The Bike Show
Frustrated about being stuck indoors rather than out on two wheels? Perhaps affable cycling champion Jack Thurston can help. The author of the popular Lost Lanes cycling guidebooks packs his pannier and pedals alongside fellow bike enthusiasts – poets, inventors, adventurers, activists and even the odd politician – to hear their stories of life in the saddle. Sleeping out in strange places is a Bike Show speciality, so you can spend the night with Jack in a snow-bound Welsh bothy, a church porch, or a French field listening to the joyful noises of wild boar rutting. And you can also hear just how close he and artist Jeremy Deller came to an unscripted dunk in the Regent’s Canal.
The Bitter Southerner
A podcast for anyone who really fancies getting under the skin of the American deep south. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, its host Chuck Reece presents a no-holds-barred cultural guide to the southern states. It’s a spin-off from an eponymous magazine whose mission is to counter the stereotypes and false impressions non-southerners have of the region. Every week, Chuck brings his audience enlightening stories about the culture, history, cuisine, language and innovations of the south. Come for a revealing look at Booker T and the MGs and stay for Squidbillies.
Not content with merely interviewing some of the world’s most interesting adventurers, travel writer Aaron Millar makes every episode of the fortnightly Armchair Explorer an immersive experience. The documentary-style podcast uses production values inspired by cinema to tell its stories. It’s the place to go for trekking into gorilla country with a leading conservationist; marching fearlessly into the Antarctic void on the trail of Shackleton; sinking into the depths of the ocean in a great white shark cage; or escaping into the Alaskan wilderness with Olympic gold medal skiers. And if staying on Earth seems a bit restrictive, you can rocket up to the International Space Station for a space walk with John Herrington, the first Native American astronaut.
The Food Chain
The BBC uses its worldwide reach to good effect in this enigmatic, provender-based podcast. You can listen to internationally renowned chefs describing their lives in five dishes; hear about the uncertain future of south-east Asian street food; or find out what wine waiters are really thinking when they pour out that 2012 Blanc de Plonk you chose on a whim. The presenters plough fearlessly into esoteric topics too, providing the answers to questions you forgot to ask, such as what happens when you pump up balloons of gluten, and what on earth space smells like.
If your knowledge of African music stops at Youssou N’Dour and Fela Kuti, Afropop Worldwide will soon broaden your horizons. As its name suggests, the podcast takes listeners on a trip round the world, going everywhere African music has gone, sampling everything from hot salsa rhythms in Puerto Rico to the spiritual vibes of west African Vaudou in Utrecht (yes, Utrecht). Let the infectious music, fascinating cultural insights and the lovely, rich voice of Cameroon-born host Georges Collinet transport you to places you may never have thought African music had reached – it’s sure to leave you feeling more upbeat.
Known for her love of adventurous travel and willingness to rough it in a tiny tent, award-winning writer, broadcaster and Wanderlust editor Phoebe Smith invites listeners into her world. On the look-out for wild spaces where you might not expect them, the podcast avoids well-trodden paths, gets down and dirty with wildlife, and meets conservation heroes. Phoebe reports from the first guided walk owned and operated by Indigenous Australians; a cargo boat on Quebec’s remote Lower North Shore; and attempts a 300-mile kayak around Britain’s waterways. The podcast also features the Wander Woman of the Month – shining a light on unsung female travellers.
A fascinating four-part series from the world of psychogeography. Authors John Higgs and David Bramwell head out on a pilgrimage along one of Britain’s most famous pre-Roman ways – the 450-mile route from the White Cliffs of Dover to north Wales (including the section beyond Wroxeter, where the way diverged). On the way, they meet up with Iain Sinclair, Alan Moore, Salena Godden and others whose work has been inspired or moulded in some way by the prehistoric path. Imaginatively produced, the podcast weaves music, poetry, chat and little-known snippets of Britain’s history and culture into a soundscape that transports listeners to a different place and time.
A podcast with a very simple but effective brief: asking audio-makers to turn on their microphones and “stand silently in fields (or things that could be broadly interpreted as fields)”. The results are extraordinarily evocative recordings that offer a strangely compelling listening experience. Recent episodes have taken listeners to a beach on the coast of Greenland, the streets of Jenin in Palestine, the Beskid Mountains in Poland, and the Sinharaja tropical rainforest in Sri Lanka to hear dawn break. All you have to do is close your eyes and let your imagination fill in the blanks.
The bad news is that the National Trust’s sumptuous array of stately homes, parks and gardens is now closed until the current crisis is over. The good news is that you can still pay them virtual visits via this fortnightly podcast. Indeed, while many episodes begin at a trust property, they end up taking listeners much further afield. Audio gems include historian Bettany Hughes’s time-travelling investigation into British landmarks’ European connections; broadcaster John Sergeant’s four-part exploration of historic landscapes; and Clare Balding’s visits to trust sites to uncover little-known LGBTQ stories.
The Big Travel Podcast
Each episode sees writer and filmmaker Lisa Francesca Nand get together with a well-travelled interviewee to explore their life through the lens of their wanderlust. Happy to go off piste, Nand delights in teasing out weird and wonderful anecdotes from her guests. In the most recent programme she heads for Málaga to chat with genial comedian, musician, birder (and linguist – who knew?) Bill Bailey. Their conversation takes in topics ranging from migrating flycatchers, the carnivorous pitcher plant named in Bill’s honour, and the perils of asking an Estonian audience to name their favourite pop song.
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