“It is the eye and the heart that are the surest guides”
It seems Heathcotes have a thing for travel guides. I’ve been known to eulogise, and namesake-but-no-relation David Heathcote presents this series taking old travel guides as a starting point for a journey, in this programme the Shell travel guides from the 30s to the 70s.
The idea of Shell touring guides was dreamt up by John Betjeman, as he needed the money from such a project to get married. He hired enthusiastic amateurs, often friends, to write, design, photograph and edit the decidedly anachronistic guides. They were told to give “your view, of a place now” – now being a time when touring moved from train to car, and hidden gems of natural beauty were widely accessible for the first time. This is the dilemma prevalent in the guides – a fear of the car, knowing that the unspoilt experiences could be destroyed just by mentioning them. Heathcote revisits places from two of the guides, and finds some spoilt, notably Padstow, but resigns himself that that’s all part of progress, for better or worse.