Nicholas Crane

Writer/Presenter

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Books

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Film, TV & Theatre

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Books

Nicholas Crane is an author, geographer, cartographic expert and recipient of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society’s Mungo Park Medal in recognition of outstanding contributions to geographical knowledge, and of the Royal Geographical Society’s Ness Award for popularising geography and the understanding of Britain. Between 2015 and 2018, Nick was the elected President of the Royal Geographical Society.

Nick has presented many acclaimed TV series’ on BBC2, among them Map Man, Great British Journeys, Town, Britannia and Coast. He has been the lead presenter on more than 80 BBC films.

Nick’s books include Clear Waters Rising: A Mountain Walk Across Europe, which describes his solo, 10,000-kilometre walk along the continent’s mountain watershed and was called ‘One of the liveliest and most enthralling travel books I have read for years’ by Miranda Seymour in the Sunday Times. Two Degrees West: An English Journey, described as ‘An elegant and moving snapshot of England, a beautifully written book…very funny by The Times, is the account of a walk from one end to the other of England, following the prime meridian. The cartographic bestseller, Mercator: The Man Who Mapped the Planet, was praised by the great Lisa Jardine as ‘A gripping and densely informative biography’. Published in 2016, The Making of the British Landscape from the Ice Age to the Present, was described by The Times as ‘Storytelling at its best’ and by the Guardian as ‘Ambitious, magnificent’. You Are Here, A Brief Guide to the World (2018), was celebrated in the New Statesman as ‘a lifetime of thought and travel … a hymn to geography.’ Latitude was published by Michael Joseph in 2021 and described in the Spectator as ‘terrific’.

 

Latest publication LATITUDE - MICHAEL JOSEPH - MAY 2021

The year is 1735.
Twelve unruly men board ships bound for South America.
Their mission? To discover the true shape of the earth.
They will be exposed to a wilderness of dangers none can imagine.
The survivors won't return for ten years.

They knew the world wasn't a sphere. Either it stretched at the poles or it bulged at the equator. But which?

They needed to know because accurate maps saved lives at sea and made money on land. But measuring the earth was so difficult that most thought it impossible.

The world's first international team of scientists was sent to a continent of unmapped rainforests and ice-shrouded volcanoes where they attempted to measure the length on the ground of one degree of latitude.

Beset by egos and disease, storms and earthquakes, mutiny and murder, they struggled for ten years to reach the single figure they sought.

Latitude is an epic story of survival and science set in mountain camps and remote observatories.

 

Praise for LATITUDE - MICHAEL JOSEPH - MAY 2021

“We all know the shape of the earth; it’s not quite round. But knowing that is easier than proving it. In Latitude Nicholas Crane takes us through the decade of science, squabbles and surveying in the mid-eighteenth century which achieved that feat. Written with Crane’s customary blend of expertise and elanLatitude plots the roots of modern geography and expeditionary science.” Professor Robert Mayhew

“This rollicking story of adventure and scientific exploration is as gripping as any novel.  A book that sparkles with intelligence and wit.” Alex Preston

Latitude is a thrilling story of courage, survival and science. It’s an extraordinary, visceral and vivid read.”Geographical magazine

“Crane has a rare knack for showing people things they really ought to see across space and time without them having to get out of their chair.” Joe Smith, Director, Royal Geographical Society

 

Praise for YOU ARE HERE / WHY GEOGRAPHY MATTERS - WEIDENFELD & NICOLSON - OCTOBER 2018

“Here is a pocket guide for every teacher and parent. Droplets of knowledge to deluge the world and to influence students to vote for policy-makers determined to grip the causes of change, utilising basic, geographical reasoning … You Are Here is a meticulously researched distillation of the geography and the history of our planet penned by a former President of the RGS with “mud on his boots”.  It should become popular reading for all those altering the compass-bearing of sustainability.  Crane calls this “the Great Age of Geography” and we all now hold the world in our hands” Geographical

“Nicholas Crane’s You Are Here: A Brief Guide to the World is an erudite, dark-lit little book by a veteran explorer-broadcaster, distilling a lifetime of thought and travel.  It is a hymn to geography, which ‘keeps us human’.” New Statesman, Books of the Year

 

Praise for THE MAKING OF THE BRITISH LANDSCAPE

“In this ambitious, magnificent book … Crane is excellent at describing climate, geology and shifting shorelines, but is at his best when plaiting together earth-shaping events with humankind and civilisation … Crane writes: ‘to care about a place, you must know its story’. He has given us this story.” Andrea Wulf, Guardian

“I hadn’t known geography could be this exciting … yet this mighty work, written with brio, is storytelling at its best. Crane’s subject is the British landscape — the relationship between people and place, and how climate and population have shaped our world.” Clive Aslet, The Times

“When readers confront such a vast and complex subject they expect erudition from their guide, but the journey is made even more pleasurable if an author injects wit and vigour into his narrative. Crane scores highly on both counts … Crane’s splendid history provides a masterful account of how landscapes were settled and shaped, how they became the lodestones of community, security and faith, and how they helped to define countless aspects of social, economic and political life.” National

“Pungent, dramatic and drawing deeply on recent research...a geographer's love letter to the British and the land that formed them - and which they transformed over many millennia of creative labour. As such, it is dramatic, lyrical and even inspiring, and given all those rocks, remarkably readable.” James McConnachie, Sunday Times

“This is a magnificent, epic work by a national treasure … the sweep of history, brought to life in superb prose, is oddly moving. A tour de force.” Daily Mail

“Crane’s is a book about flint works, canals, castles, drainage and conquest. It is about the archives of human activity as recorded on the ground. The reader who persists with this tour de force will be able to read the British humanscape through the eyes of one particular, seasoned geographer.” Richard Fortey, TLS

 

Praise for CLEAR WATERS RISING

"A brilliant celebration of European landscape, cultural diversity and rapid change" Ian McEwan, Financial Times Books of the Year

"A perfect itinerary, full of geographical logic and ethnographical possibilities, with plenty of elbow room for adventure" Patrick Leigh Fermor

"Few contemporary travel writers can claim kinship with genuine adventurers, but Crane is one. Clear Waters Rising is written with charm, assurance, and considerable powers of description... [A] very impressive book" Philip Marsden, Times Literary Supplement

Non-Fiction

Publication DetailsNotes
2010

World Rights: BBC Books

This is the first book to be written by a Coast presenter in a narrative format and it will become the definitive guide to our coastline. Nick Crane brings his geographer's eye and love of the British landscape to take us on an enthralling journey along our coastline. Both a celebration of and reference guide to the the coast, Nick draws on all the elements that have made the TV series such a success, from local history to national defence, forts and ports, fishermen and artists, sacred buildings and detailed cartography, as well as taking in iconic landmarks, seaside holidays and, of course, wildlife. Nick's evocative prose and extensive knowledge infuse this book, which combined with two colour plate sections, make this an unmissable purchase for all fans of the British coast.

2008

UK: Weidenfeld & Nicolson/BBC

In GREAT BRITISH JOURNEYS Nicholas Crane follows in the footsteps of eight early travellers who crossed the length and breadth of Britain, revealing the country as it had never been seen before.

From Gerald of Wales’ 12th century recruitment drive for the Crusades to H V Morton’s adventures of 1927 in his bull-nosed Morris, each of the eight had their own mission and faced their own challenges. John Leland, Henry VIII’s famous chronicler, was sent mad in his attempt to record the landscape in writing. Celia Fiennes rode out in 1698 aiming to be the first person to visit all the counties of England, when Britain was in the grips of a ‘Little Ice Age’. Thomas Pennant explored the wilds of Scotland on foot and by boat, caught in a vicious storm in Loch Maree, while William Gilpin viewed England from the relative safety of rivers and canals. All left narratives behind for others – Daniel Defoe’s A TOUR THRO' THE WHOLE ISLAND OF GREAT BRITAIN (1724-1727) provides a detailed account of trade on the eve of the Industrial Revolution, while William Cobbett’s RURAL RIDES gives first-hand evidence on the plight of the poor of the countryside. Their passion is evident in these tales, and so provides the inspiration for Nicholas Crane’s latest adventure, as he traces their routes across Britain, discovering wetlands and mountain ranges, beaches and cliffs, and marvelling at how much has changed between their landscapes and ours, and yet how much remains the same.

GREAT BRITISH JOURNEYS accompanies an eight-part televsion series, beginning on BBC2 on Sunday 12th August.

2003

UK: Weidenfeld; US: Holt; Dutch: Ambo-Anthos; German: Droemer; Hungarian: HVG; Korean: Sakyejul

Gerhard Mercator was the famous sixteenth-century cartographer who created the so-called ‘Mercator projection’, a map which, in flattening out the globe, enabled the great age of exploration of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Mercator was more than simply a map-maker, however: he was at the very centre of the scientific and intellectual revolution of his time. Nicholas Crane, a man much used to relying on maps, brings Mercator and his world to vivid life.

1996

This is the story of a journey of 10,000 kilometres across Europe from the Atlantic coast of Spain to Istanbul. Nick Crane completed this adventure entirely on foot. It took him 17 months crossing Europe's uplands from the Cantabrian mountains of Spain via the Alps and the Carpathians to the Balkans and finally the Black Sea. His aim was to find for himself Europe's last mountain wildernesses and to record the lives of its people living at the periphery of the modern world. The journey was also to become a test of his own physical and mental determination. Most of the time he was far from civilization, sleeping in caves, forests and snow-drifts, confronting cold, loneliness, genuine dangers and imagined fears.

2018

WEIDENFELD & NICOLSON

One word binds us all: geography. We are all geographers, human beings who care about the places we think of as 'home' - our habitat. And yet we have lost touch with the connection between our actions and the state of the planet that we all share. We need a new narrative that restores the connections between humanity and the Earth. We are being confronted by a daily barrage of geographical stories on climate change, geopolitics, population growth, migration, dwindling resources, polluted oceans and natural hazards. These are planetary concerns affecting all people and all places. They are challenges which can be addressed through geography.

In this short but powerful book, Nicholas Crane makes the compelling case that never has geography been so important. On this finite orb, with its battered habitat, sustained in dark space by a thin, life-giving atmosphere, we have reached a point in our collective geographical journey where knowledge is the best guarantor of the future.

Film, TV & Theatre

Nick is a geographical writer and broadcaster.  In recent years, he has become best known for his work on BBC television, presenting the BAFTA-winning BBC2 TV series Coast (now in its eighth series), Map Man, Great British Journeys, Nicholas Crane’s Britannia and Town  - a BBC / Open University co-production. Since 2004, Nick has been the lead presenter on more than 60 BBC films and contributed to another 20 BBC films. He is currently working on series 9 of Coast.

Television

ProductionCompanyNotes

Coast Series 9

2014

BBC Birmingham for BBC 2

8 x 60.
Currently in production for transmission in 2014.

Town Series 2

2013

Tern TV, Glasgow, for BBC2

Presenter of four, one-hour films.

Coast Series 8

2013

BBC Birmingham for BBC 2

6 x 60.

Coast Series 7

2012

BBC Birmingham for BBC 2

6 x 60.

Town

2011

Tern TV, Glasgow, for BBC2

Presenter of 4 one-hour films exploring the history and modern life of four British towns.

Coast Series 6

BBC Birmingham for BBC 2

6 x 60.

Coast Series 5

2010

BBC Birmingham for BBC 2

8 x 60.

Coast Series 4

2009

BBC Birmingham for BBC 2

8 X 60

Munro: Mountain Man

2009

BBC4

Presenter of a one-hour film that followed the boot-steps of Sir High Munro, the compiler of the tables of Scottish mountains over 3000 feet in height.

In Search of England's Green and Pleasant Land

2009

Wavelength Films for BBC East (BBC1) and BBC4

1 x 30' documentary exploring the realities of the 'rural dream' in East Anglia.

Nicholas Crane's Britannia

2009

Tern TV, Glasgow, for BBC2

Presenter of 3 one-hour films in which Nick used a 16th-century masterpiece, William Camden’s Britannia of 1586, to explore the landscapes of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

Down the Line

2008

Eye Film & TV, for BBC East (BBC1) and BBC4

Presenter of 1 x 30 minute film about the impact of the Beeching railway cuts on the county of Norfolk.

Great British Journeys

2007

Tern TV, Glasgow, for BBC2

Presenter of 8 one-hour films in which Nick posed the question ‘Who explored Britain?’.

Coast Series 3

2007

BBC Birmingham for BBC2

8 x 60
Directed by Jonathan Barker, Oliver Clark, Paul Barnett, Nigel Walk.

Coast Series 2

2006

BBC Birmingham for BBC2

8 x 60.
Directed by Jonathan Barker,Oliver Clark, Paul Barnett, Nigel Walk.

Map Man Series 2

2005

DigiBeta for BBC2

Director/Producer: Michael Waterhouse.

Coast Christmas Special

2005

BBC2

Lead-presenter in two one-hour films compiled from the 13 episodes in Series 1.

Coast Series 1

2005

BBC2

13 x 60.
Lead-presenter in an epic series of 13 one-hour films that explored the coast of Britain and in what would become a landmark brand for the BBC.

Map Man Series 1

2004

BBC2

Presenter of 8 thirty-minute films in which Nick explored modern landscapes using historic maps and various means of transport ranging from walking boots to a Triumph Bonneville motorbike.

The Pyrenees

1998

BBC2

Nick repeated a Pyrenean section of his European walk from Gavarnie to the Ordesa Canyon, with series presenter Cameron McNeish.

Blazing Pedals

1990

Central TV/National Geographic

Co-presenter with Matt Dickinson and Chris Bradley of a one-hour film recording the first end-to-end bicycle traverse of the High Atlas Mountains in North Africa.

Other

ProductionCompanyNotes

High Trails to Istanbul

1995

Producer and Cameraman.
This one-hour film was filmed by Nick (topped & tailed by a crew from Zanzibar Films) during his 17-month, 10,000-kilometre walk across Europe, following the continent’s mountain ranges from Spain to Turkey.

Radio

ProductionCompanyNotes

From Ancient Sparta to the Gates of Hell

Produced by Simon Elmes, BBC Radio

Using the Roman writer Pausanias as a guide, Nick and Everest-climber Matt Dickinson hiked the savage Taygetus Mountains in Southern Greece, from Sparta to Cape Matapan.

Forbidden Journey

Produced by Simon Elmes, BBC Radio

A two-part documentary recorded by Nick during a wartime mission to deliver humanitarian aid to refugees in the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan in 1988.

Journey to the Centre of the Earth

Produced by Simon Elmes, BBC Radio

Co-presenter with Dr Richard Crane. This two-part documentary was recorded by Nick and Richard during their record-setting bicycle ride over the Himalayas, across Tibet and the Gobi Desert, to the Pole of Inaccessibility.