We live in one of the most urbanised countries on earth. By 2030 a staggering 92% of us will be living the urban life. Congested cities sprawl across our map but they are not the only way to live. Smaller than a city, more intimate, more surprising: this series celebrates the forgotten world of the town.
In each series, geographer and adventurer Nicholas Crane explores four iconic British towns. In each he uncovers the secrets of their survival; the reasons for their enduring appeal; and what they can teach us about the future of urban living.
In series 1: Ludlow on the Welsh border - the perfect English country town; Scarborough, a survivor perched on the edge of Yorkshire; Perth, gateway to the Scottish highlands and a town that wants to be a city; and Totnes in Devon, birthplace of a new vision for the future.
In series 2: Saffron Walden in Essex - the perfect English market town; Oban, gateway to the Western Isles; Huddersfield, a Yorkshire mill town with a mind of its own; and Enniskillen in Northern Ireland, a beautiful gem of lakes and waterways.
An attractive market town within easy commuting distance of London, Saffron Walden has some of the best preserved medieval architecture in the country. It's an estate agent's dream. But its heritage is now under threat. Geographer and adventurer Nicholas Crane discovers what gave this town its unique name, and how the UK's housing crisis is affecting its future.
Gateway to the spectacular beauty of the Western Isles, the port of Oban is a major rail terminal and ferry port - but is it anything more? Geographer and adventurer Nicholas Crane looks behind the transit-lounge image to find a town with a dramatic past - including a surprising role in the Cold War of the 1960s - and a world of adrenalin-fuelled adventure, great seafood, and inspiring scenery.
A Yorkshire mill town with a history of rugby, rebellion, and high-quality cloth, Huddersfield is a hidden gem. It features in none of the popular guidebooks - there's not an open-topped bus tour in sight. Geographer and adventurer Nicholas Crane reveals a dynamic town with a strong sense of identity, that, once found, nobody wants to leave.
The most westerly town in the UK, Enniskillen is surrounded by beautiful lakes, is busy with independent shops, and attracts forward-thinking entrepreneurs. But its serene way of life is under threat - from plans for underground gas exploitation. Geographer and adventurer Nicholas Crane journeys through the past, present, and potential future of this island town on the edge of Northern Ireland. (89 words)
An English market town on the Welsh border, Ludlow is small, land-locked and remote. Yet it has more listed buildings than anywhere else its size in Britain; not one, but two Michelin-starred restaurants and a fairy-tale castle which was once the capital of Wales. Nicholas Crane discovers how such a cut-off town came to be packed with so many treasures, and asks whether it really is as perfect as it first appears.
A Yorkshire coastal town, Scarborough has had more ups and downs than a roller-coaster. It once had the biggest fish fair in Western Europe; it was a leading health spa; holidaymakers flocked to Britain's first seaside resort. Geographer and adventurer Nicholas Crane finds out what's happened to this town since its heyday; whether our fondness for foreign holidays has left this port high and dry; how a town on the edge survives.
The gateway to the Scottish highlands, Perth is a town packed with history. It's been a royal burgh since 1124, has survived a regicide within its walls and rebuilt itself after devastating floods. It's also a town that wants to be a city and Nicholas Crane is on a journey to find out why - what benefits that brings and what the town has to do to achieve its ambition.
A Saxon river town in South Devon, Totnes is one of the UK's oldest towns. It has seen tough times through its long history but adversity has taught it to innovate. Nicholas Crane visits the home of one of the greatest social experiments of the 20th Century and uncovers the test bed for an ambitious new idea that aims to change our urban life forever.