All right, it wasn’t as exotic as when he does the Great Continental Railway Journeys, but how brilliant was the first week of the new series :-)? Showcasing some of the wonders of my own home territory, North West England, and mainly filmed on lovely sunny spring/summer’s days! Michael Portillo always annoyed me as a politician, but he does a great job of presenting these railway programmes. We started off in Carlisle, where a lot of attention was paid to the Victorian fondness for “fancy biscuits” like custard creams :-). Then on to Honister Slate Mine, near Buttermere, and Penrith. Then Windermere, one of my favourite places in the entire world! And Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s home in lovely Near Sawrey. That’s on the Lancashire side of Windermere, none of yer 1974 boundaries rubbish! Then a Kendal mint cake factory :-). And a visit to Brantwood, Ruskin’s home at beautiful Coniston. Michael was so busy being Victorian that he never mentioned Donald Campbell and Bluebird once! And on to Carnforth station, famed for being where Brief Encounter was filmed.
Next up was a look into industrial protests in Proud Preston, and visits to Darwen, Entwistle (yes, that’s the correct spelling, and it’s so annoying when people put an h in there!), Liverpool, and Salford. Matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs … the Lowry Centre, which I shall be visiting on Thursday. And Kersal Moor, which is within walking distance of chez moi, and has all sorts of historical and political connotations … about which I shall refrain from writing a long essay just now. He didn’t actually talk about the Chartists, but concentrated on Edwin Waugh, the Lancashire poet whose works I read a lot of whilst researching my university dissertation.
Then on to glassmaking in St Helens, and then the posh stuff at Tatton Park, another favourite spot of mine. And a discussion about Mrs Gaskell, in Knutsford. Finally, silk-making in Macclesfield, and then on to the North Midlands with a visit to Alton Towers.
There are plenty of other places in North West England which he could have visited, not least our great and wonderful city of Manchester itself :-), but he packed a lot into a week, and showed how the North West in Victorian times was home to both industry of all sorts and probably the most beautiful scenery in England. As, indeed, it still is :-).
Next week’s episodes are set along the south coast. I’m sure they’ll be interesting, but this week, in my own home territory, has been really special. This is such a fascinating series, both when it’s on the Continent and when it’s here in the UK. Good stuff :-).