Episode 1 The Birth of Industry – Tony embarks on expeditions through some of Britain’s most historic landscapes in search of the richest stories from the nation’s past. He begins with a 40 mile walk along the Derwent Valley in the Peak District, where the world’s industrial revolution was born. En route he visits the sleepy village of Cromford to find out about the work of entrepreneur Richard Arkwright, and stops off at a 900 year old stately home that has been used as the location for three Jane Eyre films. Brian Blessed also introduces Tony to the joys, and the significance, of the Cromford canal, before ending this leg of his journey in Derby.
Episode 2 Frontline Dorset – Tony embarks on an expedition along Dorset’s Jurassic coast to explore the county’s hidden Second World War story. Starting beside the defences on Chesil Beach, he heads east to finish in Swanage and Studland Bay. On his five day walk he encounters stunning scenery and uncovers wartime acts of ingenuity and bravery. He also discovers the crucial part a swannery played in developing a secret weapon and reveals the role of Dorset in protecting Britain from invasion during the conflict.
Episode 3 The Tudor Way – Tony sets off on a 45 mile hike through the countryside of the Weald in Kent and the Downs of East Sussex to discover the area’s rich and surprising Tudor heritage. At Penshurst Place, author Philippa Gregory helps him relish the fate of the Grand Duke of Buckingham at the hands of the young Henry VIII. From there, he travels up what used to be secret paths to Hever Castle and finds out how the monarch’s reign brought not just fame and disaster to the women who caught his eye, but also wrought huge social, political and industrial change. He ends this leg of his journey in Lewes, where he relives one of the more brutal monastic dissolutions.
Episode 4: Battle in the Glens – Tony goes on a four day trek through the Kintail region of the north western Highlands, examining the story of the Jacobite uprisings of the early 1700s along the way. He starts by visiting Iron Age dwellings in Shiel Bridge, and heads to the rebuilt castle on Eilean Donan, the original of which was destroyed after invading Spanish troops landed there and were attacked by British warships. Tony ends in Glen Shiel, the site of a climactic battle in 1719 where royalist troops defeated the rebels.
Episode 1 Stonehenge – Tony embarks on another expedition through some of Britain’s most historic landscapes. He begins with a 45 mile walk across Wiltshire, from Avebury to Stonehenge, telling the story of the remarkable development that occurred in the latter days of the Neolithic era. His route over chalk downlands and Salisbury Plain takes him through one of the greatest concentrations of prehistoric sites in Europe.
Episode 2 The Lakes – It was 30 years after the Romans invaded Britain that they were ready to take on the challenge of conquering the Lake District. With the toughest landscape they had encountered in the nation, peopled by a rebellious tribe, it was no small task, but within a few years, the whole of Lakeland was under their control. Tony tackles the journey by himself, walking 50 miles from Penrith to Ambleside and on to the Irish Sea at Ravenglass, discovering that the Romans encountered beauty and danger in equal measure.
Episode 3 Cornwall – Tony takes a four day trek along the coastline between Plymouth in Devon and Falmouth, learning about the thriving smuggling trade in Cornwall during the late 18th century. The area’s tiny secretive harbours, beaches and secluded coves were ideal for illicit imports such as tobacco and brandy, and the business was so huge it threatened the national economy. Along his route, visiting such beauty spots as Lantic Bay and Polperro, he encounters all sorts of reminders of the trade and meets descendants of those involved.
Episode 1 Wigan Pier – Tony embarks on another expedition through some of Britain’s most historic landscapes. He begins with a towpath exploration of industrial engineering along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Setting off from Liverpool, he takes a three day walk inland to Wigan, ending at the town’s iconic pier as he traces the story of the waterway’s chaotic construction and its impact on the development of Lancashire.
Episode 2 Northumbria – Tony explores the history of the ancient kingdom on a walk from Melrose in the Scottish Borders to Holy Island off the coast of Northumberland. Over five days, he goes on the trail of one of Northumbria’s greatest sons, Saint Cuthbert. Through the Tweed Valley and across the Cheviot Hills, it’s a journey through a murky history laden with myth. However, by investigating the communities, power bases and landscape of seventh century Northumbria, Tony aims to understand the pagan land in which Cuthbert spread his simple brand of Celtic Christianity.
Episode 3 North Norfolk – Tony travels along the north Norfolk coast through one of the least developed spots in Britain, finding out how the area maintained its rural, remote identity despite the dynamic industrial changes that arrived in the Victorian age. From the arrival of Bertie, Prince of Wales at Sandringham House to the opening of Cromer Pier, Tony’s four day walk sees him learn about key periods in Norfolk’s history. He explores prime shooting estates, purpose built seaside resorts, salt marshes and disused railway lines as he discovers how powerful landowners were able to control development and even shape the railways to suit their needs.
Episode 1 Bronte Country – Tony embarks on another expedition through some of Britain’s most historic landscapes. The moors and valleys of West Yorkshire were the home of, and inspiration for, the Brontes, the literary family who produced such classics as Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. Over four days, Tony heads out from the Victorian wool capital of Bradford and treks in a giant loop around what is now known as Bronte Country. From the birth of Charlotte, Emily, Anne and their brother Branwell in the suburb of Thornton, he traces their childhoods to the much romanticised Bronte hub of Haworth, finding that the harsh reality of life in the 1820s was far removed from the fantasy world dreamed up by the children at their father’s parsonage home.
Episode 2 Victoria and Albert’s Highland Fling – Tony visits the Cairngorms National Park to discover how Queen Victoria and Prince Albert helped shape Scottish traditions and imagery, such as tartan, bagpipes and caber tossing. Starting in Pitlochry, he traverses the Killiecrankie Pass, where the Jacobites won the Battle of Killiecrankie, and ends his trek at Balmoral and the fantasy castle Albert built as his and Victoria’s Highland escape.
Episode 3 Norman Conquest of Pembrokeshire – Tony heads to the south west corner of Wales and one of Britain’s finest coastal paths to find out why Pembrokeshire feels so English, even though it’s more than 100 miles from the border. With its numerous castles and a fine cathedral, there are sure signs the Normans stamped their mark over the area. Tony’s four day walk traces the story of their conquest of the county, which he discovers was very different from the knockout victory at Hastings, involving a long, fiercely fought struggle.
Episode 4 Nazi Occupation – Channel Islands. Tony heads to Guernsey and Jersey to tell the story of the islands’ surrender to the Nazis during the Second World War. In Guernsey, he hears of the first bombing raid that heralded the German troops’ arrival and sees the spot where the first ever British commando landed in secret, only to see the planned revenge raid fail spectacularly. A ferry then takes him on to Jersey, where he finds almost all of its beaches have a bunker or a machine gun post left over from the conflict.
Episode 5 King John’s Ruin – Peak District. As the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta in June 1215 approaches, Tony sets out to discover the real King John. His walk across the medieval monarch’s stamping grounds of Sherwood Forest and the Peak District reveals a hapless man stumbling from crisis to crisis who, in the end, had no choice but to sign away some of his power. In the midst of what are now cultivated fields, Tony finds the scant remains of Laxton Castle, once the control centre where strict forest law was administered and where taxes and fines flooded into the royal coffers. Later, in Sherwood, he explores how the myth of Robin Hood has helped to skew the public’s image of King John.
Episode 6 England’s Last Battle – West Country. Tony hikes up from Lyme Regis on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast to the Somerset Levels in the footsteps of a ragtag rebel army led by the young Duke of Monmouth, the illegitimate son of Charles II. He sailed in from Holland around Lyme’s famous Cobb with a handful of soldiers, believing the people would support him in overthrowing the newly crowned James II, who was also Monmouth’s uncle, but, more importantly, Roman Catholic. The year was 1685 and the country was riven by anti-Catholic feeling mixed up with revolutionary zeal. Monmouth marched through the fiercely independent towns of Devon, gathering support from artisans and farmworkers. Meeting up with Billy Bragg in Colyton, Tony learns about the kind of people prepared to risk their lives for the Monmouth Rebellion.