July - September 2006
 UK ITV1 West Country & Meridian T.V.

The two series, Betjeman's West Country and John Nettles West Country are to be released on DVD in the U.K. by Acorn
on 11th May 2009


John Nettles presents a journey through the life and times of John Betjeman, the much loved Peoples' Poet, to mark the centenary of his birth. Starting out from Waterloo, this first episode clatters through the West Country to Cornwall, to Trebetherick and the sounding sea' which was to become so important to Betjeman throughout his life. The poet's own films of Swindon, Northlew and Marlborough contribute to a glimpse of this eccentric Englishman.

2006 marks the centenary of the birth of much loved poet Sir John Betjeman. In a new seven-part series Betjeman’s West Country, actor John Nettles highlights the life and work of the former Poet Laureate.

Sir John Betjeman’s whole life was punctuated at regular intervals by a particular journey from London to Cornwall, from Waterloo to Wadebridge via Swindon, Bath and Bristol and all stops in between.

This new series for ITV West and ITV Westcountry is a celebration of that joyful journey by road, rail, poem and film through the West Country, from childhood to manhood and finally old age.

As a child coming from a wealthy middle class family, Sir John first made the trip to his family’s holiday cottage at Trebetherick in Cornwall by train and only later was he chauffeur-driven west to the Atlantic coast each summer. It was during these travels that he first grew to know the small towns, resorts and cities of the South West.

Offering a fresh perspective on the man, Betjeman’s West Country follows in the great man’s footsteps, revisits those snapshots from the past and also includes archive footage both by and about Betjeman.

As the programmes reveal, the films he made in later life are not only reflections of his passion for the buildings, places and people of the South West but are also like cheerful picture postcards from his childhood.

Currently starring in Midsomer Murders for ITV1, John Nettles has been a lifelong Betjeman devotee and relished the opportunity to present a series on his hero for ITV1. Cornish born in St Austell and an actor at the Bristol Old Vic early in his career, John has a natural affinity with the West Country.


Programme 1 - Sunday July 23 2006

The first programme, The Journey Begins, is a story of passion, intrigue, love and hate, all tinged with laughter. John Nettles takes us on a journey through the life and times of John Betjeman – the much loved ‘People’s Poet’.

Starting out from Waterloo the first programme clatters through the West Country to Cornwall, to Trebetherick and ‘the sounding sea’ which was to become so important to him throughout his life.

Betjeman’s films made in Swindon, Northlew and Marlborough contribute to our first glimpse of an eccentric Englishman, who charmed us all and became one of the first great television personalities.

Programme 2 - Sunday July 30 2006

In 1964 John Betjeman visited Weston-super-Mare to take a look at the English working class on holiday. In Seaside Dreams, 42 years later, presenter John Nettles drops in on the same resort to see if things have changed much, and comes up with some fascinating comparisons.

Meanwhile in Cornwall John takes tea with a circle of friends who all have childhood memories of the great man, and explores the origins of Betjeman’s love for churches.

Programme 3 - Sunday 6th August 2006

Like a bad dream, Betjeman’s alienation from his father was to haunt him throughout his life.

In Breaking Free presenter John Nettles looks at the cause of it all and reflects on how it drove the young man out into the Cornish lanes on a bike, where he was to discover the beauty of Blisland, which became one of his favourite haunts.

Back on the other side of the Tamar, on Engish soil, we look at a charming film he made in Malmesbury and join John as he walks in Betjeman’s footsteps on a visit to Devizes in Wiltshire.

Programme 4 - Sunday 20th August 2006

Back after a week’s break, presenter John Nettles continues his journey through Betjeman’s West Country chronicling the life and times of ‘People’s Poet’ Sir John Betjeman.

This week he takes a look at Betjeman’s skilful use of sarcasm and wit against the twin ravages of developers and the motor car. The programme also recalls the poet’s visits to Bath, Chippenham, Crewkerne and Cornwall where he railed against greed and self interest in a passionate attack on modern life.

Programme 5 - Sunday 3rd September 2006

Presenter John Nettles follows in the footsteps of ‘Peoples’ Poet’ Sir John Betjeman in this series that marks the 100th anniversary of his birth.

In Nostalgia - two of Betjeman’s heroes – Bristol music hall entertainer Randolph Sutton and Dorset’s Thomas Hardy are celebrated.

Betjeman devotee John also chats to Charles Causley the celebrated Cornish poet who remembers his friend Betjeman in an interview recorded shortly before he died.

Programme 6 - Sunday 3rd September 2006

In the second of today's programmes - Decay & Decline - John visits Clevedon in the footsteps of Betjeman, who made a poignant and moving film there in 1964. The theme of decay is evident throughout but the air of melancholy is related as much to his own fears as much as those of the residents of a seaside hotel in winter. Old friends from Cornwall talk lovingly of his later years and the visits to Trebetherick which was still so important to him.

Programme 7 - Sunday 10th September 2006

Presenter John Nettles concludes his journey following in the footsteps of ‘Peoples’ Poet’ Sir John Betjeman in this series marking the 100th anniversary of his birth.

In Death, John Nettles explores the themes of Love and Death. Betjeman’s relationships with women are considered, as is his lifelong love for his teddy bear.

The sad and moving tale of his death and funeral amongst the dunes in North Cornwall is told by those who cared for him.


Incidentally, the music for these programmes was composed by Jim Parker!