In Review

August podcast picks: Wild places, wooden pallets and WCs

Featuring Scotland Outdoors, The Skewer, The Boring Talks, Get Flushed and Ways to Change the World

If you’re stuck at home this summer and “craving audio” to transport you to “wild places”, the Scotland Outdoors podcast (from BBC Radio Scotland) is a must-listen, said Patricia Nicol in The Sunday Times.

In two recent episodes its main presenters, Mark Stephen and Euan McIlwraith, meandered down the Tay from Killin to the Ben Lawers Nature Reserve, and on to Dunkeld – chatting along the way to “botanists, rangers, storytellers, anglers, craftsmen, musicians, and boat and swimming enthusiasts”. The sound quality is “stunning”, and so are the aural pictures they paint: “A wagtail just braving the rapids there… A snell blast pouring straight down the loch.”

In a different vein, but equally transporting, is Jon Holmes’s “satirical soundscape show” The Skewer (BBC Sounds), which has just won best radio podcast at the British Podcast awards. “Irreverent, moving, whipsmart, necessary, this is one of the past year’s best programmes”: its sharpness “has at times left me slack-jawed”.

One of the joys of podcasting remains its “indulgence of niche and, frankly, weird pursuits”, said Fiona Sturges in The Guardian. Among the “crème de la crème of obscure stuff to stick in your ears” is The Boring Talks, in which the writer James Ward and an array of guest speakers expound on dry subjects with the “utmost passion”.

Their perversely compelling topics include the influence of the wooden pallet on the global economy, the historical significance of crinoline, and how algorithms dictate the price of books. Lots of podcasters “talk crap”, but Get Flushed “gets down and dirty with actual effluent”, sharing “dispatches from the sharp end of the sanitation industry”, covering subjects such as the best (and worst) loo paper, chemical treatments and odour elimination.

And if you’ve “ever wondered what the job of a skeletal articulator, an anatomical pathology technologist or a pet mortician really entails”, then Specimens, hosted by “millennial taxidermist” Elle Kaye, is the “slightly icky” podcast for you.

The Ways to Change the World podcast by Channel 4’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy – which features interviews with politicians, journalists, geographers, chefs and more – is excellent, said James Marriott in The Times. There’s something for everyone, with guests ranging from Margaret Atwood and Michaela Coel to Yotam Ottolenghi and the Dalai Lama.

“If you are starting at the top, the two most recent episodes are very good. Manchester’s Labour Mayor Andy Burnham comes across as “convincing and likeable”. And I found journalist George Packer’s description of the US as “four Americas (which he calls real America, just America, free America and smart America) so intriguing I immediately bought his recent book”.

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