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24 September 2014

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Thursday 26 October: Dover to Isle of Wight


Dover to Isle of Wight

Map showing Dover to the Isle of Wight
The beautiful cliffs of Dover are a breathtaking sight. On this stretch of the coastline chalk has not only defined and shaped the landscape but has also been the starting point of many innovators and their pioneering work.

Our guide Neil Oliver takes over from Nicholas Crane this series, and guides us along this journey of beautiful scenery and remarkable discoveries.

The Channel Tunnel – new thought or had we been there before?
Cliffs of chalk along the coastSurprisingly this was not a 20th Century idea. The first suggestion that a tunnel should be built between the UK and France was proposed by the Amiens Academy (in France) in 1751, but it wasn’t until 1833 that the first systematic investigation was carried out.

A French engineer called Thome de Gammond knew that chalk was good for tunnelling and carried out several dives to the bottom of the Channel to find out if chalk was present.

Map showing layers of chalk between Britain and FranceIt was, but he couldn't raise the money to start tunnelling.

Neil Oliver ventures to the bottom of the sea in his quest to discover the history of building a tunnel across the English Channel. On his journey he discovers the first ever trial tunnel for such a scheme dates back to 1880.

Dungeness Nature Reserve
Aerial picture of the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch railway Neil Oliver travels on the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway to Dungeness which has the largest English shingle bank. Now a massive nature reserve, it's home to countless insect varieties and two nuclear power stations. Neil meets Owen Leyshon, warden to the nature reserve to find out about its rich landscape which is home to a third of all plant species in Britain.

Seasearch Survey
Beneath the chalk cliffs, in the depths of the Channel, the chalk ledges on the sea bed are a marine environment that we know very little about.

For Miranda Krestovnikoff, this is a first as she dives with a team from Seasearch to investigate and record information about the number of animals and plants on these chalk ledges.

Hastings Architectural Masterpieces
CGI showing how the Hastings & St Leonards Bathing pool looked  In the 1930's Sydney Little, a local borough engineer, transformed the sea front. Using revolutionary materials and a little radical thinking he created some of this coasts hidden gems. Neil Oliver uncovers his work from the Carlisle Parade car park to what was once one of the biggest outdoor pools in Europe, the Hastings & St Leonards Bathing Pool.

Directions to the original site for Hastings & St Leonards Bathing Pool: The old site is at the west end of the sea front, and is now a large grassed area.

Beachy Head - Eroding Coastline
Nicholas Crane investigating the erosion of chalk on a cliff faceFor some time there has been concern over the erosion of this part of the coastline, resulting in drastic action being taken in 1999 when the Belle Tout Lighthouse was physically moved 17 metres inland from the edge of the cliff.

Nicholas Crane meets Professor Rory Mortimore to look closely at why the cliffs are eroding and discovers that they are being sabotaged by more than just the waves crashing beneath them.

Limpets attach themselves to the rock by secreting an acid so that they can create a space, this is dissolving he chalk and lowering the shore platform, resulting in deeper water for waves to attack the base of the cliffs. But while a living organism attacks the chalk, it also is the reason it's there in the first place as the chalk is made from the shells produced by an algae called Emiliana Huxleyi.

Is Southampton the oldest active port?
Mark Horton sailing in The Solent on a half scale replica of a Saxon shipMark Horton investigates Southampton's claim to be the oldest continually active port and talks to city archaeologist Andy Russel about its history.

He starts his journey on The Solent in a half scale replica of a Saxon ship found during an archaeological dig at Sutton Hoo.

The Saxon connection to Southampton is strong. After all the town began life as Hamwic (founded c 650-70). Recently an early Saxon cemetery has been found beneath the football Stadium containing weapons and jewellery, some of which originate from the continent.

On his journey Mark discovers that Southampton owes its success to as much to its geography as anything else. It has what's called a double tide, resulting in a longer high tide than anywhere else on the South coast.

For more information contact: Andy Russel

Isle of Wight - UK's Space Race of the 60's
Aerial picture of the rocket testing site at Highdown
The Isle of Wight played a key role in both Britain's space and nuclear missile programme in the 1960's.

The site at Highdown, just above The Needles was at the forefront of technology and research into how rockets behaved both in space and when they re-entered the atmosphere. To conduct these experiments a rocket called Black Knight was built and tested.

Alice Roberts joins engineers from the original research team and discovers that not only did Black Knight accomplish its mission, but its successor, Black Arrow launched the British satellite 'Prospero' into space. But funding for the space project was withdrawn in favour of developing Concorde, the legendary supersonic plane.

But even now, with the luxury plane grounded, its legend overshadows the space pioneers. A visit to the National Museum of Flight in East Fortune, Scotland, reveals Concorde displayed in pride of place, while the Black Arrow is currently relegated to a storage room.

Shanklin Chine – Operation Pluto
Map showing the pipe network from Liverpool to France as part of Operation PlutoShanklin Chine provided an important connection for the Second World War. The pipe laid here connected a pipe network from the port of Liverpool across to France to transport fuel to help the allied invasions. Known as Operation Pluto, the project was an ambitious and remarkable piece of engineering, with the pipe being laid across the Channel in just 10 hours.

Would you like to find out what music was used in this programme?

Dover to Isle of Wight: Thursday 26 Oct, 8pm on BBC TWO


Coast Series 2

Dover to Isle of Wight

Holyhead to Liverpool

Arran to Gretna

Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly

Dublin to Derry

Newcastle to Hull

The Outer Hebrides

Felixstowe to Margate

See Also

Meet your Coast experts:

Neil Oliver
Alice Roberts
Mark Horton
Miranda Krestovnikoff
Nicholas Crane
Hermione Cockburn
Dick Strawbridge

On the rest of the web
Romney Hythe railway Seasearch Survey
Hastings Bathing Pool
Hastings Museum

Beachy Head

Southampton Council

Sutton Hoo

Black Knight engineer's grandson's blog

The Needles Old Battery

Shanklin Chine


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Programme 2 West England - Holyhead to Liverpool

Neil Oliver explores an inaccessible cave inlaid with beautiful stonework - who was the mystery builder? Nick shows us how to read the history of your local beach and Alice traces the story of a foreign boy washed up on the Welsh shore and how he changed the history of medicine.

  Map showing Holyhead to Liverpool

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