'The Lakes with Simon Reeve': release date, where he goes, episode guide, and everything we know

'The Lakes with Simon Reeve' sees Simon trekking through this beautiful aeea of northern England.
'The Lakes with Simon Reeve' sees Simon trekking through this beautiful aeea of northern England. (Image credit: BBC)

The Lakes With Simon Reeve is a little different from Simon's usual TV adventures. Previously, Simon has journeyed across the world for his BBC2 travelogues, often visiting some of the planet’s most dangerous places, particularly when he took TV trips along the Tropic Of Capricorn, Tropic Of Cancer and The Equator. But following on from his recent trip around Cornwall, the presenter is once again staying closer to home for this latest three-part series, The Lakes with Simon Reeve.

However, Simon’s trip to Cumbria turns out to be almost as wild as some of his far-flung adventures, as he meets a couple who shoot (and eat) grey squirrels, gets blown up by stun grenades, and visits the most contaminated industrial site west of Chernobyl. 

"The Lake District isn’t all chocolate-box villages and Beatrix Potter," says Simon Reeve, 49. "There’s loads to see and do beyond the normal touristy areas. One of my favourite moments was wild swimming in Buttermere lake. It was freezing, especially as the crew kept saying, 'Hang on Simon, swim along there again, we need another drone shot!'"

Simon later visits Europe’s second biggest wind farm and learns the art of river "rewiggling", a technique to reverse the historic straightening of rivers to reduce flooding. But he admits he can’t wait to travel further afield again.

"I’m hoping I’ll get back to South America because that’s where I was filming just before the pandemic," he says. "Travelling is part of my DNA. It’s not just a jolly, it’s part of what it is to be human."

Here's far more on The Lakes with Simon Reeve as he guides us through his new three-part BBC2 series...

'The Lakes with Simon Reeve' sees Simon much closer to home than usual..

'The Lakes with Simon Reeve' sees Simon much closer to home than usual.. (Image credit: BBC)

'The Lakes with Simon Reeve' release date

The air date for The Lakes with Simon Reeve is Sunday Nov. 14 on BBC2 at 9pm. It's a three-parter with episodes running weekly then being made available on BBCiPlayer shortly afterwards. There's no word yet on a worldwide or US release date, but we will update as soon as we hear. Simon often releases an accompanying book to go with his trips so we'll update on that too.

'The Lakes with Simon Reeve' is a three-parter with plenty to enjoy.

'The Lakes with Simon Reeve' takes an a trip through the best of the Lake District (Image credit: BBC)

A guide to 'The Lakes with Simon Reeve' episode one

In the first episode of The Lakes with Simon Reeve, Simon stays in England’s most remote youth hostel, visits a nuclear submarine, and meets upland farmers struggling to make a living, including 18-year-old Angus.

"He’s a young man who has been left with the astonishing responsibility of running a 1,500-acre farm after both his parents died within a year,’ says Simon. ‘You can’t help but have a lump in your throat."

Simon travels through the glorious Lake District National Park and the county of Cumbria. With its magnificent mountains, glacial valleys, and sixteen iconic lakes and meres, the Lake District is one of the great, natural wonders of our country. But huge changes are sweeping this ancient landscape. In this first of three programmes, Simon will meet some of the Cumbrian characters with different visions for the future of England’s biggest National Park. There’s the campaign group desperately trying to protect the remaining populations of that iconic Lake District creature — the elusive red squirrel — partly through controversially culling the competing greys. 

At Wild Ennerdale, Simon will witness a project aimed at reclaiming part of the park from the traditional activities of sheep farming and forestry and replanting it with native woodland. But the move towards rewilding the Lake District is not popular with everyone. On the glorious high fells, Simon meets a traditional farmer who has spent his life breeding sheep and beautiful fell ponies and who now feels that this ancient way of life is on the point of extinction, amid moves to reduce the colossal impact of sheep grazing on the natural environment. 40,000 people live and work within the boundaries of the national park but rural communities are under huge pressure. Y

Young people are leaving traditional industries – a process not helped by the closure of Cumbria’s famous agricultural college. Simon also visits Barrow-in-Furness a once proud industrial town, where now only one of the famous ship yards remains, building Britain’s fleet of nuclear submarines. He visits a women’s community centre, where the pandemic and lockdowns have seen a spike in cases of reported domestic violence. But even within the most troubled parts of the town, the lure of the nearby Lake District is strong – and Simon joins a group of youngsters tasting the glories of Windemere for the first time.

In 'The Lakes with Simon Reeve' he meets local farmers.

In 'The Lakes with Simon Reeve' he meets local farmers including 18-year-old Angus left to run the family farm after his parents died. (Image credit: BBC)

A guide to 'The Lakes with Simon Reeve' episode 2

In episode two of Lakes with Simon Reeve, the presenter looks at the impact of humans on the National Park. Simon goes wild swimming in the crystal clear waters of Buttermere. But not all of the lakes are quite so pristine and untouched. The famous Derwent Water is just one of the many lakes now clogged with the invasive New Zealand Pygmy Weed. Originally brought to these shores as an aquarium plant, the weed is spreading vigorously in the lakes, brought unintentionally by some of the 20 million or so visitors that travel to the national park each year. 

As pandemic restrictions ease more tourists than ever are expected to swim, hike and climb in the Lake District. The goal for many will be to climb England’s highest peak, Scafell Pike. On the way to the summit Simon learns that sheer footfall is damaging this iconic mountain and stretching the teams of rescue volunteers. The impact of humans on the environment is everywhere in the Lake District and the effect can even be felt well beyond the boundaries of the national park. Severe flooding has devastated the city of Carlisle twice this century. While climate change is blamed for the more frequent and extreme weather that’s struck Cumbria, Simon meets the experts who believe that it’s the rivers upstream that are making the flooding so severe. 

Historically many rivers in the Lake District and across the country have been artificially straightened to stop farmers’ fields flooding, increasing the land available for crops and grazing. Research has shown that when heavy rains fall, the water pours in a torrent straight down into the city. Simon visits a major new project that is restoring rivers to their natural course with the aim of preventing flooding downstream and creating new wetlands. There is a massive benefit to wildlife as well. Foulshaw Moss was once drained and used for commercial forestry and farming. The wetland has been restored to its former glory and is now home to breeding ospreys, a fish-eating bird of prey that had completely disappeared from the British countryside.

Simon Reeve believes the Lake District is one of Britain's most romantic regions, but also looks at the effects of climate change there.

Simon Reeve looks at the devastating effects of climate change in the Lake District.  (Image credit: BBC)

A guide to 'The Lakes with Simon Reeve' episode 3

Simon explores the wild, and rugged coast of Cumbria and learns how central the county is to many of the challenges facing Britain in this final episode of The Lakes with Simon Reeve

The Lake District National Park actually includes a beautiful stretch of Cumbria’s coast where rare Natterjack Toads inhabit a spectacular sand dune landscape. But this rugged wilderness sits in the shadows of the most hazardous industrial site in western Europe. Sellafield is just a few miles from the national park but is home to hundreds of old and disused nuclear facilities, including the largest single stockpile of plutonium on the planet. At a brand new training facility, Simon meets the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, an elite unit of armed police that are the UK’s first line of defence against an attack at a nuclear site. Behind the heavily guarded, razor-wire security fences at Sellafield, a huge nuclear clean-up operation is underway that will take a hundred years to complete. Simon is given rare access to Sellafield’s aging facilities and some of the men and women tasked with clearing and securing more than half a century of Britain’s nuclear waste. There’s no power generated here but it is still Cumbria’s largest private employer – and could well still be in a hundred years’ time. 

Another controversial industry with a huge history here is coal mining. Most of it ended back in the 1980s but a plan to open a new mine up on the Cumbrian coast near Whitehaven has sparked a global controversy. Simon meets the locals who argue that mining coal for steelmaking makes sense, to replace the stuff we import from around the globe, and to provide much needed local jobs and careers. But in the face of climate change, environmentalists have been scathing in their criticism of the plan. 

Further down the coast, Simon heads out to sea to visit a much less controversial part of Cumbria’s ‘Energy Coast’, the second biggest offshore wind farm on earth. But greener energy alone won’t reduce carbon emissions enough to prevent global warming. Vast areas of the Lake District are boggy peatlands. Peat is dense, wet organic matter that stores enormous quantities of carbon. Historically it’s been used to heat homes and more recently sold in garden centres. Farmers have also drained peatlands to maximise grazing land. 

Simon heads up into the fells above Coniston, to see a large project that is aiming to prevent the release of carbon from peatlands, reversing this process to restore the land to its former boggy glory. This is just one way the landscape of the Lake District has been shaped by centuries of farming. At the end of his travels through Cumbria, Simon meets James Rebanks, a shepherd and bestselling author who believes that farming is not the problem some see for places like the Lake District, but the solution to many of our national problems, from the loss of wildlife to climate change. His vision of ‘regenerative farming’ where farmers work with the natural world to produce food is not just some eco-friendly dream, it is backed by hard economics and increasingly seen as one answer to the decline of rural communities and the degradation of the natural world. It is a suitably optimistic ending for Simon’s travels around Cumbria.

Is there a trailer for 'The Lakes With Simon Reeve'?

Yes the BBC has released a trailer for The Lakes With Simon Reeve which you can see on iPlayer or right here.

More about TV explorer and author Simon Reeve

The Lakes with Simon Reeve is the latest in a long line of TV travelogues for Simon, most of which have run on BBC2 and have accompanying books. Among his many shows and series are Greece with Simon Reeve, Tropic of Cancer, Equator, Tropic of Capricorn, North America with Simon Reeve and Holidays in The Danger Zone: Places That Don't Exist.

As an author, Simon Reeve wrote about the Munich Olympic terror of 1972 in his book One Day In September, which had been made into an acclaimed one-off documentary in 1999. Many of his TV travelogues also have accompanying books written by SImon.

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Nicholas Cannon
TV Content Director on TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week

I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus Whattowatch.com. I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.