BBC 2 to air six-part documentary Britain Afloat – A history of the British people told through six of its best-loved boats

ALERT: Boats on the box

In Britain Afloat, Mary-Ann Ochota travels the coasts and waterways of Britain, discovering how boats have shaped our lives. The show airs on BBC Two on Saturday 30 September at 8.00pm, and for the next six Saturdays.

The series explores the regional distinctiveness of boat design and the floating way of life, from the modest coracle – whose shape was adapted to suit individual rivers across Britain – to the imposing Thames sailing barges – boats that helped build London.

In each episode, Mary-Ann uncovers the story of a different boat’s design and evolution and discovers the impact it had on the people and communities who have used it, both in days gone by, and today. Although many of the boats in question are no longer used for their original purposes, the series shows why they are still such an important part of ‘British heritage’.

Along the way Mary-Ann meets the people who are passionate about the boats. The first episode, on the Thames barge, includes a cameo from East Coast author Nick Ardley, oft of this parish. Mary-Ann discovers the boat that helped build Victorian London and played an important part at Dunkirk. There are still about 30 of these boats on the water – once there were more than 2000 – though nowadays the emphasis is very much on pleasure, something Mary-Ann experiences for herself when she joins the annual Thames Barge match.

Part 2: The Coracle

Part 3: The Narrow Boat

Part 4: The Punt

Part 5: The Mersey Sailing Boats

Part 6: The Rowing Eight

Series producer, Ed Barlow comments, ‘Britain Afloat is a series that really embodies British tradition, enterprise and ingenuity, and shows how some of our most well-known boats have developed throughout the centuries – often in ways their original designers and users could never have anticipated.

‘It’s not just about the boats though – Britain Afloat is as much about the people and communities that have used them, both in centuries gone by and today, and around the country Mary-Ann meets the dedicated and passionate enthusiasts who are maintaining traditions and preserving old boats, ensuring that they stay on the water for years to come.’