On ITV as I write:

Next programme - 7th June, The Chilterns

The team travels to the Chilterns, an area steeped in ancient crafts and traditions, which is less than 50 miles from the centre of London. Paul Heiney meets the men still making bricks by hand, historian Bettany Hughes tells the story of boating on the Thames, and chef Mike Robinson visits a farm rearing a centuries-old English duck.

Countrywise seems like an ITV landlubbers’ version of the BBC’s Coast — a bunch of TV-friendly faces descend on somewhere very rural and quirky — and ‘discover the stories behind it’ or some such.

It’s presented by Paul Heiney, whom I still remember from being one of Esther Rantzen’s acolytes on That’s Life along with Glyn Worsnip and Kieran Prendeville.

They’re at Waterperry Gardens now, which isn’t really in the Chilterns — it’s in a place so flat it gets flooded by the River Thame — funny how they didn’t feature the nearby M40 too.

But the overall premise of the programme was that it was amazing that this area of beech woodlands, quaint hand-made brick houses, free-range ducks in the forests and so on was a ‘mere stones throw from the capital’. There was a view repeatedly shown throughout the programme which was filmed from Coombe Hill towards the south-west — if there was an incredibly high-definition TV picture you might have been able to see where I live. It’s exactly the same view as the first of the panoramic photos in this posting from a few weeks ago.

There were a couple of local pubs I saw in passing — The Stag and Huntsman in Hambleden (near Henley) and the George and Dragon in Quainton (north of Aylesbury).

The Chilterns must be almost unique in this country as an area of outstanding natural beauty that very few people actually go and stay away in. The North and South Downs are similar distances from London but I’d bet that the North Downs get more tourists — and the South Downs definitely would.

So the area is potentially rather good for a novel setting — very few places in the country can offer the contrast of amazingly well known and surprisingly unknown within the space of 40 miles.

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