges, because in Ipswich there's an almost identical brass.

0:47:180:47:23

It shows Thomas Pownder,

0:47:230:47:26

a cloth merchant, a very wealthy man. There's his merchant's mark.

0:47:260:47:31

He was not satisfied with inferior English brasses,

0:47:310:47:34

but went all the way here to Bruges to get his memorial, and this is it.

0:47:340:47:40

The link between Bruges and Eastern England I'd stumbled upon as a boy was centuries old,

0:47:440:47:51

part of a trade alliance known as the Hanseatic League.

0:47:510:47:55

This enormous medieval room

0:47:590:48:01

would have been a warehouse stacked high with East Anglian wool.

0:48:010:48:07

On their return the empty ships were so unstable,

0:48:070:48:10

they had to be filled with Flemish bricks.

0:48:100:48:14

Bricks were in big demand 700 years ago in England,

0:48:180:48:23

because back then we weren't making any of our own.

0:48:230:48:27

I'm hoping historian David Andrews can tell me why.

0:48:270:48:32

Well, the Romans of course, had made bricks,

0:48:330:48:35

but with the collapse that came after the fall of the Roman Empire

0:48:350:48:39

the technology was lost throughout much of Northern Europe,

0:48:390:48:42

maybe parts of the Mediterranean as well.

0:48:420:48:44

So when is brick-making rediscovered?

0:48:440:48:46

In the 12th century, the Cistercians are making bricks,

0:48:460:48:50

and the Cistercians built this wonderful barn here.

0:48:500:48:52

-It's like a cathedral, isn't it, with a sort of east window in brick?!

-With tracery in brick, yes.

0:48:520:48:57

Cistercian monks may have revived the art of brick-making,

0:48:570:49:02

but in England were a bit slow on the uptake.

0:49:020:49:06

Rather than make our own, we bought them from the Low Countries.

0:49:070:49:12

We had ceramic technologies, we could make pottery, we could make roof tile

0:49:120:49:16

but we don't seem to have bothered with brick.

0:49:160:49:19

And what do these Flemish bricks actually look like?

0:49:190:49:22

Well, I've got one from Essex here.

0:49:220:49:25

So these are really grotty, I mean, you can see how soft they are.

0:49:250:49:29

You could put the powder everywhere.

0:49:290:49:31

Yes, they aren't marvellous bricks, but they work

0:49:310:49:34

and they're quite long-lasting and durable.

0:49:340:49:36

'After 700 years, this Essex brick has come home'

0:49:360:49:41

to where it was made from the polder clay, the layer of mud

0:49:410:49:46

left behind when the sea retreated from the land.

0:49:460:49:50

'Art Vandendorpe is going to show me how to turn clay into bricks.'

0:49:500:49:56

He's restored some of Bruges' most ancient buildings

0:49:560:50:01

using the oldest instruction book there is.

0:50:010:50:04

So this is the original description of how bricks were made in those days.

0:50:070:50:11

They take the clay and they mixed them with sand,

0:50:110:50:15

they put it on the table and they make the brick.

0:50:150:50:18

And then they put them here in the clamp.

0:50:180:50:21

-One million.

-In one clamp? So that's from the polders.

0:50:210:50:25

-Yes, from here.

-Just from underneath the riverbank.

-Yes, yes, yes.

0:50:250:50:28

# Bricks, lay 'em down in a straight line

0:50:300:50:32

# Bricks, build them into a wall

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# Bricks, very useful objects and they're not expensive at all. #

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Perfect! Bits of old brick, the odd shell -

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that's what makes the brick strong.

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'After several hundred years of the Flemish showing the way,

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'English brick-makers had just about got the hang of it.'

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Oh, this is an English brick!

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'Unlike me!'

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But it was the clay, the very stuff the bricks of Bruges

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were made of, that finally cut the city off from the sea.

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When the inlet silted up, gone went that trading route to Europe.

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Leaving Bruges high and dry,

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but preserved in all this medieval splendour!

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Ancient trade routes connect us to the Belgian coast,

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but we also share a deep and abiding love...of chips!

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# Chips, chips, da-dee-doo-dee-doo Chi-boom chi-boo-boom... #

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But of course, these aren't any old chips, these are Belgian fries.

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My name is Bernard Lefevre, I'm president of the National Union

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of Frituur't Steen, which is the Belgian word for fries-shopkeepers.

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Like I can imagine that British people couldn't live without tea

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or Frenchmen without wine,

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Belgians need fries.

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The first fry shops date from the period

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that Belgium was founded, the early 1800s.

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We use round pots because a good fry needs good space to swim in.

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They are having fun now, that much fun that what we say, they are starting to sing.

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And when the song is finished, well, they have to jump out.

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Our special elements of the Belgium fry is the size - it can change

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a little bit from the French border, where they are smaller, about 9mm,

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going to the German border to 14 mm.

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Standard size of Belgian fries is 10mm thick.

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It's a meal on itself, we don't need fish, and we are not really a fish country.

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We only have a little part of coast.

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Voila!

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The end of Belgium's coastal tramline delivers me to Knokke.

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It looks pretty conventional on the outside, the seafront dominated by this grand 1930s casino.

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I'm told all is not what it seems here -

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apparently there's something surreal to see.

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And it's tucked away in a back room.

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-Hello.

-Hello.

-I'm Nick.

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-Delphine. Nice to meet you.

-Very nice to meet you.

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In the 1950s, Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte came to stay in Knokke.

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And this is what he left behind.

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LAUGHS

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My goodness! My goodness!

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It's quite a thing if you see it for the first time.

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Erm, yeah, it certainly is, isn't it?

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If you don't know Magritte's name, you might well recognise his images.

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This 360-degree mural displays some of his best-known work.

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It's a dreamscape, isn't it?

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Not necessarily a very healthy dream - we've got a woman with

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a fish's head, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa restring on a feather.

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How did the citizens of Knokke react?

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They rather like it, I think.

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In 1953,

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the casino owner here persuaded the surrealist and former wallpaper designer

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to make a rare visit to the coast and decorate the walls of this establishment.

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Magritte called the end result the enchanted domain.

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Enchanting maybe, odd certainly, but look closer.

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Magritte's vision seems strangely in tune with the Belgium we've experienced.

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The surrealist re-imagined the world in the name of art.

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But another local visionary who reimagined the world for

0:55:310:55:34

practical reasons is waiting at the end of my journey.

0:55:340:55:38

Because it was along this coast that a 16th-century map-maker

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of huge significance spent his formative years.

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He also happens to be a hero of mine. His name - Gerard Mercator.

0:55:490:55:55

Ships like this navigate safely today because of a method of

0:55:570:56:01

map-making devised by Mercator.

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Even in here, surrounded by all this hi-tech equipment, this modern map

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carries the name of a man born 500 years ago.

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Mercator cracked a complex puzzle.

0:56:120:56:15

Paper maps are flat, but as you step back from the world,

0:56:150:56:19

it's clear the planet isn't flat at all.

0:56:190:56:22

He worked out the maths

0:56:220:56:23

to project the 3D world onto a two-dimensional sheet.

0:56:230:56:27

Mercator's projection meant seafarers could for the first time

0:56:290:56:32

navigate precisely around the three-dimensional globe.

0:56:320:56:37

In Antwerp, you can see the original chart that changed the world.

0:56:370:56:42

This is it, this is the map that turned Mercator

0:56:430:56:46

into the first modern map-maker, it was completely revolutionary.

0:56:460:56:50

It's really a navigational device.

0:56:500:56:53

What he did was to keep all the lines of longitude parallel.

0:56:530:56:57

Of course, normally on the globe they all converge at the two poles,

0:56:570:57:02

but what he did was prise them apart and straighten them.

0:57:020:57:05

What you end up with is quite a distorted map, but the sheer

0:57:050:57:08

brilliance of this map is in what it does with the use of compasses.

0:57:080:57:13

If you lie a compass on this map for example between Bristol and Cuba,

0:57:130:57:17

and want to get the bearing, you take your bearing off the map,

0:57:170:57:20

and then you can stand on the deck of your ship and the identical

0:57:200:57:23

bearing will take you straight from Bristol to Cuba.

0:57:230:57:26

No other map projection will do that.

0:57:260:57:28

It was a work of sheer brilliance.

0:57:280:57:30

Mercator called it the squaring of the circle.

0:57:300:57:33

Mercator's genius vision, his projection of the earth onto

0:57:400:57:44

accurate navigation charts, opened up the globe to Europeans.

0:57:440:57:49

Trade blossomed and mighty estuaries became gateways to the world.

0:57:490:57:54

People, goods and ideas flow between nations connected by their coastlines.

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It gives us a common bond with our neighbours, stories we continue to explore around our coast and beyond!

0:58:120:58:19

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:400:58:44

E-mail subtitling@bbc.co.uk

0:58:440:58:48

Coast returns with another journey around the edge of the British Isles and beyond to see how shared seas unite us with our European neighbours. The latest adventure begins in the historic heart of London, continues along the south coast of England and out across the channel to explore the curious coast of Belgium. Nick Crane discovers why the world's biggest cargo ships are on course for London as he joins the struggle to construct a new mega-port as a gateway to the capital. Nick's epic new voyage then takes a strange turn as he crosses the channel to Belgium; he rides one of the longest tramways in the world, the Kusttram, which runs the entire length of Belgium's coastline and he investigates how a beautiful seaside resort became the base for Albert Einstein's battle against Nazi tyranny. Nick also hunts down a forgotten masterpiece of surreal artist Rene Magritte, whose 'fish-headed woman' is just one of the extraordinary figures hidden away inside a grand casino on the Belgian coast.

Neil Oliver reveals the remarkable tale of Hitler's audacious gamble in 1942, when his biggest battleships steamed straight along the English Channel in broad daylight defying both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. Neil uncovers how the desperate fight to stop Hitler's warships within sight of the white cliffs of Dover made heroes of the few brave British forces who threw themselves against the might of the German Navy.

Alice Roberts uncovers the surprising story behind the rise and fall of the seaside landlady, formidable female pioneers who began businesses long before women had the vote. In Margate Alice learns the secrets of being a successful landlady from women who together have over 100 years experience in ruling the roost.

In the fabulously preserved medieval city of Bruges, Mark Horton unearths why our ancestors came there 700 years ago to re-discover the forgotten art of making bricks, skills that were lost to Britain for centuries after the Romans left these shores.

Plus Miranda Krestovnikoff is on the Belgian coast to meet the last few men who still use heavy horses to fish for shrimp. Miranda rides out to sea on one of the giant horses to experience an age-old way of life on the verge of extinction as the shrimp fishermen are being squeezed out by coastal development.