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People come to the coast to indulge their passions.
It's one of my ultimate heroes that's brought me here,
to the home turf of Horatio Nelson.
I think there's something mesmerising about the sea that turns us all into dreamers,
and I suspect, as a boy, Nelson was no different.
I imagine young Nelson coming here, looking out,
dreaming of dashing victories, distant battles, faraway seas.
But the truth is, not even his wildest dreams could have matched the reality of his own life.
You've got to admire Nelson.
I think he was a tactical genius.
Without his naval victories over the French in the Napoleonic Wars,
Britannia wouldn't have ruled the waves.
But mighty as Nelson's reputation is now,
he was born into humble surroundings.
On from The Wash, just a mile inland from the north Norfolk coast,
is the small village of Burnham Thorpe.
Nelson was the son of the local parson here.
In 1787, during a period of peace,
29-year-old now Captain Nelson was temporarily unemployed.
So like many of us have, he moved back home,
where he spent the next five years waiting for war.
The parsonage at Burnham Thorpe is long gone,
but its garden is still here,
and this is where he left a lasting legacy.
Frustrated not to be fighting the French,
Nelson did some digging instead.
In fact, it's said that he dug out this pond.
But he was still dreaming of the sea.
He dug this pond to represent the deck of a ship.
That's why this end is square - this is the stern, the back of the ship.
If you imagine being at the top of the crow's-nest, on top of the mast,
the whole thing narrows to a point 30-odd feet away.
That's the bow, the pointy bit of the ship.
It's a lot smaller than the gun deck of The Victory,
but you can see that if all these lilies and all the grass and slime was scraped away,
it would be quite obvious - it's shipshape.
After five landlocked years,
Nelson was recalled to the Senior Service.
Finally, he was back at sea, where he belonged,
and 10 years later, he achieved his destiny
onboard his flagship - The Victory.
It's impossible to walk through this village without constantly
catching glimpses and reminders of the life and times of Nelson.
As a parson's son, the church in Burnham Thorpe would have been a second home for Nelson,
so it's fitting that memorabilia of my hero hangs from every wall.
And there's the man himself -
a bust of Nelson -
and he's looking over the graves of his mother and father.
Now, the great warrior wanted, at the end of everything,
to rest in peace in this church beside the graves of his mother and father,
but that didn't happen.
Nelson's mortal remains are in St Paul's Cathedral.
Boats were crucial to the culture of our early ancestors,
a heritage that's alive and well around our coast.
In living memory, sailing boats were still used
as fishing and cargo vessels
all around this coastline.
Today, enthusiasts prefer to race them.
So Mark has risen early to join a crew on competition day.
'Andy Harman, skipper of a Thames sailing barge, the Edme.
'He's hoping for a strong start.'
GUNSHOT There's the gun.
Look at them all lined up down there!
The secret to this racing lark is start first and finish first.
The Edme's a Thames thoroughbred. Built of wood in 1898,
they could achieve high speeds with a small crew.
Today, a big group of enthusiasts bring these swift cargo carriers back to life by racing them.
They do it for the sheer love of sail.
GUNSHOT AND CHEERING
'We finish first, but what counts is the camaraderie of the competitors
'and the joy of handling a living piece of history.
'It's amazing that these vessels survive
'despite the tide of progress.
'People will go to extraordinary lengths
'to preserve old working boats...
'..even resurrecting their wrecks.'
This is the remains of the Xanthe,
an Essex fishing smack,
about 100 years old.
Look, you can see the ribs perfectly preserved under all this seaweed.
This must be the stem.
You can see it's all... Take the seaweed off,
there she is.
Boats like this are actually worth a fortune.
People spend something like £50,000 - £100,000
restoring Essex fishing smacks like this.
I just want to know what makes these boats quite so special.
Smacks were workhorses, used for dredging and trawling.
You appreciate their sheer beauty in action.
Cue another competition -
oyster dredging this time.
They love contests here.
-You must be Gerard.
-Mark, hello. How are you doing?
'I've joined the crew of the Kate, skippered by Gerard Swift.
'Gerard and his wife Helen have lovingly restored this Essex smack.
'It's a far cry from the skeleton I've just seen in the mud.'
So why are these oyster smacks so special?
They're very graceful craft from a very much earlier...
Just work boats, but very yacht-like in their appearance
with the long counter-stern. Very fast, easy boats to sail.
For workboats, they were something really special.
The design frees up space to work at the stern.
The three dredges are thrown overboard
and hauled in at regular intervals.
So you've got just enough sail to drag them along the bottom.
-Yeah, going along like a garden rake.
-Here's the first catch.
Look at them all!
Most of it's dead shell.
I've only got one.
Not a good day in the oyster beds.
We're in the wrong spot.
How many do you reckon we're going to get?
I'd like about 10 kilo, that'd be nice.
Well, we've got four oysters at the moment.
The competition has two prizes -
one for the most oysters,
another for the smack which dredges with the most style.
That's bound to be us.
What are the points that the judges are looking for?
The boat going the right speed, the dredgers towing evenly, the boat in control,
just going along whilst the guys work the dredgers basically.
There's the judges boat over there. They're checking us out.
So what do you think you should mark the Kate?
-Certainly an eight.
-An eight, yeah.
'Eight out of ten isn't bad.
'Right now, it's double our number of oysters, but the morning is still young.
'The competition takes two hours...'
-It's hard work.
'..by which time we're all exhausted.'
-Is that it?
-That's it, the last.
-The last one.
There's another one, Mark.
-Bonus time. I reckon the last has been our best.
-Yes, it probably has.
We haven't brought the greatest weight, I don't think.
I'm sure we had the greatest style.
Hope so, hope so.
'We take our meagre catch to Packing Shed Island,
'where oysters have been packed for more than 100 years.
'The weigh-in is very strict.'
Let's get ours weighed in, shall we?
-Moment of truth.
'Needless to say, less than three kilos isn't a winning catch,
'and we're robbed of the trophy for the most stylish dredging too.
'But the real reward is in taking part,
'putting these historic boats back to work,
'dredging for oysters as they were perfectly built to do.'
And so we're into the mighty Thames Estuary.
Just 12 miles out to sea from here,
you're beyond our territorial waters.
Handy if you're in a business that's not strictly legal.
In the 1960s, that was pirate radio.
Back then, listeners only had one option - the BBC -
so a group of DJs took to the waves to broadcast their kind of music.
They called their station Radio Caroline.
One former DJ is off to visit a boat that rocked.
# Her name is Caroline... #
I'm Tom Anderson, and I was one of the last DJs on the Mi Amigo,
the Radio Caroline ship, nearly 30 years ago.
I grew up in Clacton-on-Sea,
where I saw the pirate-radio era start from my bedroom window.
It was in my blood to start with,
but the main reason it was Caroline, was the music.
We were on the cutting edge of music at the time.
The whole operation was very clandestine,
it was rough and ready. Often we ran out of very basic supplies.
Sex and drugs and rock and roll? I doubt it very much, to be honest.
We knew the boat was on its last legs, but we thought she was invincible,
and when you're young you think you're invincible
and none of us ever foresaw the day that she'd sink at sea.
'Well, we're sorry to tell you that due to the severe weather conditions,
'and also to the fact that we're shipping quite a lot of water, we're closing down. Tom.
'Yeah, it's not a very good occasion, really.
'I'm going to have to hurry this because the lifeboat is standing by.'
It's nearly 30 years ago that I uttered those words,
and now I'm on my way back.
The Port Of London Authority regularly check wrecks in the area,
and they have allowed me to come along with them.
Here we are at the moment, tracking along,
then the wreck site is bounded by this red square.
That's where we're heading.
Look forward to seeing my old home.
So this is the 3D image of the wreck.
That's superb, that really is incredible.
The lifeboat approached us from this side here.
We were told to bring nothing and I stuffed a carton of cigarettes up my jumper.
Absolutely everything went with it.
There were some very valuable autographed copies of records by The Beatles that are no more.
The pirates haven't sunk without trace.
Their off-shore antics ushered in commercial stations,
which made radio broadcasting into a business.
Profit and loss are shipmates on this shore.
The Thames was the revenue stream for the growth of Britain's capital.
They're abandoned now, but the expansion of London's docks in the 19th century
was built on global trade from the Empire.
British companies enjoyed the freedom to sail the globe because the Royal Navy ruled the waves,
thanks to the heroic efforts of a seafarer that London honoured in stone at the heart of the capital.
By the time that Nelsons Column was completed in 1843,
the true scale and significance of his victory at Trafalgar was plain for all to see.
Nelson won his greatest and final victory in October 1805.
The French fleet was crushed
and the British Navy went virtually unchallenged
for more than 100 years.
The news of triumph and tragedy at Trafalgar
was painfully slow to filter back to London.
A small ship left the battle immediately
with a message for the Lords of the Admiralty.
On the night of 6th November, just after midnight, William Marsden,
the First Secretary to the Admiralty,
was still working in the boardroom.
Making his way to meet Marsden as fast as his horses could carry him
was British Naval Officer Lieutenant John Richard Lapenotiere.
Just 37 hours earlier, his schooner, The Pickle, had docked at Falmouth,
returning from the Battle Of Trafalgar.
Now, after 21 stops for fresh horses, the news had finally reached London.
Lapenotiere arrived exhausted into the cobbled courtyard of the Admiralty.
He headed straight to the boardroom to deliver his bitter-sweet message
to the First Secretary of the Admiralty.
Sir, we have gained a great victory, but we have lost Lord Nelson.
'If only these walls could talk.
'Stepping into the Admiralty boardroom,
'it looks almost exactly as it did to Nelson himself.
'He'd come here to receive his orders ahead of the Battle Of Trafalgar.
'The Lords of the Admiralty no longer sit here, so they're not here to meet me,
'but Professor Andrew Lambert is,
'an expert in naval history and as much of a Nelson fan as I am.'
How much of a plan of battle did Nelson have?
He's not such a fool as to have a detailed point-by-point plan
because they always go wrong,
so this is Nelson's concept of battle.
It's a very brief sketch jotted down on the back of an envelope.
Quite literally, it's a scrap piece of paper,
and he shows this linear battle,
and we're going to have to break through the formation
to set up this close-quarters or pell-mell battle,
and great leadership is about setting up the position for his subordinates.
He knows that if his captains and crews are led to battle in the right way, they can do the job.
Just how significant then was the victory at Trafalgar?
Trafalgar is the capstone on 150 years
in which the British have gone from being a significant European player
to being the first true global power.
Nelson is the capstone on that, so it's the defining moment
when Britain goes from being a European power to being THE world power.
After triumph at Trafalgar,
the threat of invasion from France was gone,
and the Royal Navy reigned supreme.
Nelson, the boy from Norfolk who stood on the shore and dreamt of glory at sea,
had helped propel Britain into an unparalleled age of empire.
From earliest times, the coast nurtured the people of our isles.
It welcomed settlers and repelled invaders.
Reaching out from the coast, the Empire would draw in more than 400 million people,
enriching and expanding our small island with bonds across the seas.