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Land's End to John O'Groats

A sequence of poetry, prose and music associated with places on the way from Land's End to John O'Groats. With readings by Claudie Blakley and Greg Wise.

Today's Words and Music plots the route from Land's End to John o'Groats, featuring literary characters and situations, writers, poets, historical events, and music associated with places along the way. Beginning on the Cornish cliffs with Henry Alford, through Devon with Sir Henry Baskerville on Dartmoor, to Somerset where secret agent Jim Prideaux is lying low in Taunton. John Betjeman's bells in Bristol, across the Severn Bridge into Monmouth, and more bells in Ledbury described by Wordsworth. A recipe from Shrewsbury, witches in Lancashire, and a composer searching for inspiration in the Lake District. Across the border into Scotland and a fugitive hiding in Galloway, old photographs from Glasgow, a fair maid in Perth and a lovely lass in Inverness. Excerpts are read by Claudie Blakley and Greg Wise.

Producer - Ellie Mant.

1 hour, 15 minutes

Last on

Sun 16 Aug 2015 18:15

Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 00:00

    Malcolm Arnold

    Cornish Dances Op.91; Con moto e sempre senza parodia

    Performer: Grimethorpe Colliery band, Elgar Howarth (conductor).
    • CONIFER CDCF 222.
    • Tr22.
  • Henry Alford

    The Land’'s End, read by Greg Wise

  • 00:02

    Dame Ethel Smyth

    The Wreckers: Act 2 Prelude – On the Cliffs of Cornwall (excerpt)

    Performer: BBC Philharmonic, Odaline de la Martinez (condutor).
    • CONIFER CDCF2501.
    • CD2 tr1.
  • Daphne Du Maurier

    Jamaica Inn, read by Claudie Blakley

  • Sir Henry John Newbolt

    Laudabunt Alii, read by Greg Wise

  • 00:07

    Charles Villiers Stanford

    Songs of the Sea; Drake’s drum

    Performer: Thomas Allen (baritone), London Philharmonic Choir, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Roger Norrington (conductor).
    • LONDON 4451472.
    • Tr3.
  • 00:10

    Hans Zimmer

    Sherlock Holmes –- He’s killed the dog again (excerpt)

    Performer: Orchestra, Gavin Greenaway (conductor).
    • SONY 88697630662.
    • Tr6.
  • Arthur Conan Doyle

    The Hound of the Baskervilles, read by Greg Wise

  • John Le Carre

    Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy, read by Claudie Blakley

  • 00:14

    Gustav Holst

    A Somerset rhapsody (excerpt)

    Performer: London Symphony Orchestra, Richard Hickox (conductor).
    • CHANDOS CHAN9420.
    • Tr2.
  • John Betjeman

    Bristol, read by Greg Wise

  • 00:19

    Grace Williams

    Severn Bridge Variations

    Performer: BBC Symphony Orchestra, Jac van Steen (conductor).
    • NMC NMCD062.
    • Tr12.
  • J. Endell Tyler

    Henry of Monmouth, Volume 1, Memoirs of Henry the Fifth, read by Claudie Blakley

  • 00:24

    Alun Hoddinott

    Four Welsh Dances, Op.15; 2nd movement -– Presto

    Performer: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Charles Groves (conductor).
    • LYRITA SRCD334.
    • Tr2.
  • William Wordsworth

    St Catherine of Ledbury, read by Greg Wise

  • 00:27

    Edward Elgar

    Pastourelle, Op.4’'2

    Performer: Marat Bisengaliev (violin), Benjamin Frith (piano).
    • BLACK BOX BBM1047.
    • Tr2.
  • The Compleat Cook

    Expertly Prescribing The Most Ready Wayes, Whether Italian, Spanish Or French, For Dressing Of Flesh And Fish, Ordering Of Sauces Or Making Of Pastry, read by Claudie Blakley

  • 00:31

    George Butterworth

    6 Songs from A Shropshire lad; 'When I was one-and-twenty'

    Performer: Anthony Rolfe Johnson (tenor), David Willison (piano).
    • EMI CZS5747852.
    • CD2 t12.
  • Herman Melville

    Redburn. His First Voyage, read by Greg Wise

  • 00:34

    James Stewart Robinson

    The Liverpool Hornpipe (excerpt)

    Performer: Jordi Savall (treble viol), Andrew Lawrence-King (Irish harp), Frank McGuire (bodhran).
    • ALIA VOX AVSA9878.
    • Tr27.
  • Carol Ann Duffy

    The Lancashire Witches, read by Claudie Blakley

  • 00:38

    William Walton

    Macbeth: Fanfare & March (excerpt)

    Performer: Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Neville Marriner (conductor).
    • CHANDOS CHAN8841.
    • Tr11.
  • Ian McEwan

    Amsterdam, read by Claudie Blakley

  • John Buchan

    The 39 Steps, read by Greg Wise

  • 00:47

    John McEwen

    Grey Galloway (Three Border ballads) (excerpt)

    Performer: The London Philharmonic, Alasdair Mitchell (conductor).
    • CHANDOS CHAN9241.
    • Tr1.
  • Liz Lochhead

    Some Old Photographs, read by Claudie Blakley

  • 00:52



    Performer: Alfred Deller (countertenor), Desmond Dupre (guitar), John Sothcott (recorder).
    • VANGUARD 08503271.
    • Tr5.
  • Walter Scott

    The Fair Maid of Perth, read by Greg Wise

  • 00:57

    Georges Bizet

    La Jolie Fille de Perth; Prelude

    Performer: London Symphony Orchestra, Roberto Benzi (conductor).
    • PHILIPS 4422722.
    • CD2 t10.
  • Andrew Lang

    Culloden, read by Claudie Blakley

  • 01:03

    Ludwig van Beethoven

    The Lovely Lass o'’Inverness

    Performer: Julie Kaufmann (mezzo-soprano), New Munich Piano Trio.
    • ORFEO C 378951ª.
    • Tr14.
  • Robert Naylor and John Naylor

    From John O'’Groats to Land'’s End, read by Greg Wise

  • 01:07

    Hamish MacCunn

    The Land of the Mountain and the Flood (excerpt)

    Performer: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Martyn Brabbins (conductor).
    • HYPERION CDA66815.
    • Tr1.
  • Robert Burns

    Farewell to the Highlands, read by Claudie Blakley

  • 01:10

    Joseph Haydn

    My Heart’s in the Highlands

    Performer: Alison Bury (violin), Anthony Pleeth (cello), Melvyn Tan (fortepiano).
    • MERIDIAN ECD84080.
    • Tr4.

Producer Note

Today’s Words and Music plots the route from Land’s End to John o’Groats, featuring literary characters and situations, writers, poets, historical events, and music associated with places along the way. Excerpts are read by Claudie Blakley and Greg Wise.

We start on the cliffs of Cornwall, described by Henry Alford in his poem The Land’s End, and accompanied by one of Malcolm Arnold’s Cornish Dances. Then to Du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn, the location for a story about wide-scale smuggling on the Cornish coast – a theme also used in Ethel Smyth’s opera The Wreckers. Henry Newbolt says in his poem Laudabunt Alii that nowhere in the world can compare to Devon, though for Sir Henry Baskerville in The Hound of the Baskervilles, the county is fraught with danger; just as well Sherlock Holmes is around to help. On to Somerset, where secret agent Jim Prideaux is lying low in Taunton in Le Carre’s Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy – Holst’s Somerset Rhapsody provides the accompaniment. John Betjeman represents Bristol, with his description of bell ringing sounding across the Avon.

We cross the Severn Bridge into Wales with Grace Williams’ contribution to a piece written by eminent composers of the time to celebrate its opening in 1966. A brief stop in Monmouth, and a historical account of the birthplace of Henry V.  Back in England, and Wordsworth’s sonnet describing Ledbury bells sounding as high as Malvern’s cloudy crest – this of course followed by Elgar. Shrewsbury is celebrated with a 1658 recipe for Shrewsbury Cakes, paired with one of Butterworth’s Songs from A Shropshire Lad. Then to Liverpool where Herman Melville’s Redburn has docked on his first voyage. Carol Ann Duffy’s The Lancashire Witches takes as its theme the famous Pendle Witch trials of 1612; Lancashire-born William Walton accompanies with music to depict another famous set of witches from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. In Ian McEwen’s novel Amsterdam, composer Clive Linley desperately tries to find inspiration for his symphony while walking in the Lake District, underlaid by Maurice Johnstone’s Cumbrian Rhapsody.

Across the border into Scotland, and John Buchan’s character Richard Hannay is hiding from the police somewhere in Galloway. On up to Glasgow, and Liz Lochhead’s evocative poem about old photographs taken there; an old recording of Alfred Deller singing a folksong called Lowlands seemed to suit the nostalgic mood. No trip through Scotland would be complete without some writing by Walter Scott – I chose an extract from The Fair Maid of Perth, a novel which was given an operatic treatment by Georges Bizet. Through Drummosie Moor, famous for the Battle of Culloden – Beethoven’s Lovely Lass of Inverness mourns the loss of her menfolk there. The next extract is from the journal of two brothers who did the first recorded walk of the route in 1871, stopping in Wick for a herring breakfast. The programme ends with Robert Burns’ poem My Heart’s in the Highlands, and Haydn’s setting of the melody for piano trio.  

Producer – Ellie Mant


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