Britain at Low Tide

Channel 4 (10 x 60 mins)

Every day, on a sandy beach or a rocky foreshore, fascinating evidence of our island history appears and disappears as the tide rolls in and rolls back out again.

In this series, Dr Tori Herridge explores the archaeology of Britain’s coastline, the historical remains we see when the tide goes out.

In series 1, Tori is joined by Dr Alex Langlands and they visit the coasts of Northumberland, Lancashire and Essex. With the help of experts in this kind of archaeology, Tori and Alex discover a lost fortress, a sunken pier, prehistoric footprints and even a German U-boat. They investigate the extraordinary stories behind these discoveries and how they ended up in the inter-tidal zone.

The series is literally an eye-opener. Stumps of wood in the estuarine mud of Essex are revealed to be ancient fish traps. Bricks and mortar on the beach at Formby turn out to be the charred rubble left over from the Liverpool Blitz. Yet another pile of bricks proves to be the first lifeboat station in the world. Banks of earth shaped like a doughnut once supported a fort built on the orders of Henry VIII.

In series 2, Tori and the team visit East Sussex, Dorset, Glasgow, the Severn Estuary, East Yorkshire and Fife.  They discover the wreck of a ship that went down in the 1740s, how the Dorset coastline played a vital role in D Day, what brought Bob Dylan to the river Severn, how two ships made in Hull ended up on top of a mountain in Peru and find stone carvings left by one of Scotland's oldest tribes.

In series 3, palaeobiologist Dr Tori Herridge explores the intertidal archaeology of Britain, the archaeological remains that are visible when the tide goes out.

The team visit Whitstable in Kent, the inner reaches of the Firth of Forth in Scotland, and the Solway coast, the border between England and Scotland. They follow the excavation of one of the most significant shipwreck discoveries of recent times,  investigate the story behind a long forgotten harbour regarded as the birthplace of the Scottish whisky industry, and ask why one of the Victorians’ great feats of engineering failed to stand the test of time.

At the moment, all this archaeology is available to anyone who cares to go looking for it, but time is short for the archaeologists who want to record it. Rising sea levels and coastal erosion mean it won’t be very long before it’s all swept away. Britain at Low Tide captures a vanishing past for us all to see.

Help CITiZAN monitor England's coastal and inter-tidal heritage - get started here