Britain’s mountains hit the small screen again soon with a series devoted to the wild uplands.
Griff Rhys-Jones will present the BBC series Mountain
Comedian and actor Griff Rhys-Jones will present Mountain, which the BBC says is part of its Ultimate Outdoors season. In the first episode, the former Not the Nine O’Clock News star explores Scotland’s north-west Highlands.
The show will be broadcast on BBC1, but as yet no time has been set, though it is due for transmission between 28 July and 3 August. According to the blurb, Mr Rhys-Jones meets a crofter whose mission is to tempt people back to the land, and an artist who loves the region’s emptiness.
Also, the BBC says: “On the Isle of Skye, he explores the mountain range that is privately owned, but up for sale.” That would be the Cuillins, then, eh?
The Mountain series continues the encouraging trend of broadcasters discovering what an amazing landscape we have on our own doorsteps, particularly on the high ground of Britain.
Griff Rhys-Jones during filming of Mountain
The Beeb has already commissioned a second set of Julia Bradbury’s Wainwright’s Walks, following the Grumpy Old Fellwalker’s illustrated guides to the Lakeland Fells. Griff Rhys-Jones himself eschews the delights of foreign holidays. He was quoted in The Guardian last year as saying: “For me real peace is lying on a river bank in summer with a sprig of grass in my mouth. I have friends who jet off to a luxury hotel. I think: 'How can you enjoy such ghastly luxury?’.”
Luxury is certainly not something the Welsh-born presenter will encounter on his mountain-top jaunts. The frozen wilderness of the far North-West is closer to the Arctic Circle than to his London home. It is only slightly more populated than the Sahara, though at one time was home to half the population of Scotland.
During the Mountain series, Griff Rhys-Jones visits Wales, the Lake District and the Pennines in northern England. He also takes up the gauntlet thrown down by Julia Bradbury in her ascent of Sharp Edge with even more severe routes up the north face of Ben Nevis, Napes Needle on Great Gable and Tryfan in the Ogwen Valley.
Here’s what the BBC says about Mountain: “Across five one hour programmes the series reveals Britain as never seen before, featuring some of most awe inspiring scenery in our country, all shot in high definition using the latest aerial technology.
“Surprisingly a third of the British Isles consists of upland areas and, in a total departure for Griff, we see him attempt some of the most hair-raising climbs they offer as well as enjoy their most stunning scenery, as he investigates the cultural history, ecology and appeal of our highlands.
“Griff’s journey begins in the land of his fathers, Wales, and ends in the northernmost tip of our mainland, on the snow clad slopes of Ben Hope in north-west Scotland. During his odyssey he discovers how the very notion of scenic beauty became defined in the Lake District; he explores the mountains at the heart of our industrial revolution, the Pennines, and he grapples with the uniquely inspiring peaks of the Grampian mountains of central Scotland – once the homeland of the Scottish highland clans and rebels.
“Griff sets himself a mission to unlock the history of our mountains as well as assess their future. Feats of mountaineering derring-do, both past and present, are explored as he himself tries some of our most famous ascents up the north face of the mighty Ben Nevis, Tryfan in Snowdonia, and Napes Needle in the Lakes. He also samples famous mountain trials including the gruelling Ben Race and Three Peaks Challenge. And we share more leisurely walks such as that along Cat Bells in the Lakes.
“As he digs into the history of our mountains and their people we encounter tales of massacre and outlaw in the Scottish highlands, and engage with those surviving customs of the hills from crofting to the game of shinty. We understand how extraordinary feats of engineering technology and progress brought the uplands to heel with road networks, railways and even canals. And we are told stories of the first tourists and explorers who unlocked the treasures of our hills.
“Our mountains are the custodians of rare ecologies; from unique and rare arctic plants, to the ancient Welsh hill ponies, Griff discovers how fragile these ecologies are and questions their future.
“And of course he encounters many fascinating people who love and engage with our mountains. From the practitioners of mountain yoga, to the geologists who tramp their slopes; the photographer who is enraptured with their beauty to the farmer who scrapes a livelihood; the rescue teams ready risk their lives to save others, and the mountaineer who trained for the original ascent of Everest on British soil.”
Presenter Griff Rhys-Jones in Mountain mode
So there we are: that’s our free advert for the BBC. God knows, they need as many friends as they can get at the moment. At least there’s no mention of a phone-in. Let’s just hope there’s no editing jiggery-pokery to undermine the integrity of the series.
All in all, it sounds an interesting prospect, and the recorder will be set at grough Mansions to capture Griff’s trip through the uplands of our nation.