Article Types News New on BMCTV: The Landscape Project film series

New on BMCTV: The Landscape Project film series


The first of four films in The Landscape Project has just been released on BMCTV, a fascinating new series that brings climbing and natural history together. Starting with the Lake District, presenter Nathan Chrismas, a biologist and ecologist, shares his deep knowledge and passion for the geological and ecological highlights of four hugely popular climbing and walking areas.

The Lake District episode begins with Nathan planning a walk up Helvellyn. At the tarn, he describes the processes that led to the initial formation of the rocks of the Lake District, how they were uplifted, and finally eroded away by glaciers. He has a conversation with Fell Top Assessor Zac Poulton and the important role they play in the management of the mountain. Nathan then highlights some specifics of the rocks and plants that can be found on Helvellyn including some of the conservation issues that those plants face. The episode finishes tying the past to the present to understand the full history of the landscape.

Release dates are as follows:

Lake District: 11 June

Devon: 9 July

Pembroke: 15 August

Malham:  12 September

WATCH: The Landscape Project: History of the Lake District landscape

We caught up with presenter Nathan Chrismas and filmmaker Jimmy Hyland, creative director at JHP Visuals to find out how the series came about and how the filming went.

What is The Landscape Project series of films about?

Nathan: The Landscape Project is all about the geology and ecology of some of Wales and England’s classic climbing and hillwalking destinations. More than that though, it's about how climbing and hillwalking as activities are hooked into the natural world, and that the experiences we have are a direct result of all of these incredible natural processes.

What gave you the idea to film this series?

Jimmy:  I’ve always been fascinated by understanding the areas that I spend so much time in. I grew up in the Peak District, which is an incredible place geologically. I realised pretty early on that understanding what made a place special, and understanding it’s history allowed you to unlock so much more appreciation for a place. I had wondered for a long time about how to put that into a film, and then I met Nathan… who is just about the most passionate person you’ll ever meet. We chatted one evening in the bar at Plas y Brenin, and the idea for the landscape project was born.

What were the filming challenges?

Jimmy: Probably the biggest challenge for me was making sure that I understood the science properly to make sure I wasn’t missing anything from a production point of view. I was operating as a single-person crew for all of the filming, so making sure I had content lists in my head ahead of time was important because filming everything on the go can get pretty hectic.

The other big challenge was pitching the science at the right level. Right from the very beginning it was really important that this project was as accessible and relateable to as many people as possible, which is one of the reasons why we initially contacted the BMC. We wanted to try and explain the science in an engaging, informative and entertaining way and find a balance between each of those things.

What are you most proud of with the filming?

Jimmy:  I’m really pleased with the variety of subjects we covered, and I am especially pleased with the extra interviews that we managed to tie in, for example, Marsha talking about the climbing history at Malham and Henry talking about what makes climbing in Pembrokeshire special. Getting these local voices is really important to understand a place. It was also a long project, from initial concept to final delivery was over two years so I’m pleased to see it go out to the world and really hope it helps people see the places they enjoy spending time in a different light.

Do you both have a favourite place to climb/hike of the four locations?

Nathan: Hard to choose, they all have their own characters that make them cool which is why they’re all in the series! If I had to pick one though it would probably be the Culm Coast in North Devon and Cornwall. It’s such an incredibly wild stretch of coastline and I’ve had a lot of adventures with good friends there.

Jimmy: Yeah, this is a really hard one to choose, but if I had to narrow it down to just one, it would be the Lakes. I’ve spent a lot of time there over the years, mostly running, and have have lots of happy memories of big days in the hills. I’m always totally blown away by how varied and beautiful it is!

Why is it important to you to understand the geology and ecology of the areas you hike and climb in Nathan?

Nathan: It just opens up the experience for me in totally different ways. Knowing how the rock has formed can give you real insight into how it behaves when you climb on it, recognising different rock types can help you interpret the landscape around you which can inform navigation… conservation issues also make a lot more sense when you understand the ecology and biology behind the things you’re trying to conserve. I also just find it all super fascinating - I love trying to understand how the world works - and once you get an interest in this stuff you’ve got a great reason to go out in the hills and hunt for things even when the weather’s duff!

Nathan, we love your enthusiasm and knowledge, can you write a Climbers'/Hikers' Guide to Geology? I'd love to read that!

Nathan: Haha thanks! There are a few geology books for hillwalkers about, but there’s always room for another one. A lot of people have been asking me to write a book about lichens for climbers and walkers, so maybe when I find the time…

Do you have a fave rock type (from this series) to tell people about and why?

Nathan: I think I list my favourite rock type on UKC as ‘crumbly rubbish’ so I guess that covers the Culm pretty well! From an aesthetic perspective the Culm has some of the most incredible rock formations I’ve ever seen. They were formed from layer upon layer of underwater avalanches that were later pushed into these massive folds. Limestone’s also a fave though. I got hooked on trad climbing when I was living in Bristol so the limestone crags in South West England and South Wales will always feel like home, and it's probably the rock type I feel most familiar with.

Which plant/lichen that would you like to see more of when you climb and hike and why?

Nathan: Great question! There are lots of things that are pretty common that I always enjoy finding when I’m out. So, all of them! In terms of less common things, there’s one lichen called the Arctic kidney lichen (Nephroma arcticum) that’s only known from a single Corbett in the Northwest Highlands, I’d love to find some more of that. Another is the white worm lichen (Thamnolia vermicularis) which has recently been declared extinct in Wales, so it would be super cool to find a population of that that’s never been recorded. The golden hair lichen (Teloschistes flavicans) is rare and only on the top of a few sea cliffs like Chair Ladder and on Lundy, but it’s thought that its populations might be increasing so I’m hoping we’ll start seeing more of that.

Both, what is your overarching message to people watching these films?

Nathan: When we go out to the hills or the cliffs we’re part of billions of years of geological and biological evolution. Everything we see, from the biggest mountain to the smallest plant, has a history. As climbers and hillwalkers we find ourselves in the perfect position to appreciate this; you just need to stop and look.

Jimmy: For me, the places where we spend time doing the activities that we love are incredibly special. We know that already, but I hope these films help people understand why they are so special. I really hope they add a new level of enjoyment to spending time in those places and an extra level of awareness of why they are so special and why it’s important to protect them!

Anything else you would like to convey to the BMC membership community?

Nathan: Get involved with BMC volunteering opportunities, go on workshops, and just spend time looking at nature. Make it a part of your climbing. The more time you spend with something, the more you appreciate its value, and that’s going to be the key to ensuring that our outdoor playgrounds remain accessible and rich environments in the future.

WATCH: The Landscape Project: History of the Lake District landscape