Brighton Magazine

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Monday 07 November 2016

Interview: Nicholas Crane A Sussex Born National Treasure

After bringing the people and places of Britain into the comfort of viewers' living rooms with Coast and Town, geographer Nicholas Crane, born in Hastings, East Sussex, has just completed his greatest work to date.

Crane has been involved in some of the BBC's best-loved and most ambitious programs about the British Isles. 

Even his time as lead presenter on Coast and Town, however, can't compare to the scale and passion of his latest written endeavour – an incredible geographical history of old Blighty entitled The Making of the British Landscape: From the Ice Age to the Present that spans over 30,000 years.

"It's a book that matters dearly to me, I've been working on it for about 8 years and thinking about it for about 20 or 30 years," says the 62-year-old. 

"It's a bit of a life project, and it's very rewarding when readers pick up on it as a subject. I've been getting an amazing reception at literary festivals and schools and all the other regional places I've been going to."

And although Crane may well have walked the length and breadth of Britain more times than anybody in recent history, the ever-enthusiastic Hastings-native made the decision to revisit many of the places he mentioned in his newest book.

"Some of them I'd already been to several times, other ones I went back over the last eight years as field trips from London," he explains. 

"I'd go out with a camera and a notebook and I'd revisit specific places - and I'm still doing it! It'll be a work in progress for the rest of my life. 

"I'm still going on these field trips, filling in the gaps in my own knowledge, because even if you lived to one-hundred you wouldn't be able to visit all of these places in your lifetime. Britain has thousands and thousands of sites that help to tell its story."

The sight of Crane bounding headlong into a torrential downpour with his trusty umbrella in hand on Coast was one of the many things that kept viewers returning series after series to learn more about the "huge range of geology and natural topography" that makesBritain a unique global landscape. 

The humble Crane, however, defers the attraction of Coast – now in its eleventh season– to the "wonderful people" of Britain, and the "huge amount of time and money put in bythe BBC to get amazing footage and stunning aerial shots of the coastline."

As well as the incredible work educating people about the geographical past of Britain – reflected in his respected position as the President of the Royal Geographical Society– Crane is keen to travel more of the globe, especially to places that have been affected by the endless march of climate change.

"A long time ago I cycled across Tibet, and I would love to go back there, and I've never been to Antarctica - I've been to the Arctic for cycling, skiing and by boat, but I'd love to go to Antarctica," he enthuses. 

"I'd also be very interested to go back to Bangladesh. I went there in the 80s but would be very happy to go back because I think Bangladesh is going to be a very good barometer of climate change because it's so low-lying and prone to flooding. I'd be very interested to spend some time there looking at how climate change is going to affect that country."

First though, there's the small matter of promoting his recent magnum opus – and even after decades of hard graft, Crane isn't the type to just put his feet up.

"I'll be starting another book within a few weeks, and possibly doing some TV but I haven't quite decided yet," he says. 

"For the next month I'm flat out, charging around the country talking about The Making of the British Landscape. 

"Having spent eight years writing it, I need to help it along as much as possible!"

More information about the role the Royal Geographical Society plays in developing and promoting geographical knowledge, and applying this research to resisting the challenges facing our society and the environment, can be found at www.rgs.org

The Making of the British Landscape: From the Ice Age to the Present is available via Orion Books RRP £20.

by: Jake Taylor




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