JW and I have enjoyed this series. It is on BBC 2 at 6.30pm Monday to Friday and is presented by Michael Portillo.

I was never a great fan of Michael when he was an M.P. but he is excellent on this programme and keeps your interest throughout. He is exploring various regions in Britain, armed with a Bradshaw’s guide, and using the lines in use in Bradshaw’s time.

George Bradshaw worked on the canals  originally and when he realised that there was no comprehensive timetable for the railways so he travelled around the country, visiting all the towns and villages and compiled not onlya comprehensive timetable, but a guide to points of interest at the destinations and in 1840 published it as “The Railway Companion”.

 It was an immediate success and was updated and reprinted many times.

Michael covers a different area of the country each week using the same lines, where they survive after the savage Beeching cuts, and then tries to find the places of interest mentioned in the guide.

It is a splendid mixture of scenery and history and also reminds us of those enterprising Victorians who made full use of the opportunities brought by the opening up of the country by the railways. It also reminds us that many of those Victorians  who became wealthy also became great philanthropists and reformers and used their wealth and power to improve life for the workers by buiding schools, hospitals, model villages and endowing universities.

The series has given me a great urge to visit more parts of the country, stop off at the little old country stations and to explore further the points of interest. There used to be rail rover tickets before the railways were privatised. I wonder if they still exist?

Advertisements