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Didn’t get outside today? Listen to Coast and Country instead.


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You have that place in the world you secretly think you’re from–in another life or the one you very much wish you lived in. You adamantly collect from your imagination every pebble of truth–a special bloodline, that habit that so perfectly matches the natives. My mom swears she’s a coastal Italian, my sister just might be French, and I’m a pure-blooded country Englishwoman. OK, in reality it’s three-quarters “Great British”, and I don’t know a single relative on the island. But I can taste the briny laverbread in my mouth and feel the fog in my bones!

Like RadioLab, they’ve mastered the medium

I invite you to listen to my favorite escape short of visiting the British Isles, BBC Radio 4’s Coast and Country radio program, available as a podcast. But, you ask, isn’t radio about the outdoors a bit like dancing about painting? Not so with these masters of radio. Every week on coast and country the hosts skillfully depict a hill by drawing your attention to their quickening breath, or portray a sunny break in a forest by hushing up to let you hear the change of mood in the group.

The Brits have a rich heritage of protecting and discussing the importance and meaning of their landscape, which comes across well in the show, perhaps most of all in its sheer existence. The juggle between conservation and preservation, between natural and cultural heritage is also clear in the subject choice and journalistic questions they ask of the people living in the week’s countryside.

Start out with some of my favorites

Resistance (Nov 6, 2010). Hike the forests of Wales looking for underground bunkers to climb into with the then-young secret resistance forces that were prepared for Nazi invasions. (Download episode from the BBC or view here)

Country Ramblings (Oct 2, 2010). Join the Cultural Olympiad through the Forest of Dean with their donkey cart and a young ruffian who loves it. (Download episode from the BBC or view here)

New Forest Mushrooms (Nov 20, 2010). Sniff out pounds of delicacies with the expert who supplies local chefs, learn about mushroom poachers, and finish with sizzling butter in a pan. (Download episode from the BBC or view here)

Sherwood (Apr 9, 2011). Dig up artifacts like a Viking amphitheater under the ancient trees in Sherwood forest and hear how far away you could stand in the mangy crowd and still hear the pronouncement. (Download episode from the BBC or view here)

Check out the website for more, including Roald Dahl & Fantastic Mr. Fox’s countryside, how the river Thames came back to life, making room for seahorses, the world’s most haunted town, and the mistletoe festival!

If you know of any shows as rich as this about the US’s heritage, please share them in the comments. Thanks!

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