Episode 1: Southern England

Filmed on location in: Southern England

Southern England – a region of engineering marvels and ancient masterworks, hectic cities and quiet countryside, and real and fictional heroes. From the great cliffs where a mythical King emerged to the glittering towers of a financial superpower, this show surveys southern England’s most famous sites, while uncovering the incredible human stories of its inhabitants.

The people who live and work in southern England make the region what it is. People like Philip Otto, founder of Thames Limos, a luxury charter riverboat service that offers celebrities and those who can afford it a peaceful and hassle-free way to traverse London. At West Bradley Orchards in Somerset we follow apple-pickers as they gather the basic ingredient of a classic English drink: cider. At Henstridge Airfield we see Annabelle Burroughs, a trainer of future pilots at what was once a World War 2 aviation school. And at Cambridge University we observe the women’s boat club training for an upcoming race.

The show also reveals more about some of southern England’s most notable residents, both living and dead. At Bristol we discover the work of street artist Bansky – he may be one of the world’s most sought-after artists but his true identity remains unknown. At Stratford-upon-Avon, we watch a group of actors rehearse a play by William Shakespeare. The only difference between them and hundreds of other Shakespearean groups is that they get to rehearse in the back garden of the Bard’s house. And at the breathtaking, stately Blenheim Palace we discover the birthplace of Britain’s great wartime leader Winston Churchill. The British were not the only ones to die defending this island and at the American War Cemetery we discover the final resting place of 3,812 U.S. servicemen and women who lost their lives in WW2.

Enormous, sprawling London is one of the world’s largest and oldest cities, and for thousands of years the River Thames has been its lifeblood. Swooping over the boats that populate the ancient watercourse we follow it past the iconic Tower Bridge and to the Houses of Parliament at Westminster, dominated by the great clocktower Big Ben, now undergoing major reconstruction. Just as familiar is the grand façade of Buckingham Palace, residence of the Queen. Most visitors count themselves lucky if they catch a glimpse of Britain’s monarch, but in 1982 intruder Michael Fagan got up close and personal. At a sports complex in west London, we watch as the groundskeepers prepare the courts for the world’s most prestigious tennis tournament – Wimbledon.

England’s buildings and structures are among the finest in the world, and drone photography offers unparalleled views of these manmade marvels. From the 1,500-ton Clifton Suspension Bridge, created by engineering genius Isambard Kingdom Brunel, to the incredible subway that connects an island to a continent – the Channel Tunnel. And here and there are glimpses of what lies in store in the future: In Cornwall we are surprised by the Eden Project, a visionary recreation of a rainforest housed in tropical domes in a crater the size of 30 football pitches.

Southern England. A place where people and places, myth and history, future and past, intermingle in a unique and vibrant blend that remains quintessentially English.

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