A well-known face will be in Surrey tonight (Thursday) as Michael Portillio’s voyage of rail discovery brings him to the county.
After spending 12 series criss-crossing the country, episode four finally sees the former MP take a jaunt from Guildford to Aldershot.
His tour of the Home Counties begins in the picturesque and historic county town of Guildford., and fans will note he’s clutching his hallowed 1936 Bradshaw’s Guide from the off.
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Although the book commends Guildford’s ‘fine old castle keep’ and guildhall, it makes no mention of the hilltop cathedral.
Michael, himself from Bushey in Hertfordshire, meets head guide Janet Matthews to discover the origins of the first Anglican cathedral to be built on a new site in the south of England since the Reformation – begun in 1936.
He also finds splendid architecture and modern materials have combined to produce a gloriously open building full of space and light. Michael climbs its 160 foot tower for a panoramic view of Surrey.
Michael’s next stop is Chilworth, from which he follows his guide to Newlands Corner on the slopes of the North Downs.
At this popular beauty spot, the famous crime writer Agatha Christie disappeared, sparking a massive search and a tabloid frenzy.
A Christie biographer pieces the puzzle together for Michael.
Heading west across the county, Michael reaches the Georgian market town of Farnham with its 12th-century castle, once home to the bishops of Winchester.
Intrigued by his Bradshaw’s reference to a famous Farnham painter, WH Allen, Michael joins the artist’s great-great-niece in the castle’s splendid gardens to learn more about him.
A kind Farnham artist encourages Michael to commit the castle to canvas in his own way.
After a luxurious night at the castle, Michael crosses into Hampshire to reach Aldershot.
At the home of the British Army, he hears how in the years leading up to the World War II, the town began to receive conscripts for military training.
Great British Rail Journeys is on Thursdays at 6.30pm on BBC Two