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Shakespeare Special

To mark 400 years since Shakespeare's death, Countryfile travels the length and breadth of the country in search of the landscapes that inspired his works.

To mark the 400 years since Shakespeare's death, Countryfile travels the length and breadth of the country in search of the landscapes that inspired Shakespeare in his greatest works.

Ellie Harrison is in Warwickshire, rediscovering the ancient Forest of Arden and looking at Shakespeare's intimate knowledge of plants. Meanwhile, Matt Baker visits the Clydach Gorge, a magical hidden valley on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park, where local legend says Shakespeare wrote A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Also in the programme, John Craven is joined by Dame Judi Dench, one of Britain's best-loved Shakespearian actors. Together, they follow in the footsteps of Shakespeare and his players to Fordwich in Kent, where they performed for the town in 1605.

Joe Crowley visits the Minack Theatre in Cornwall to see how Shakespeare has had a dramatic effect on our landscape. And Adam looks at Shakespeare's relationship with the lucrative wool trade and takes sheep back to the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon for the first time in over a century.

1 hour

Last on

Mon 2 May 2016 00:25


In the Footsteps of William Shakespeare

In the Footsteps of William Shakespeare

Throughout his career William Shakespeare was part of The King's Men acting troupe and toured the length and breadth of the country under the patronage of James I. In this special show, John Craven teams up with a modern day Shakespearean actor, the one and only Dame Judi Dench. Together they make their way to Kent to meet Dr Siobhan Keenan who takes them on a journey which they hope will lead them to the very spot where Shakespeare is thought to have taken to the stage himself.  

Shakespeare on tour

The Lost Forest of Arden

The Lost Forest of Arden

Ellie Harrison tracks down one of Warwickshire’s forgotten landscapes, the now lost, ancient Forest of Arden. While on her travels, Ellie meets Professor Stanley Wells who explains how much the forest would have meant to Shakespeare and the inspiration he would have taken from it. Steven Falk shows Ellie how the forest could have looked like at the time of the bard and takes her to one of its last remaining landmarks. It not just threes though, author Jackie Bennett explains the importance and meaning of the flowers and herbs highlighted throughout his works. 

Discover more about Shakespeare's Forest of Arden   

A Midsummer Night’s Valley

A Midsummer Night’s Valley

Matt Baker delves into a hidden valley just outside Abergavenny to find the location that's thought to have inspired Shakespeare to write A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Matt is guided through the undergrowth of Cwm Pwca (Puck’s Valley) to Shakespeare's Cave by Jon Wohlgemuth and Dr Juliette Wood. Just watch out for those pesky fairies Matt!

Explore Cwm Pwca here

The Minack Theatre

The Minack Theatre

Situated on a rocky clifftop, overlooking the mighty Atlantic, the Minack Theatre has seen its fair share of Shakespearean plays since it was built by Rowena Cade in 1932. Joe Crowley explores the site and finds out what drove Rowena to build such a place with her own hands. Joe meets theatre manager Phil Jackson who has his own little bit of family history tied to the place. But it’s not just the theatre Joe has come to explore. Professor Peter Moore discusses the importance of the weather in Shakespeare’s work and how it would later inspire the building of one of the most dramatic looking theatres in the country.

Find out more about the Minack Theatre here

The Real Macbeth with Bill Paterson

The Real Macbeth with Bill Paterson
The dramatic landscape of Perthshire is where we find Actor Bill Paterson in search of the real Macbeth. Shakespeare’s famous interpretation has established King of Alba (Scotland) as one of the most celebrated villains in the history of literature, but as it turns out, the real Macbeth was far from that. However the locations in the play are most certainly real. Mike Strachan shows Bill the last surviving tree of the now infamous Birnam wood and climbs Dunsinane Hill with Professor Ted Cowan.

The real Macbeth

Shakespeare’s Sheep

Shakespeare’s Sheep

Adam Henson takes us to the heart of the Warwickshire countryside and with the help of writer and historian Phil Walling shines a light on one of the most important industries at the time of Shakespeare’s life, wool. Wool wasn’t just a small, cottage industry, many towns were built upon its wealth and that success brought with it many shady characters. One was incredibly close to William Shakespeare as former financier David Fallow explains to Adam. Adam celebrates the relationship between Shakespeare and the wool industry by taking ‘a small flock’ of Cotswold Sheep to the heart of Shakespeare’s world, Stratford-upon-Avon. What could possibly go wrong...?

Find out more about the history of the wool trade here  

Shakespeare’s Ale

Shakespeare’s Ale

They liked ale in the 16th Century, but not ale as we know it! The Bard of Barnsley Ian McMillan leads us through the merry tale of Shakespeare and his love of ale. Ian discovers the connections between Shakespeare’s family and ale. He then finds out how they would have originally brewed it with the help of Sharon Lippett at Mary Arden’s Farm. Ian then takes to the road to see how a local Warwickshire brewery brews the ale we know today and concludes his trip by testing his vintage 16th Century brew in a local pub. The final decision on whether it is any good is down to a Frenchman! 

Explore a day in the life of William Shakespeare


Role Contributor
Presenter Ellie Harrison
Presenter Matt Baker
Presenter John Craven
Presenter Judi Dench
Presenter Joe Crowley
Presenter Adam Henson
Executive Producer William Lyons
Series Producer Joanna Brame