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We’re an island nation, our history and culture shaped by the sea. For centuries, we’ve used our waters for fishing, trade, exploration, conquest and defence, and sometimes simply for pleasure.
In this six-part ITV series, comedian and presenter Ade Edmondson sets sail to explore Britain’s maritime past and discovers how it continues to influence the lives of the people who still depend on the sea today.
Fascinated by British maritime history, Ade Edmondson has a passion for the sea, since being a boy he’s dreamt of sailing around the world and the British Isles. Inspired by Ade’s genuine fascination for Britain’s seafaring past and a love of all things nautical, in this series, he at last gets his chance to explore Britain from the sea.
The series reflects the rich diversity that our sea and coast has to offer, as Ade discovers those gems of tradition, heritage, invention, and modern expertise that makes our British coastline unique.
Ade immerses himself in British seafaring culture and history - from discovering the root of the phrase shipshape and bitter end to making rope with one of the last surviving rope makers. With his natural curiosity, with and warmth he takes viewers on his voyage as he pilots a huge tanker through the Bristol Channel, sings sea shanties in Liverpool Bay, takes in modern deep sea fishing, lave netting in the Severn Estuary, visits island communities and is even airlifted out of the North Sea.
Ade Edmondson begins his journey of discovery, exploring Britain’s maritime past, and how it continues to influence the lives of the people who depend on the sea today.
In episode one, Ade sets sail on a piece of Brixham history and takes to the skies with a man who lived 40 miles out at sea.
Ade says: “I’ve always been fascinated by the sea, and I love harbours. There’s something so exotic about all the boats in a proper working harbour.”
Ade’s journey begins in Brixham, a town built around its harbour and home to a thriving fishing community. Britons have been fishing out of Brixham since as far back as 1406 and by 1850 it was the largest fishing port in England.
Brixham also developed the world’s first deep-sea fishing boat, the Brixham Trawler. Ade joins a crew on-board one of the town’s surviving heritage fleet and learns about the huge impact the trawlers had on the town and the lives of the local fishermen.
As they head out to sea on the newly restored 19th century boat, Ade is challenged with hauling the sails, something he finds more exhausting than he thought.
Ade’s next trip involves a 40-mile helicopter ride to Eddystone Lighthouse. First built in 1698, the imposing structure was the world’s first lighthouse built on a rock at sea.
An incredible feat of engineering, the current lighthouse consists of 6,500 tonnes of brick, built on a rock in 1882. Now automated, the lighthouse is only visited for maintenance.
Ade is joined by former lighthouse keeper 87-year-old Harold Taylor, the last keeper to live and work on the lighthouse.
Given rare access inside the lighthouse, Ade comes face to face with the difficulties the lighthouse keepers encountered. Harold tells Ade about the most challenging aspects of life at sea – from having to wait several days for a break in the weather to be winched off, to curved shaped beds, and toilet facilities that were six floors away from the sleeping quarters.
Finally, Ade heads out deep-sea fishing at 4am in the morning with a man whose family have been fishing out of Brixham since the early 1500s. Joining fisherman Dave Driver and his two-man crew, Ade realises that whilst technology and modern boats have come a long way, life at sea still means long hours away from home.
Dave tells Ade: “Your wife is doing both parts of it really, she’s being a father and a mother. I’m out here most of the time. There are lots of days where I’m out the door at 3.30am, and I’m back in at 9 or 10 o’clock. That’s six days a week. That’s the thing you’ve got to take with this job I’m afraid.”
Ade says: “These guys are grafters, just like their ancestors. They do an honest job, and they get satisfaction out of that, as have I.”