by Chris Leadbeater, The Daily Telegraph, February 1, 2017
A familiar face on television screens, Robson Green returns to our living rooms tonight at the helm of Tales from the Coast.
One man’s love letter to Britain’s meandering shoreline, the series takes him along the edges of Devon, Essex, Suffolk, the Hebrides and Pembrokeshire for sharp-toothed wildlife encounters and scenic splendours. Here he talks about the background to the series and some of his favourite locations.
How did the series come about?
It was a progression from Tales from Northumberland [his ITV series]; I know that part of the country well. The idea here was to do something on a grander scale.
Robson Green tackles the British coastline as part of a new ITV series.
Did you know any of the coastal areas beforehand?
My family went to north Devon every year when I was a child – nine hours in a Hillman Imp. We’d have a picnic by the motorway, with juggernauts flying past at 70mph. I loved those days, and so did my dad. He worked down the mine, so I guess he had a need, for fresh air, peace and quiet.
Where did the Green family go?
We went a lot to Ilfracombe and Clovelly. I have fond memories of Dad refusing to wear a shirt. Everywhere we went, he was bare-chested. Even restaurants. No one would argue with him because he was a big, powerful miner; he liked the breeze on his skin.
Has the area changed?
Not really. Devon still evokes the Seventies and Eighties for me. Of course, you have Wi-Fi in hotels now – but the landscape and the tranquillity haven’t changed.
Was climbing the Devil’s Slide as frightening as it sounds?
Hell yes. It’s a very acute, steep slab of granite – the largest in Europe – on Lundy, an island in the Bristol Channel. I was assured that it’s possible as long as you are fit – and I am. But I’m not good with heights. Halfway up, I was well beyond my comfort zone. I was attached to a rope – but even so, I was terrified. But that wasn’t the only time I was unnerved on Lundy. I went diving with seals, and a male decided I’d spent too much time around his ladies and pups. He bit my leg and hammered into my chest. I felt oddly humbled. It’s all well and good connecting with marine life, but you have to remember these animals are wild. This chap had had enough of me.
Do we appreciate our own country enough?
Definitely not. There are places in the UK that people from other parts of the world would pay thousands to see, such as the Outer Hebrides. I’m lucky; I’ve visited more than 130 countries. But I tell you, there are parts of the Hebrides that compare to the Seychelles . Luskentyre Beach [on Harris] is one of the best on the planet.
Luskentyre Beach It sounds as if the Hebrides won you over…
I’d been before, but not to Luskentyre. It was midsummer, and there was hardly anyone else there. I sat alone in my tent for a day and a half.
Were the Hebrides the wildest part of the journey?
Yes. I felt a sense of isolation. I harvested kelp with a guy who fuses it with gin to make this wonderful liquor. I saw sea eagles taking fish off the water’s surface. Amazing place.
Surely Skokholm was just as wild?
Skokholm is remarkable. It’s a protected island off the Pembrokeshire coast, and I was interested in the only two people who live there [the island’s wardens, Richard Brown and Giselle Eagle], who are a couple. Could it really be a romantic existence on this wave-lashed seabird haven? But they love what they’re doing. The logistics are pretty basic – they live in a lighthouse, the weather can be brutal, and they can be detached for weeks.
Did you have any encounters with the 'locals’?
There’s a seagull there, the great black-backed gull, which rips other bird life to bits. I remember having this eerie vision as the sun was setting – a cluster of them silhouetted, waiting for a kill. I never thought a seagull could be so aggressive. It gave me new perspective on British bird life. On the surface these gulls appear beautiful, harmless, even endearing, but they have this incredibly vicious side – dark and violent.
Was the Essex coast less demanding?
No. I entered the Maldon Mud Race [the annual spring challenge in which competitors dash 500m across the bed of the River Blackwater]. I knew the history of it, and that up to 3,000 people can take part. But it was hard. I train every week, and I run regularly. But I was nearly hallucinating by the end. I’d like to attempt it again. I only came second, so…
A participant in the Maldon Mud RaceYou also met former Mods and Rockers in Clacton. Did old rivalries linger?
Well, 1964 was the year I was born, so I perhaps didn’t realise how dramatic those seaside clashes were until I saw the newsreels. I still can’t fathom why musical taste and style of dress should be the premise for a fight. But I questioned these lovely women, now in their 60s; asked them if they thought it was all just men being stupid. And they said, “Oh no, we loved being fought over.” Maybe the rivalry is still there – but it’s on a friendly level.
Do you have a wishlist for a second series?
Tales from the Coast with Robson Green starts tonight at 8pm on ITV.
This article was written by Chris Leadbeater from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.