Episodes

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01Quartz2017010920180724 (R3)

Linda Cracknell reflects on the appeal of the quartz on Ben Lawers, her local Munro.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond

Walker and writer Linda Cracknell is drawn to the luminosity of the quartz she finds on Ben Lawers near Loch Tay. It's her local Munro, and is one of Scotland's most popular mountains. The appeal of quartz, she realises, goes back time out of mind. Linda's aware of dozens of decorated quartz pebbles that have been found around Scotland, many of them in Orkney and Shetland. Smooth and comforting in the hand, were these pale, luminescent stones charms of some sort, were they used for healing or slingshots, or were they perhaps part of a long forgotten game?

Linda's essay is the first of five this week in which different writers reflect on how a favoured location is determined by its underlying geology.

Producer: Mark Smalley.

02Millstone2017011020180726 (R3)

Poet Helen Mort reflects on the Peak District's Stanage Edge, famed for its millstone grit

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond

Time and time again, the Derbyshire poet and climber Helen Mort is drawn back to the Peak District's Stanage Edge, famed for its millstone grit. Deeply satisfying to ascend, she reflects on how the millstones carved in situ were transported to mills around the UK. That is, until the fashion for white bread led to the bottom dropping out of the market, when British millers adopted the use of French millstones that didn't stain the flour a dull grey colour. Hence the rather surreal presence of finished millstones littering the cliffs below Stanage Edge, today a symbol for the Peak District National Park.

This is the second of this week's five essays in which writers reflect on how places that matter to them are shaped by the underlying geology.

Helen's latest collection of poems, 'No Map Could Show Them', celebrates the role of women in climbing, many of them overlooked pioneering Victorians who scaled the Alps in their hooped tweed skirts.

Producer: Mark Smalley.

03Coal Mines2017011120180730 (R3)

Writer Paul Evans traces a family line back through Shropshire's seams of coal.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond

The writer and broadcaster Paul Evans traces a family line back through Shropshire's seams of coal. Chawtermaster Peake is the collier ancestor who hewed coal from Coalbrookdale, birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. Paul evokes Peake's Wood Pit near the Wrekin as it is today, abandoned in the 1970s, after having been scraped out by opencast mining. Nature is now reclaiming the site, but Paul reflects on the irony of the climate change that ended the Carboniferous period when the coal measures were laid down, contrasting it with the changes being experienced today as we enter the Anthropocene.

This is the third of this week's series of essays in which writers reflect on how locations that matter to them are shaped by the underlying geology. Paul Evans, who lives in and writes about Shropshire, contributes to the Country Diary in The Guardian. His latest book is 'Field Notes from the Edge'.

Producer: Mark Smalley.

04Fire Rocks2017011220180801 (R3)

Novelist Sarah Moss discusses basalt and dolerite, the fire rocks that underpin castles.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond

'Igneous rock' presents a pleasing contradiction for the novelist Sarah Moss. Fire rock, flaming stone. "At the centre of everything" she says "is stone, is liquid, is flame, elements out of their element." In this essay, Sarah explores the nature of the igneous. She's drawn to basalt and dolerite, the fire rocks that created Antrim's Giant's Causeway and Lindisfarne in Northumberland.

This is the fourth of this week's series of essays in which writers reflect on landscapes that matter to them, shaped and underpinned as they are by their geology.

Sarah has lived in Iceland, a place she recalls being as if liquid rock "had frozen in movement and then been haphazardly covered with turf and birch and rowan". Her latest novel is 'The Tidal Zone'.

Producer: Mark Smalley.