Mystical West A Picture of Britain


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Mystical West

David Dimbleby examines how Britain's countryside has inspired its art. David experiences the mountain paintings of Richard Wilson in Snowdonia.


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My journey through the British Isles is taking me to places that have inspired

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some of our greatest artists.

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I'm heading for Wales and the West Country.

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To the ancient monuments of Salisbury Plain.

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The heathlands of Dorset.

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The majestic mountains of Snowdonia.

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And the seas around our far western shores.

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This is a place steeped in Celtic history and mythology,

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a place of prehistoric kingdoms, of ancient ruins,

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the legendary home of King Arthur's Camelot.

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A place with a hint of the pagan just beneath the surface.

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This is the landscape of Britain's mystical West.

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It's a wonderful moment,

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breaking out onto Salisbury Plain, this great expanse.

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All the stress of the city gone,

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the air feels fresher, the skies are bigger,

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and then, in the far distance, you spot the gateway to the West,

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the magical circle of Stonehenge.

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Stonehenge is one of Britain's great mysteries.

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We don't know for certain who built it,

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how they moved these massive stones, or why.

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We do know it's been here for about 4,000 years,

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the relic of a lost civilisation.

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200 years ago, long before the invention of photography,

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artists provided the popular images of the great beauty sights.

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And professional painters vied with each other for success.

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Interestingly, Stonehenge had not yet had a great picture done of it.

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In a sense, it was up for grabs.

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The painters who took on this challenge were William Turner and John Constable.

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Both came on expeditions here in the early 19th century.

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Turner was the first to produce a finished work.

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Turner painted a watercolour here which became nothing short of a sensation.

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It was reproduced as an engraving which became a best-seller throughout Britain.

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What Turner had done was create a powerful image of Stonehenge

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which entranced the British public.

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Turner paints an epic moment in the middle of a storm.

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A flock of sheep is scattered.

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Several appear to have been felled by lightning.

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The shepherd has been struck down too,

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and his dog howls at the elements.

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Turner's painting offered a daunting challenge to John Constable.

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Much of his career had been spent in the shadow of the great Turner.

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Here was an opportunity to assert himself.

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He turned to a pencil sketch he'd made in 1820

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and he used this as a starting point for a major work.

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Constable paints Stonehenge after the storm has passed,

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the ancient stones illuminated by a double rainbow.

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Constable had successfully vied with Turner

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and shown the confidence of a painter at the height of his powers.

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After years of struggle, Constable was by now accepted as one of the great artists of the age.

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And the painting he did, based on that sketch of 1820,

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has become the defining image of Stonehenge.

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South-west of Stonehenge, towards the coast,

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is the birthplace of the writer Thomas Hardy.

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In novels like Tess Of The D'Urbevilles and Far From The Madding Crowd,

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Hardy captures the power of landscape over our lives.

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This is the cottage where Thomas Hardy was born. In the middle window was the bedroom.

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He was one of four children, the son of a stonemason.

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He used to walk three miles to school in Dorchester, so quite a humble background.

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But this cottage is set in the most glorious Dorset countryside,

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which he made so famous in his books.

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Hardy turned his native Dorset

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into a fictional land called Wessex,

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the setting for passionate love stories and tragedies.

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There are two sides to Hardy country.

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The ordered world of man -

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towns, villages,

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the cultivated fields.

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And then there's the untamed wilderness of Egdon Heath.

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This is where so many of his characters met their destiny,

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where they pursued their illicit love affairs,

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where they battled with the elements,

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where some of them came to die as outcasts.

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For Hardy, Egdon Heath is almost at the centre of the world.

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Everything around it changed - the people, the villages, the fields.

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He wrote that civilisation was its enemy.

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"The storm was its lover

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"and the wind its friend.

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"It was at present a place perfectly accordant with Man's nature.

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"Neither ghastly, hateful, nor ugly,

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"neither commonplace, unmeaning, nor tame.

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"But, like man, slighted and enduring.

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"It had a lonely face, suggesting tragical possibilities."

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You can see why Hardy loved this place so much.

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It's interesting that his bad characters always hate the heath.

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The characters that he admires always love it.

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How much of Hardy's heath is left?

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Approximately only 20% of what would have been here, or in England...

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-in, um...in Hardy's time.

-A hundred years or so?

-Yeah.

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In Hardy, people die of adder bites, for instance, on this heath.

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-Has it still got snakes here?

-Yeah, there are three types of snake here.

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-Three?

-Yeah. There's adders, grass snake and smooth snake.

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And you keep tabs on them by...?

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We've put tins down. That's the best way of monitoring them.

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Um...then...as the tins heat up,

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as they're cold-blooded,

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they will heat up underneath, so it's a good way of spotting them.

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-Just a bit of corrugated iron?

-Yeah, just like this.

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-And there we have a smooth snake.

-Oh, yes.

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It's very, very smooth.

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Is it very rare?

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Very, very rare. The rarest snake in Britain,

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only found on the heaths.

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Hardy knew his heath was losing its battle against the forces of civilisation.

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Today, little of it remains.

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Hardy's novels are a lament for a landscape and a way of life

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that was disappearing.

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The light up here on these Dorset hills by the sea is quite astonishing!

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Look at this field of corn - almost silver.

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It's partly that the wind and the air is so clean,

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because the wind's blowing across from the south-west.

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It's partly, I think, the huge mirror of the sea, of the English Channel out there,

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which throws the light back up. It makes it completely magical.

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The artist David Inshaw has captured the magical light of this part of the country.

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This painting was an instant hit when it first appeared.

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When the artist revealed that he was in love

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with BOTH the women playing badminton,

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it took on an air of mystery.

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Inshaw said his passion led him to paint them

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"blessed by the sun in the clear early morning air".

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But there's something slightly eerie, ghostlike, about the scene.

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The village of Little Bredy is the setting of another of Inshaw's paintings.

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It captures the familiar scene of a game of village cricket.

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SOUNDS OF CRICKET BEING PLAYED

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-Very good innings!

-Thank you very much.

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What led you to paint this scene?

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Well, it was a lot of circumstances, really.

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I originally came here late one evening,

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about 35 years ago,

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and the sun was setting and there was nobody about

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and I just sat in the pavilion and watched the sun set,

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and just enjoyed it - it was a magical place.

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I didn't see anybody...

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Is there something about...

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playing cricket in this scenery

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-that makes it different for you?

-Yeah, it is really,

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because when the bowler's bowling you ARE focused on that moment when the ball comes towards you.

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It does enforce this particular kind of landscape

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which is totally magical, especially on an evening like this,

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with the long shadows and so on.

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You see the landscape and the countryside because you're hitting this ball!

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-Does that make sense?

-No!

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-Not to me! If it makes sense to you, that's fine.

-I don't know!

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SPEECH DROWNED BY MUSIC

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THEY CHATTER

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Glastonbury in Somerset.

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For almost 1,000 years this town has been a place of pilgrimage

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for those seeking the legend of King Arthur, Camelot and the Holy Grail.

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We don't actually know who King Arthur is.

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The likeliest candidate is that he was a 6th-century Celtic warrior,

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who fought a number of successful battles against the Anglo-Saxons.

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But legend has transformed him into this great king who sleeps in the isle of Avalon,

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waiting for the moment when he'll rise up and come to our aid at our hour of need.

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Until that hour of need comes,

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the best chance of finding him is here, at Glastonbury Abbey.

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And this is the supposed site of Arthur's tomb.

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His bones and that of his wife were found outside the walls,

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brought in here by the monks,

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authenticated by them in the 12th century.

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And ever since, this has been a site of pilgrimage.

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In fact, Arthur's death has become almost a national fixation.

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The story of Arthur's death,

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and with it the end of an age of honour and chivalry,

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has fascinated artists for centuries.

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Edward Burne-Jones,

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one of the most popular painters of the Victorian era,

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returned again and again to Arthurian legend.

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In 1881, Burne-Jones began a 20-foot wide painting of King Arthur.

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He was still working on it when he died 17 years later.

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The king is shown sleeping in Avalon,

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attended by beautiful young women,

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patiently waiting for him to awake and save these islands.

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Burne-Jones's obsession with King Arthur

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may have arisen from the fact that he felt a sort of identification with him,

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as though some of Arthur's nobility was present in his own life.

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Burne-Jones was one of the great figures of Victorian painting,

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a man of immense fame, and now, in his declining years,

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his painting, the popularity of it, slightly fading.

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And so he starts painting this enormous picture of King Arthur,

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and works obsessively at it.

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On the night of his death,

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he played dominoes with his wife, she read to him because his eyesight was going,

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and then he went to bed, and he composed himself on his bed,

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in exactly the same position as he was painting King Arthur -

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on a slightly raised pillow, with his head a bit to one side.

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And a few hours later, he died.

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I never thought I'd find myself, in the middle of the night,

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trampling down a field of barley.

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But then, strange things happen in the mystical West.

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-So, tomorrow, people will find this...

-They'll fly over it, probably tomorrow.

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And they'll think it was made by little green men from Mars.

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They'll think what they want to think, that's what we want them to do.

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We want them to, we want them to wonder.

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For you, what's the point of it, what's the excitement?

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Sometimes we see photographs of the crop circles we've created,

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and you do think, did we do that, was that possible,

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in four hours, under cover of darkness?

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Do you see yourselves as artists using the landscape?

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Do you chose the site carefully so that it will look a particular way from the air?

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We work primarily in Wiltshire,

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and it's an area that has probably more Neolithic sites per square mile than anywhere else in Europe.

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So we drop a crop circle next to Silbury Hill or Avebury Ring,

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you kind of have a captive audience,

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and you've placed it in a mystical landscape.

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So, how would people react, what would they come and do here?

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They might get healed - that's quite a common thing -

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or they might have a negative effect of feeling nauseous

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or have a headache or something.

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Or they might come and meditate or sleep or make love, all sorts.

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-How do you know they come here and make love?

-They write about it.

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-Actually, I have a photograph of someone...

-Have you?

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..taken from a helicopter.

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Crop-circle-makers traditionally work secretly

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under cover of darkness.

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But being a bit chicken, we'd asked permission.

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How do you say "welcome to Wales" in Welsh?

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-Oh, I've no idea cos I'm Scottish!

-You're Scottish!

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I come all this way to meet a Welshman and you're Scottish.

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What do you expect of someone taking money?

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Thank you very much.

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This is the frontier between England and Wales.

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The two countries were united by conquest over 700 years ago,

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but the differences in national character are strong as ever.

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It's nice that you pay £4.80 to go into Wales,

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but getting out is free.

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I'm, in a way, coming home.

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My grandfather was Welsh, and his three daughters were called

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Dilys, Myfwanwy and Olwen,

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so at least a quarter of me is coming home now

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even though I always claim to be a Viking.

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It's only in the past 250 years

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that painters have turned to this spectacular scenery for inspiration.

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Artists would happily go to the Continent

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but gave Wales a miss, thinking it barren,

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too untamed.

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But a painter called Richard Wilson took a different view.

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Travelling on the Continent, Wilson learnt the art of landscape painting in the Italian style.

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But in the 1760s he did something nobody ever thought of doing before.

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He began a series of paintings of Welsh landscape,

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saying to his friends, as a proud Welshman,

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"What's Italy and France got that Wales can't offer?"

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These are the slopes of Cader Idris,

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which translates in Welsh as "the throne of Idris".

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And Idris was a mythological giant or bard.

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It's said that if you spend the night on this mountain

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you wake up in the morning either blind, or mad, or a poet.

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This is the place that inspired Richard Wilson's finest painting.

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Wilson's painting heralds a new era.

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He takes this rugged landscape and creates a visionary picture,

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one of the earliest masterpieces of British landscape art.

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This is one of the places I've longed all my life to see...

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..because that picture of Wilson's always been fixed in my imagination.

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And here... it's exactly like the picture.

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This great expanse of calm, flat water. Dark, tinged with green.

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And then this clear line of the hills, the rocks, all around.

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Absolute beautiful silhouette against a grey sky.

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And it's so extraordinary to think that this is the place

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that Wilson came after travelling in Italy, travelling in France,

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seeing the way they painted landscape there

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and saying to himself, "It ought to be possible to look at Welsh landscape like that.

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"We've got landscape just as good, just as dramatic,"

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and applying everything he'd learnt to this place,

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to Cader Idris.

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It's magic to be here. The only thing I can't understand

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is why there aren't rows of painters all the way, from left to right, painting this scene.

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Because it is just terrific.

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Wilson had a huge influence on the generation of painters that followed him.

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The young William Turner came here on a pilgrimage,

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he was so impressed, just to see Wilson's birthplace.

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And John Constable said of Wilson, "He was one of those appointed

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"to show the world what exists in nature."

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North of Cader Idris is Snowdon,

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the highest mountain in Wales.

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Ever since 1896 this magnificent railway has been carrying people

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who either can't walk or don't want to walk to the top of Snowdon

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to see the views up there.

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The engine that's pushing us today is the original engine from 1896,

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now driven not by Welsh coal, but by Polish coal.

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But the steam engine puffing away at the back there, taking us up.

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It's actually a lovely way of seeing this countryside.

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Not that I can't walk, but I'm feeling quite idle today.

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And all round, as you go up,

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there are these great views of the open hillsides,

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rushing waterfalls, the sheep and lambs in the fields.

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And all the time this steam engine just going, ch-ch-ch, ch-ch-ch,

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doing the hard work for you. Nice!

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Snowdon has long been a favourite of painters and writers.

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When the poet William Wordsworth came here,

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he described it as

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"a silent sea of hoary mist"

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"a hundred hills, their dusky backs upheaved

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"all over this still ocean and beyond."

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Snowdon has always been a symbol of Welsh independence.

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It's the subject of many epic poems and songs

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written and performed by the bards

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who've kept the spirit of Wales alive.

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The bards were more than just poets and musicians.

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They were more like a kind of priesthood

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with real influence in Wales and a proper training for the job.

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But when Edward I invaded the country,

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conquered Wales, in the 13th century,

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their influence began to wane.

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A myth grew up that Edward himself had ordered them all killed

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in order to stamp out Welsh culture.

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And the myth went on that the last bard left

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chose to throw himself off the top of Snowdon

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rather than die at the hands of the English.

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The painter Thomas Jones shows the last bard on the side of Snowdon.

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He's about to leap to his death

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as the English army approaches in the distance.

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He's surrounded by the bodies of his fellow bards.

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Curiously, Stonehenge has been moved to Snowdon

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as though to suggest that all the land from the planes of Wiltshire

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to the peaks of North Wales rightfully belongs to the Celts.

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# Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi

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# Gwlad beirdd a chantorion, enwogion o fri

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# Ei gwrol ryfelwyr, gwladgarwyr tra mad

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# Tros ryddid gollasant eu gwaed

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# Gwlad, gwlad

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# Pleidiol wyf i'm gwlad

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# Tra mor yn fur i'r bur hoff bau

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# O bydded i'r hen iaith barhau

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# Gwlad, gwlad

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# Pleidiol wyf i'm gwlad

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# Tra mor yn fur i'r bur hoff bau

0:32:060:32:16

# O bydded i'r hen iaith barhau! #

0:32:160:32:28

That was terrific!

0:32:280:32:30

How often have you sung Land Of My Fathers on an open hillside?

0:32:300:32:35

It clears the lungs, you see!

0:32:350:32:38

What's the origin of the song? Where does it actually come from?

0:32:390:32:43

Does anyone know about that?

0:32:430:32:45

Don't know. Just been singing it for years.

0:32:450:32:47

It's a song about slaughtering the English or something(!)

0:32:470:32:50

THEY ALL LAUGH

0:32:500:32:54

I always...

0:32:540:32:56

It's a song about...

0:33:000:33:02

I always suspected that!

0:33:060:33:09

-It's a song about slaughtering the English.

-Something like that.

0:33:090:33:13

Do you all speak Welsh...? You're very politely speaking English now,

0:33:130:33:16

but do you speak Welsh among yourselves and during rehearsals?

0:33:160:33:20

-ALL: Yes.

-Always in Welsh?

0:33:200:33:22

-Excuse me?

-Yes.

-What dialect have you got?

0:33:220:33:24

Me? I only have about three words of Welsh. I had a Welsh grandfather.

0:33:240:33:29

-No, I'm asking...

-My English?

-Yes.

-I don't have a dialect.

0:33:290:33:34

I come hotfoot from the BBC!

0:33:340:33:36

-You've got to be bilingual as well!

-Yes!

0:33:420:33:45

-BBC English and normal English!

-BBC English is a very strange...

0:33:450:33:49

Actually, it's dying out now.

0:33:490:33:51

I learnt it at my father's knee, but it's vanishing, I'm afraid.

0:33:510:33:56

An artist needs constantly to refresh his inspiration.

0:34:230:34:27

The English painter Samuel Palmer had spent many years

0:34:270:34:31

painting mystical pictures of the Weald of Kent.

0:34:310:34:34

Very beautiful, they are too. But, he'd run out of ideas.

0:34:340:34:36

And then he came here, in 1835.

0:34:360:34:40

And he discovered at the waterfall of Pistil Mawddach

0:34:400:34:44

a scene that led him to paint one of his greatest pictures.

0:34:440:34:48

Peaty water spills down like a river of gold.

0:34:580:35:02

The cliffs glow in the sunlight.

0:35:040:35:07

Palmer's son said, "This painting contained his whole heart."

0:35:100:35:15

Palmer wrote movingly to a friend about his experience of being here.

0:35:270:35:31

He said, "All is solitude and utter stillness,

0:35:310:35:35

"except for the fall of a mountain stream.

0:35:350:35:37

"To such an accompaniment, the heart may utter its full music."

0:35:370:35:42

That wonderful golden glow that Samuel Palmer paints...

0:35:500:35:55

looks as though it could just be a figment of the artist's imagination.

0:35:550:36:00

A kind of artistic licence. Not so. The water here really does glow.

0:36:000:36:04

30 years after Palmer was here, there was a kind of gold rush.

0:36:090:36:13

Mines opened up all over the area.

0:36:130:36:15

Although most of them have now closed,

0:36:160:36:18

there are still places where you can find gold in the water.

0:36:180:36:22

You can see the lighter material is travelling off the top.

0:36:370:36:40

It's going back to the river.

0:36:400:36:41

Give it another shake now.

0:36:430:36:45

You want to keep that gold down on the bottom of the pan.

0:36:450:36:48

-That's it.

-So it's all done under water except the final stage?

-Yes.

0:36:480:36:53

How did gold mining start here?

0:36:550:36:58

Well, there are a lot of mineral veins in the area

0:36:580:37:01

and in the 18th and 19th century,

0:37:010:37:05

hundreds of people flocked to the area, mines sprang up.

0:37:050:37:10

-There's a little grain.

-Where?!

0:37:100:37:13

-Can just about see it...

-Oh, there!

-Anyone got a microscope?!

0:37:130:37:16

-Tiny! Just there?

-Yes.

0:37:160:37:19

But you can see, it's stayed behind everything else, has washed away.

0:37:190:37:23

-Yeah, three grains, there, look. Or two grains.

-Possibly two.

0:37:230:37:27

-Possibly two there.

-There's gold in them there rivers!

0:37:270:37:31

How brilliant!

0:37:310:37:33

Well, well, well...

0:37:330:37:36

I can't say it's enough to offer to a jeweller

0:37:360:37:39

-and have made up into a ring.

-Oh, no.

0:37:390:37:41

-It's great.

-You'd be here for a very long time to get that much.

0:37:410:37:45

Excellent.

0:37:450:37:46

Laugharne is a small seaside town in South Wales

0:38:310:38:35

immortalised in the work of the most famous Welsh poet -

0:38:350:38:38

Dylan Thomas.

0:38:380:38:39

Thomas first came to Laugharne in 1934 when he was just 21.

0:38:420:38:46

He said at the time it was the strangest town in all Wales.

0:38:460:38:50

But four years later, he was back.

0:38:500:38:53

Exhausted by the pressures of life in London and also, I suspect,

0:38:530:38:57

by maintaining that image of the hard-drinking romantic poet,

0:38:570:39:02

he made this place his home, his retreat from the world.

0:39:020:39:05

A place that, at least for a time,

0:39:050:39:07

saved him from the path to self destruction.

0:39:070:39:11

In the evenings, Thomas would come down to the town and visit the pubs

0:39:190:39:23

and have a drink or two, or three or four,

0:39:230:39:26

and listen to the locals talking.

0:39:260:39:28

He used the conversations and stories he heard

0:39:280:39:31

as the basis for the famous play Under Milk Wood,

0:39:310:39:34

which put Laugharne on the map.

0:39:340:39:36

He didn't actually call it Laugharne in the play.

0:39:360:39:39

He called it Llareggub, which is "bugger all" spelt backwards.

0:39:390:39:44

Aah, delicious! Where's it made?

0:39:520:39:55

That one is made in Ammanford.

0:39:550:39:57

It translates as nice beer.

0:39:570:40:00

"Up the street in the Sailors Arms,

0:40:030:40:06

"Sinbad Sailors, grandson of Mary Ann Sailors,

0:40:060:40:10

"draws a pint in the sunlit bar.

0:40:100:40:14

"The ship's clock in the bar says half past eleven.

0:40:140:40:18

"Half past eleven is opening time.

0:40:180:40:21

"The hands of the clock have stayed still at half past eleven

0:40:210:40:26

"for 50 years. It's always opening time in the Sailors Arms."

0:40:260:40:31

Dylan Thomas and his family moved into a boathouse

0:40:370:40:39

down on the foreshore there.

0:40:390:40:41

He actually did his work here in this shed.

0:40:410:40:44

It was, if you like, his ivory tower in what he called Ivory Laugharne.

0:40:440:40:49

It was a place he could get away from the family, the children,

0:40:490:40:53

and all the rows and the tensions and sit here quietly on his own

0:40:530:40:56

and write his poems.

0:40:560:40:58

It looks out...

0:41:070:41:09

..over this bay that he loved so much

0:41:100:41:12

and Laugharne in the distance there.

0:41:120:41:15

It's what he once called,

0:41:150:41:17

"the mussel-pooled and the heron-priested shore."

0:41:170:41:22

It was here that he wrote one of his best poems,

0:41:250:41:28

when his father was dying in the town nearby.

0:41:280:41:33

And he sat at this desk and wrote these words.

0:41:330:41:38

"Do not go gentle into that good night

0:41:400:41:44

"Old age should rave and burn at close of day

0:41:440:41:48

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light

0:41:480:41:51

"Good men, the last wave by crying how bright

0:41:530:41:59

"Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay

0:41:590:42:03

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light

0:42:030:42:07

"And you, my father, there on the sad height

0:42:070:42:11

"Curse, bless me now with your tears, I pray

0:42:110:42:16

"Do not go gentle into that good night

0:42:160:42:19

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

0:42:190:42:24

Just two years later, Dylan Thomas died,

0:42:330:42:37

aged 39.

0:42:370:42:39

I've come to Pembrokeshire to see the landscape

0:43:040:43:08

that entranced one of my favourite painters, Graham Sutherland.

0:43:080:43:12

He first came here in 1934 and returned again and again.

0:43:120:43:18

From the moment Sutherland came to Wales,

0:43:230:43:27

he said he was obsessed.

0:43:270:43:29

This was the kind of countryside that he loved.

0:43:290:43:32

What he responded to...

0:43:320:43:34

The fields,

0:43:340:43:36

the overhanging hedges, what he called the twisted gorse,

0:43:360:43:39

and, above all, the strange quality of the light

0:43:390:43:42

which was magical and transforming.

0:43:420:43:46

It just changed the look of things all the time.

0:43:460:43:49

I mean, look at it today. We've got a strong wind from the south-west,

0:43:490:43:53

white horses at sea

0:43:530:43:55

and the whole of this landscape clean and rich with colour.

0:43:550:43:59

It was this that Sutherland responded to.

0:43:590:44:03

This is where he found his inspiration.

0:44:030:44:06

I like his sulphurous colours best. I like that sulphurous yellow

0:44:480:44:52

and that sort of rather cruel lime green and strange pinks.

0:44:520:44:59

And I like the shapes.

0:44:590:45:01

But it's just that piercing eye that he has

0:45:070:45:11

that makes you not walk past but stop and look

0:45:110:45:16

and see the shape and see the colour

0:45:160:45:19

in a way that, without him, you might not have done.

0:45:190:45:23

I'm leaving Wales to return to a place I've known since childhood.

0:45:380:45:43

The last leg of our trip brings us to Devon.

0:45:570:46:00

We're sailing into Dartmouth on my sailing boat, Rocket,

0:46:000:46:04

whose home port it is.

0:46:040:46:06

I've sailed these waters for years and years and years.

0:46:060:46:09

I love them. The countryside around is beautiful.

0:46:090:46:12

The added pleasure is the long, distinguished history

0:46:120:46:15

of Dartmouth as a naval port.

0:46:150:46:17

The maritime artist Thomas Looney captures the bustle of the harbour

0:46:220:46:27

in the early 19th-century.

0:46:270:46:28

Thomas Looney was absolutely obsessed with the sea.

0:46:500:46:53

He painted in his lifetime something like 3,000 pictures,

0:46:530:46:56

most of them of the sea and boats and ships.

0:46:560:46:59

It's an extraordinary achievement.

0:47:030:47:05

From his early 40s, Looney was crippled

0:47:050:47:08

by what's thought to have been a severe form of arthritis.

0:47:080:47:12

A visitor to his studio said that the painter's wrists

0:47:130:47:17

ended not in hands but in two stumps

0:47:170:47:20

and he held the brush between them.

0:47:200:47:23

Under these conditions, he produced some of his most delicate work.

0:47:250:47:29

Bearing away! Come on, Sally, what are you doing?!

0:47:400:47:44

You're doing it the wrong way, Sal, I suspect.

0:47:460:47:49

'Sailing's always said to bring out the worst in a man,

0:47:520:47:55

'a view sadly shared by my sister.'

0:47:550:47:59

The captain of Rocket can sometimes be a bit of a Captain Blythe.

0:47:590:48:04

We certainly don't get pleases or thank-yous.

0:48:040:48:07

Ready about! SALLY!

0:48:070:48:10

HE LAUGHS

0:48:150:48:18

You've forgotten it!

0:48:180:48:20

-You're all fingers and thumbs!

-Oooh, where's the...?

0:48:200:48:23

-MOCKING:

-Oooh, where's the...?

0:48:230:48:25

Splashy, rainy, misty, snowy, foggy, haily, floody.

0:48:480:48:52

Those are not my words. They're the words of Romantic poet, John Keats.

0:48:520:48:55

When he came to Devon, he couldn't stand it.

0:48:550:48:58

That was the weather he had and that's the weather you can get.

0:48:580:49:01

Up here on Dartmoor,

0:49:010:49:02

this weather really makes it all the more mysterious.

0:49:020:49:06

Because this is a place of legend. There's a story, for instance,

0:49:060:49:11

that on this road, if I'm not careful,

0:49:110:49:13

hairy hands will come up and seize the steering wheel of the car

0:49:130:49:17

and force me off the road to my death.

0:49:170:49:21

So I must go very, very carefully.

0:49:220:49:24

Like so many travellers, I've been lured across Dartmoor

0:49:310:49:35

to the seductive charms of Cornwall.

0:49:350:49:38

The novelist Daphne Du Maurier

0:49:490:49:52

first came to Fowey on holiday in 1926 at the age of 19.

0:49:520:49:57

She fell in love with the place and eventually settled here.

0:49:570:50:01

This is just outside Fowey, one of the lanes Daphne du Maurier used to walk,

0:50:150:50:20

with its great high hedge, hundreds of years old.

0:50:200:50:23

And she found here what many artists who came to the mystical West found,

0:50:230:50:28

what she called a sense of continuity of the past and the present merging.

0:50:280:50:34

But always this sense of this being a very old country.

0:50:340:50:39

In this timeless landscape, du Maurier could lose herself for hours,

0:50:390:50:45

imagining it inhabited by smugglers, pirates,

0:50:450:50:50

cavaliers in the Civil War.

0:50:500:50:52

And she wrote stories about them all.

0:50:520:50:56

One day she was here, watching a farmer ploughing his field,

0:50:560:51:00

she said, "With a cloud of screaming gulls circling above his head."

0:51:000:51:05

Then an idea came to her which become one of her best stories,

0:51:050:51:09

and certainly one of Alfred Hitchcock's best films.

0:51:090:51:13

The idea was just four words,

0:51:130:51:16

"Supposing the gulls attacked."

0:51:160:51:20

SEAGULLS CRY

0:51:200:51:23

"A gull dived down at him from the sky, missed, swerved in flight,

0:51:230:51:27

"and rose to dive again. Covering his head with his arms,

0:51:270:51:31

"he ran towards the cottage. They kept coming at him from the air,

0:51:310:51:36

"silent save for the beating wings. He felt the blood on his hands,

0:51:360:51:40

"his wrists, his neck. Each stab of a swooping beak tore his flesh.

0:51:400:51:45

"With each dive, with each attack, they became bolder."

0:51:450:51:50

Polridmouth Beach is at the heart of Daphne du Maurier's great mystery story, Rebecca.

0:52:050:52:11

This isolated cove is where Rebecca was murdered.

0:52:110:52:16

Her spirit casts a shadow over her husband and his new wife.

0:52:160:52:21

In Rebecca, she describes coming down the steep path,

0:52:280:52:32

through the woods, to the grey cove, and the deserted cottage,

0:52:320:52:37

and said, "These things disturb me."

0:52:370:52:41

And there is a kind of...eeriness

0:52:410:52:43

about this place that she captured in that book.

0:52:430:52:47

It's extraordinary to think that that short ten-minute walk

0:53:050:53:10

inspired two of the most popular, worldwide books and films of the 20th century.

0:53:100:53:17

And it's because du Maurier had the power to capture this landscape to use it as her inspiration.

0:53:170:53:23

She once said, "I know that no person will ever enter my blood, as Cornwall has.

0:53:230:53:29

"People and things pass away, but not places."

0:53:290:53:34

My last stop is one of the most beautiful coastal towns in Britain,

0:53:480:53:52

St Ives.

0:53:520:53:55

St Ives is famous today as an artists' colony.

0:54:050:54:08

But even 100 years ago, it was teeming with painters,

0:54:080:54:11

many of them professionals from London, jaded with life there,

0:54:110:54:15

and wanting to come down here to this beautiful seaside scenery

0:54:150:54:18

and this magical light.

0:54:180:54:20

Perhaps the most famous wasn't a professional painter at all.

0:54:200:54:25

He lived in St Ives, he was a fisherman.

0:54:250:54:28

His name, Alfred Wallis.

0:54:280:54:30

Wallis went to sea as a cabin boy when he was only nine years old.

0:54:410:54:46

And for many years, the sea was his life.

0:54:460:54:49

When Wallis was 70, his wife suddenly died,

0:54:580:55:02

and he was completely distraught, didn't know what to do.

0:55:020:55:06

He saw all the artists working here and thought he'd take up painting,

0:55:060:55:10

as he put it, "for company".

0:55:100:55:12

Wallis painted simply, like a child.

0:55:150:55:19

He used ship's paint on pieces of driftwood or cardboard,

0:55:190:55:24

to bring alive memories of his life at sea.

0:55:240:55:27

Wallis captured the spirit of Cornwall

0:55:360:55:39

as vividly as the professional painters who'd come to live in the town.

0:55:390:55:43

To the locals in St Ives, Wallis was seen as a rather eccentric dabbler in painting.

0:55:460:55:51

They didn't take it very seriously.

0:55:510:55:53

But in the '20s, when the modern painters came here, saw him painting outside his cottage,

0:55:530:55:57

they recognised naive genius.

0:55:570:56:00

To a whole generation of artists who settled here,

0:56:100:56:13

Wallis's painting showed the instinctive response to landscape

0:56:130:56:18

that they were struggling to achieve.

0:56:180:56:21

The paintings of a retired fisherman influenced

0:56:240:56:28

some of Britain's most successful 20th-century artists.

0:56:280:56:32

Here Wallis is, hanging on the wall of the Tate Gallery in St Ives.

0:56:570:57:01

He would've been... pleased as punch by this,

0:57:010:57:06

because in his lifetime, though a few painters

0:57:060:57:09

saw something special in his work,

0:57:090:57:12

he wasn't internationally recognised as he is today.

0:57:120:57:15

In fact, he died in poverty,

0:57:150:57:18

his last days spent in the workhouse.

0:57:180:57:22

This is the island. The headland that juts out from St Ives into the Atlantic.

0:57:440:57:50

DH Lawrence said of being in Cornwall that it was like being at a window looking out from England.

0:57:500:57:56

But if you turn the other way, you can see it

0:57:560:57:59

as a window looking back into Britain.

0:57:590:58:03

Looking at all those landscapes we've seen,

0:58:030:58:06

each one a different country, each with its own accent and attitude.

0:58:060:58:12

All of them brought to life by the skill and imagination of those artists,

0:58:120:58:17

who've offered us their vision of Britain to share.

0:58:170:58:21

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:510:58:54

David's epic journey round Britain celebrating the landscapes that have inspired the arts takes him from Stonehenge to St Ives via Snowdonia. The setting for Thomas Hardy's tragic love affairs, and the legend of King Arthur at Glastonbury, under cloak of darkness Dimbleby experiences for himself the mystery of crop circles, and the spectacular mountain paintings of Richard Wilson in Snowdonia. He also encounters the booming voices of a Welsh Male Voice Choir perched on a Welsh peak singing Land of Our Fathers, the drunken sprees of Dylan Thomas and at last the homeward journey across Devon and Cornwall to explore the horror of the Hound of the Baskervilles and the melodrama of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. As Dimbleby sails up the Dart he ruminates on the beauties of the landscape he has seen over the series. Joined by his sister, they recall childhood holidays together on the glorious Devon coast.