Interview: Neil Oliver

The Coast presenter on how travelling around Britain's shoreline has opened his eyes to our rich heritage


Fans of the first series of Coast will remember that presenter Nick Crane always travelled with an umbrella – just in case he was caught out by the temperamental British weather. New anchor Neil Oliver has obviously taken a leaf out of Crane’s book. As he heads for the Needles – just off the Isle of Wight – on a beautifully sunny day, he packs his long johns and a cagoule.


“On the coast, the weather can literally change from minute to minute,” says Oliver. “You’re very aware that if nature decided to flex its muscles, you’re in trouble. We got caught in a thunderstorm on the Isle of Arran and, within minutes, the Transit van was axle-deep in water. A metal box. In water. In a thunderstorm. Not the best idea I’ve ever had.”

A member of Crane’s team for the first run, Oliver has taken charge for series two – Crane is still on board, along with some new faces – as over the course of eight episodes we visit some of the places that were missed first time around. Like the Solway Firth on the north west coast of Britain, for instance. An omission that caused complaints to RT, and in the Oliver household. “My mum and dad live there,” he laughs. “They had a right go at me. ‘Son, why did you no’ come and visit us?'”

Other destinations include Liverpool, Cornwall, Newcastle, Hull and even London’s Thames Estuary. Many of these areas have seen their dockyards and fishing industries devastated in recent years, but Oliver was surprised by the upbeat attitude of the locals.

“Even though these areas have seen their industries disappear, the communities are still there and they’re moving forward. If you listen to the news, it sounds like the whole country’s going to hell in a handcart, but people are still fiercely proud of where they come from – fiercely proud of their patch of coastline. I think that’s one of the reasons the show has been so successful.”

Another of the unexpected highlights was Dungeness on the Kent Coast, one of the largest expanses of shingle in the world, and home to two nuclear power stations. “It’s a staggering sight,” says Oliver. “Like a set from a science fiction movie. Totally desolate and windswept, with the throb of the power stations under your feet.”


Having now completed two tours of the British coastline, you might expect Oliver to be ready for a holiday abroad. Not so. He’s more interested in his own backyard. “Sadly, I think we’ve become preoccupied with distance. I may have done a lot of miles in Britain, but it’s left me with a hunger to find out more about the place I live.”