Neil Oliver and Maunsell sea forts Copyrighted image Credit: Production team

The award-winning Coast is back on BBC Two with an entirely new fourth series. It follows the remarkable runaway success of the previous three, which famously reawakened the nation’s love affair with the seas that surround us.

Produced once again by BBC Birmingham, and co-produced by The Open University, the long-awaited new series will broaden Coast’s horizons still further. The eight programmes will continue to introduce the audience to fresh, untold stories around our own shores, but will also feature the coastlines of neighbouring countries, with whom Britain traditionally has had a close affinity.

The team of expert presenters will journey to France, Norway and to the island of Svalbard, take in the Republic of Ireland and venture far north into the Atlantic to the Danish Faroe islands. They will explore physical connections from a time when our land mass was as one with the rest of Europe, and also the linguistic and cultural connections forged by Viking traders and Norman invaders.

Neil Oliver again leads the way, discovering the romance of the British occupation of the Faroe Islands and learning how the ice that cut the fjords of Norway also sculpted the landscape of Britain. In Normandy, Dick Strawbridge treads carefully on the D-Day beaches and discovers how geologists helped the allies win the war; whilst in Ireland, Hermione Cockburn goes in search of the Dublin-born father of modern earthquake science.

Back on home turf, Alice Roberts re-lives the glamour-days of the British hovercraft, and Mark Horton tries his hand at making soap the Victorian way, in Port Sunlight. Armed with a simple ruler, on a Scottish beach, Nick Crane learns how the challenge of measuring the UK coastline led to a new branch of mathematics – one which means our mobile phones can fit in our pockets. Neil Oliver views the coast at high speed as he takes to the skies with the RAF over Anglesey, and on England’s east coast he discovers how 19th century Hull became the Heathrow of its day, serving as a vital transit route to America for millions fleeing Eastern Europe.

Miranda Krestovnikoff embarks on a UK beach safari with some of the sand dunes’ tiniest creatures, while across the Channel she encounters French bats in unusual German lodgings. At the other end of the scale, on Nordic shores we will come face to face with giant crabs and hungry polar bears.

As well as journeying to new shores, the series also ventures into new cultural terrain. Alice Roberts explores how the sea made an impression on the world of art. Neil Oliver tries his hand at directing a silent movie, and reveals how the pioneer film makers of Shoreham, in Sussex, showed the way to Hollywood; whilst in Cornwall he reflects on how the county’s rugged coastline proved an inspiration to the poetry of John Betjeman.

Reaching out to the rest of world, Coast will continue to celebrate the unique character of the British Isles – and far beyond.

First broadcast: Friday 22 Jul 2005 on BBC TWO