While being able to actually travel the world and see wonderful things is an ideal aspiration, the reality is that most of us can’t just click our fingers and book that plane ticket for places unknown.
That’s where the beauty of armchair travelling comes in—with programs like SBS’s Tony Robinson: Britain’s Ancient Tracks we can travel the world from the comfort of our own lounge chairs.
Lovers of the Blackadder comedies will recall Tony Robinson as Baldrick, the downtrodden servant of Edmund Blackadder, who travels with his master through different eras, and who coined the immortal line “I have a cunning plan…”—although that ‘cunning plan’ rarely worked.
But actor Tony Robinson is also a keen amateur historian and great observer of the world around him. He is our everyman, an ordinary-looking bloke we might see when grabbing our groceries.
What’s special about Robinson is his thirst for knowledge and his joy in sharing his journey with us. This series is more than just another travelogue—it’s a pilgrimage where Robinson delves into the history and spirituality of the road he literally walks, just as pilgrims did in the past, heading for holy places to renew their Christian faith.
The paths Robinson has chosen are ancient ones. In the first episode of the series he traverses the Icknield Way from coastal Norfolk to the rolling hills of Bedfordshire, a path so old that nobody remembers why it bears its unusual name.
Robinson is acutely aware of the tradition of people walking this path over thousands of years, explaining that he feels the presence of those who have gone before.
One of his big finds in this episode is an ancient cave, with its walls covered in carvings of Christian scenes, from depictions of Mary and baby Jesus to the Last Supper, with the figure of Judas deliberately partially obscured. Robinson surmises that this was probably an ancient place of Christian worship, and it certainly has the atmosphere of a holy place.
The background music is carefully chosen, and there is a delightful touch of hearing English poet William Blake’s famous words, that are a perfect fit with a televisual journey like this.
And did those feet in ancient time / Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God, / On England’s pleasant pastures seen!
And did the Countenance Divine, / Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here, / Among these dark Satanic Mills?
Stirring stuff, and Tony Robinson: Britain’s Ancient Tracks reminds us to value our history, heritage and faith, just as Blake does in his much-loved hymn.