Michael Portillo discovers Great Yarmouth's Venetian Waterways for new BBC series
PUBLISHED: 14:32 08 October 2019 | UPDATED: 15:30 08 October 2019
Broadcaster Michael Portillo rolled up his sleeves and got stuck into some gardening at Great Yarmouth's Venetian Waterways for his latest BBC railway show.
The former Conservative cabinet member, who has a passion for trains and colourful jackets, enjoyed a side-trip into social history when he dropped in at the attraction, conceived as job creation scheme in the 1920s.
He visited with a camera crew and filmed for the next series of BBC2's Great British Railway Journeys which sees him using a 1936 edition of Bradshaw's railway guide and focussing on the interwar period.
At the Waterways, Mr Portillo was welcomed by the council leader, Carl Smith, and chief executive, Sheila Oxtoby.
He interviewed Darren Barker, the council's principal conservation officer, about the history of the Waterways and the council's restoration project.
He also spoke with Harry Conway, who is employed as a horticultural apprentice through the restoration project, as well as gardening volunteer Clare Cooper - joining them for some gardening work before taking to the water and enjoying a ride himself.
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The attraction re-opened in August following a £2.7m restoration scheme
Since restoration started in June 2018, the project has seen the boating lake and Island Café refurbished, the Venetian bridges and thatched weather shelters restored, and volunteers working alongside the new Waterways gardeners to reinstate the original planting scheme, which was praised at the time by the Royal Horticultural Society.
Major conservation works have included repair of seven bridges, re-thatching of four historic structures, planting of 19,500 perennials, shrubs and trees, and positioning more than 500 tonnes of rock and stone.
In addition, the concrete-lined Boating Lake basin has been repaired and re-filled with 3,600 cubic metres of water via a dedicated borehole.
In August, the Boating Lake and Island Café came back in use for the first time in about a decade.
The series is expected to start airing on BBC 2 in the spring.