10 TV picks to whisk you away to the great outdoors

The lockdown is beginning to ease a little - to what extent depends on which part of the country you live in, and perhaps who you are - but it will be some time before we’re all able to get out and about as we once did.

Which makes the opportunity to travel the world from the comfort of our sofa even more important right now.

Here are 10 programmes to whisk you away to the great outdoors, from the glories of the natural world to the globe’s great unsolved mysteries, from spectacular train journeys to adventurous souls who have chosen to start a new life in the wilderness.

It all adds up to one thing - escapism, and very welcome it is too.

Gangs of Lemur Island - Sky Nature

Sky Nature launches on Wednesday [27 May], a channel dedicated to exploring the beauty and wonder of the natural world - and inspiring us all to do more to look after it.

One of two brand new Sky channels launching on the same day, alongside Sky Documentaries, Sky Nature’s launch night of programmes includes the spectacular five-part series, Gangs of Lemur Island.

The story of feuding groups of ring-tailed lemurs on a forest reserve in Madagascar, it promises ‘feuding families, civil war, and lovers' trysts’.

What they say: ‘A charming look at the primate turf wars of Madagascar.’ Daily Telegraph


Walking with Elephants - Channel 4

Explorer Levison Wood follows the biggest elephant migration in Africa - 130,000 of them - in this three-part Channel 4 series.

It’s an epic 650-mile journey across Botswana that is as much about the extraordinary landscape the British Army major encounters and the people he meets along the way as it is about the elephants.

Not that the elephants underwhelm, you understand. Far from it.

What they say: ‘Levison Wood seeks out adventure like a middle-class mum hunting down bread flour.’ Radio Times

World’s Most Scenic Railway Journeys - Channel 5

World’s Most Scenic Railway Journeys does exactly what it says on the ticket, taking viewers around the world to places of truly outstanding natural beauty.

Narrated by Bill Nighy, the Channel 5 series explores extraordinary trips by train, telling their stories through the characters who work on them, travel on them, and live by the railways on which they run.

Visiting Mexico, France, Scotland and South Africa in the opening episodes of this new series, it’s a treat that feels even more indulgent in lockdown.

What they say: ‘An opportunity to take a virtual train trip in the company of narrator Bill Nighy - and the scenery is spectacular.’ Mail on Sunday 

Martin Clunes: My Travels and Other Animals - ITV

Martin Clunes has been travelling the world making documentaries for ITV for more than a decade.

The Doc Marten star’s travels began with Islands of Britain back in 2009 before he packed his bags to travel to Australia, America, Madagascar and many other places besides.

Now he’s looking back on some of his most magical adventures in My Travels and Other Animals, beginning on ITV this Thursday [28 May].

What they say: ‘Clunes is a rare TV creature, a natural presenter who establishes an instant rapport with everyone he encounters.’ Daily Telegraph

Mysteries of the Deep - Discovery

A familiar face from Discovery’s long-running River Monsters, Jeremy Wade takes a deep dive into the world’s most enduring aquatic mysteries.

Each week the biologist and extreme angler uses state of the art science, eyewitness accounts and astonishing footage to examine iconic unsolved phenomena.

His journey takes him on a search for lost treasure, missing ships, strange ocean bed discoveries and the most famous mystery of them all - the Loch Ness Monster.

‘His biggest adventure yet and [Jeremy Wade] will stop at nothing to learn the answers.’ Metro

The Architecture the Railways Built - Yesterday

A look at Britain’s railways with a difference, Tim Dunn’s series looks at unusual and fascinating architecture that was built alongside the rail network.

Tim and his fellow experts tell more than 40 stories of eye-opening buildings and structures from across Britain and Europe.

From Kings Cross to the Clifton Rocks Railway, from Metro-land to Great Malvern, it’s an entertaining and illuminating trip. Come along for the ride.

What they say: ‘If this joyful and informative series isn’t one of your lockdown treats, then it really should be … a delight.’ Radio Times

Work on the Wild Side - Channel 4

A new Channel 4 daytime series, Work on the Wild Side follows the work of vets and volunteers who gave up their jobs in the UK to help some of the world’s most endangered animals in South Africa.

Filmed at dozens of different locations across the country, each episode throws up fascinating stories of animal rescue, from monkeys to hippos, cheetahs to rhinos, giraffes to aardvarks, all set against the backdrop of South Africa’s stunning scenery.

Narrated by Radio 1 breakfast DJ Greg James, it’s the closest you’ll get to a safari on your sofa.

What they say: ‘If you’ve been diagnosed with a bad case of wanderlust, and fancy seeing some very sweet animals, Channel 4 is coming to the rescue.’ Radio Times

Ben Fogle: New Lives in the Wild Revisited - Channel 5

In his Channel 5 series New Lives in the Wild Ben Fogle met people who gave up the rat race to up sticks and move to some of the most remote places on Earth.

Now the presenter returns to these far flung corners of the world to discover just how well they are getting on, beginning with the Long family in New Zealand, who live two days’ walk from the nearest road.

The pandemic has no doubt left lots of us harbouring dreams of making a fresh start, far away from it all. Beginning on Channel 5 on Tuesday [26 May], Fogle finds out what happens when you do it for real.

What they say: ‘Ben Fogle [is] very good at reading people. And very good at getting them to open up.’ The Times

Polar Extremes - PBS America

Polar Extremes is a remarkable journey through time at the two extremes of our planet.

Paleontologist Kirk Johnson explores the often unexpected climate history of the north and south poles.

From miles-thick ice sheets to warm polar forests full of life, Johnson uses the dramatic changes at the ends of the earth to help explain the world as it is today.

What they say: ‘This is solid science, clearly explained and the scenery is spectacular’ Radio Times

Wild Animal Babies - Sky Nature

It’s not the only new series on TV this week but it’s probably the cutest.

Another of the launch shows on Sky’s new channel, Sky Nature, Wild Animal Babies features a global cast of baby animals taking their first tentative steps into the world.

Biologist and ‘self-confessed thrill seeker’ Patrick Aryee ventures from the Australian outback to the Costa Rican coast for the three-part series. It’s going to be emotional.

What they say: ‘Expect to say ‘aww’ multiple times.’ OK!

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