South Wales Country Tracks


South Wales

Helen Skelton explores the spectacular South Wales coast, visiting Manor House Wildlife Park and Dylan Thomas's boathouse along the way.


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Transcript


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Today, I'm taking a journey across South Wales,

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from the rugged cliffs of Pembrokeshire to the nation's capital Cardiff.

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'Pembrokeshire is home to some of the country's most beautiful beaches.'

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'The water may be chilly, in spite of the Gulf Stream,

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but what the beaches like in warmth they more than make up for in sheer drama.'

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'My journey starts in Tenby, on the Pembrokeshire coast,

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where a former interior designer has taken up and zookeeping.'

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ANIMAL COUGHS

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Oh! Are you having a cough? No.

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It's a wee warning noise, I think.

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'From there, I'll move further along the coast to Laugharne,

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'home for a short time to Wales's best-known poet, Dylan Thomas.

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'After that, my journey continues to Llanharry,

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'where a local resident has been growing

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'some unfeasibly large vegetables.'

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I'm a poor man, but I feel like a millionaire.

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'And finally I arrive in Cardiff, the principality's capital,

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'to try out some medieval martial arts.'

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Along the way, I'll be looking back at some of the best of the BBC's rural programmes from this area.

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SHE SIGHS

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Welcome to Country Tracks.

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'There are more Blue Flag and Seaside Award beaches in Pembrokeshire

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than any other county, providing a haven for both holidaymakers and wildlife.'

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It's said that in the UK, nowhere is more than two hours from a beach,

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and for walking, exploring and wildlife-watching, it's hard to beat Pembrokeshire.

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But I'm going to start my journey by meeting some animals that are not indigenous to this area.

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This is Manor House Wildlife Park.

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Four years ago, it was bought by interior designer Anna Ryder Richardson.

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She's lived here with her family, among the animals, ever since.

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She used to change rooms. Now, she's changing a zoo.

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'The park was the subject of a television programme

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'showing the difficulties of getting such a large project off the ground.'

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'I'm dropping in to find out how things have been going since then.'

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-Hello, Anna.

-Hi.

-Thank you for having me in your kingdom.

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Aw, it's so peaceful at the moment.

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-This is the quiet before the storm, before the visitors arrive.

-Yes.

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Why a zoo? How do you go from interior design to a zoo?

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Sometimes I'm like, "How did that happen?" I don't know. It literally was somebody mentioning

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the word zoo, wildlife park, were we interested?

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And I went, "Yes!" And that was it.

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-And you brought your whole family here.

-Yep.

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What did they think about it?

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I think Bibi and Dixie were like, "Great, we're going to live in a zoo."

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Erm, and Colin, who's a big Glaswegian, restaurateur,

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never left Glasgow in his life, said, "That's ridiculous. I'm not going."

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But he did!

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You've got 52 acres, a huge collection of animals.

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Who is involved in running it?

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Colin is really the man who runs the whole place.

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I've tried, but he won't let me. He won't let me, basically.

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"I won't work with my wife plus, you're rubbish!"

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We've got Ross Brown, our head keeper, and he's just adorable. He talks very fast.

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But he just knows everything. He has taught me so much.

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Have you always loved animals?

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I've always loved horses. Since I was born, I wanted a horse.

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You won't remember these things, but Champion the Wonder Horse, Black Beauty.

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I knew there were seven Black Beauties in the titles and only one had a real star.

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-Did anyone get me one? No.

-So you got a zoo.

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I had to wait until I was 45 years old. I'm older than that now. It's OK.

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And I have got six now.

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It all seems like it's under control now.

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Has it always been like this?

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Can you remember the calm before the storm before starting this adventure?

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God. Three years. It feels 300 million years ago.

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I don't know whether this is an age thing or living-in-a-zoo thing, but everything goes so fast.

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It looks peaceful and under control now, but it isn't,

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and it certainly wasn't three years ago.

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'The zoo opens in just two hours' time.'

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Stop it! Blue! He's been done, as well.

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Just a bit of fun, Mum.

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That needs a wipe. So they like it?

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-They are not going to be there at ten o'clock today, are they?

-Buses.

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-What bus? A coach? Is coming at ten?

-Yes.

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We need another day or two

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to get things like that away.

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No food anywhere today.

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The tepees should be out, they're not.

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It's not a game. It's my clothes. No! Drop!

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Drop!

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There we are. One thing leads to another and off they go.

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Colin does all the business. Colin does all the worrying.

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And I go, "It would be really nice if we could paint that white

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and a couple of bits of lavender there and let's get some pigs!"

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It'll all change. Once he hears "ding". The first ticket sale.

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Just getting the whole place up and running is like a big, heavy bar of concrete.

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Once it starts, it won't stop.

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SHE GASPS

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Can you see what I can see?

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'The gates are finally open.'

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A coach. Is it ten o'clock?

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'This season is under way and the first customers are buying their tickets.'

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'Colin is holding the fort at the till

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while Anna is supposed to be meeting and greeting the first visitors.'

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-Hello.

-Hello.

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-Hello.

-Hello.

-Hello.

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Hi. Did you want to go in with the wallabies?

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HE SIGHS

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I need a coffee.

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-Can we have a photo?

-Yes. Like this?

-Yes.

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I'm just going to show them how to light the fire

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and then I'm coming back to the front gate.

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-You can send that to daddy.

-Ah!

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I'm pleased that there are people here.

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I'm very pleased there are people here, because we don't know.

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At least there's a good, healthy throughput of people already. We have to take the positives.

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In you come, boys.

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'Manor House has been a zoo since 1975.'

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'But the new owners are trying to do things differently.'

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That's it. Do you want to leave your pushchair here, otherwise they get in it.

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LAUGHTER

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And before you know it, you'll be pushing a lemur down the road.

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Right. It's quite busy in here.

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'One of the major features of the zoo's makeover are the walk-throughs,

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where the public can interact with the animals.'

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Hello.

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'Anna I wants her Tenby zoo to play a part in conservation

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by helping to breed rare and endangered species.'

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There's not that many in here. There will be lots more, but we don't want to flood it.

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There we are. Oh, I just want to kiss them so much.

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We have ring-tailed lemurs and we've red-belly lemurs.

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Oh, I want to tickle that belly, but I can't!

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Madagascar, which is where they all come from.

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Highly threatened.

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HE COUGHS Oh!

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Are you having a cough? No.

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It's a wee warning noise. Is it because I was talking about Madagascar?

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HE SQUEAKS I know.

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Because they're chopping down the forest, chopping down your habitat.

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It's not going to be there any more. HE SQUEAKS

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This is why we're doing it.

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This is why Colin and I are completely broke and hate each other(!)

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SHE CHUCKLES

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'No matter what the cost, Ann is determined the zoo will succeed.'

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This is the jewel in our crown at the moment.

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This is where people can really understand what we are all about

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and if it means they come here just for this and experience it

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and go away with a beam on their face, and they come back, it means we can do more.

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'She's trying to turn the way we think about zoos on its head.'

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We are in their house, in their territory,

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and they are observing us, rather than the other way around.

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So, all these people are just visiting.

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And should be observing and enjoying it. They're being lemurs, really.

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It's freedom.

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'Two years on and the lemurs are well ensconced in their walk-through.

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Head keeper Ross Brown has joined Anna and myself to explain more of their zoo philosophy.

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We could not be any closer to the animals. Look!

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If I lay down I could touch him, but I shouldn't do that.

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-They don't like being touched.

-Don't kiss them. I'm not allowed to.

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-You learnt that the hard way?

-Yeah. Not unless you're not looking.

-Yeah.

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But this is a totally different philosophy.

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This is a new way and looking at zoos, being able to walk amongst them like this.

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-Is it working out for you?

-Yeah. This is their freedom.

-Yes.

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-This is their home and we are in their territory, really.

-Yeah.

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The way I like to say it is all we are to them is traffic.

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The reason why we don't let people touch them or feed them is that you have...

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You have no effect on their behaviour.

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We're all laughing because look at the lemur. He's...

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SHE LAUGHS

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I love how relaxed they are. I'm not going to touch them.

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I'm just going to get close.

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Oh, they look quite chilled out.

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Are they all right about me being so close to them?

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Yeah, they are fine. You can get as close as possible to them,

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as long as you don't touch them, they don't see you as a threat.

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You're just there to them. That's what's nice about it. This is their home.

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They spend all the time in here. This is new, so they are investigating it.

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That's what they're doing.

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Did it take them long to get used to been this close to people?

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The public wander through their home.

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If people wandered through my living room, I'd be unhappy.

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Because this has been established for a few years.

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and these animals have been getting used to it.

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Initially, the first year was stressful.

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They were getting used to the environment, people wandering through.

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But now we've established the guide rules as to how people are to act when they are in here.

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They're much more relaxed.

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In an old fashioned zoo, you would lean up to the cage

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and you wouldn't be able to interact with them like this.

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Was this zoo like that when you first took it over?

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Very much so.

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There are still many zoos like that, where it's the wrong way round.

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The animals are almost there on show in a small enclosure

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so you cannot miss them.

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And you can literally spend...

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I think two seconds was the average time people would stand in front of an animal.

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Whereas here, you are in their environment,

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so you have to sit and observe them doing what they would normally do on a daily basis.

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Have you got more walk-throughs in the zoo?

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Oh, yes. The wallaby walk-through is popular. It's at the beginning.

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You can feed the wallabies.

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We have the African walk-through as well, which we could go into now.

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-Yeah.

-Stroke the pygmy goat.

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'Anna was inspired to create the African village after spending time there.'

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'It seems she has a love of Africa.'

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'As well as the Madagascan lemurs, the zoo boasts oryx, ostrich and zebras.'

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Everything in the park has to have an education slant to it.

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There are a couple of roles for wildlife parks, zoos, now

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which are insurance policies for species that are being wiped out daily.

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Breeding programmes and education. It's all about education.

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So if we do nothing but educate a child, then we're doing something.

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'I admire Anna's style - freedom for the animals and education for the kids.'

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'Just off the Pembrokeshire coast, Skomer Island is a seabird paradise.'

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'Miranda Krestovnikoff came to see its existing residents and its new rivals.'

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I've visited Skomer quite a few times and it's lovely to be back.

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Every time I come here, I've got to get to know the island all over again.

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It's ever-changing. It's a place of so many different facets.

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'One of the most precarious habitat's is the Wick,

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a sheer cliff with ledges ideally suited to nesting birds -

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razorbills, guillemots, kittiwakes and fulmars.'

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'I'm going to explore this fantastic abundance of birdlife, not just by day, but at night, too.'

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In daylight, it's puffins that rule the roost.

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And it's not rocky sea cliffs

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but rabbit burrows that's their idea of a perfect des res.

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This is one of the most important puffin colonies

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in north-western Europe.

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The best way to appreciate the puffins' lifestyle

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is to get in the water with them.

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Island warden Jo Milborrow is going to help me snorkel right up-close.

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I'm absolutely dying to get in.

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It's been such a warm day, the water's been so inviting

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-and there's loads and loads of puffins behind us.

-Yeah. They're great, aren't they?

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-Let's hope we can get close.

-Hopefully they'll come over and have a little look at us. After you.

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-It's cool!

-It's very cool!

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-That's chilly.

-It's very chilly!

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'Puffins are easily spooked, so we have to be patient and move slowly.

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'But we're soon rewarded with a rare chance

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'of swimming within just a few feet of them.'

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'Some of Skomer's grey seals are lounging nearby.

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'But, for me, it's the puffins that steal the show.'

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Absolutely surrounded by puffins, maybe just six feet away from me.

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Some of them just skimming over the top of my head. Incredible.

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They seemed to be oblivious to the fact that I was there. Maybe I just fooled them I was a seal.

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'Puffins certainly steal the limelight during the daytime...

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'..But Skomer attracts vast numbers of globetrotters

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'who are much harder to spot until night falls.'

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Every summer, Skomer welcomes back a flock of old friends -

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birds from the island who've travelled way out

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to the coast of South America, a round trip of 18,000 miles.

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And they come back year to the island often to within just a few feet

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of where they were born to mate and breed.

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I'm in search of one of the greatest adventurers of the animal kingdom -

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the Manx shearwater.

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'This tiny island off Wales becomes an extraordinary landing strip

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'for Manx shearwaters, returning after winter from fisheries

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'far down in the South Atlantic.

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'Because they're shy, nocturnal birds,

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'you'd be hard-pushed to see them in daylight.

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'But, as the sun sets, the atmosphere really changes.'

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BIRDS CALLING

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'That cacophony means the Manx shearwaters are arriving

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'in their thousands, and I can just glimpse them in the darkness.

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'Professor Tim Guildford is going to help me get a closer look.'

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-They're everywhere, aren't they?

-They are. The place is littered with them.

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And this guy has probably just landed.

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I'm guessing this is a non-breeder.

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-Fabulous!

-This one's probably just a recent prospect

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-who is looking to mate.

-He's beautiful, isn't he?

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Can see on the top of the beak these two little holes?

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-These nostrils are actually salt-excreting glands.

-Like a storm petrel.

-Absolutely.

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So that allows this whole family of birds to live in the open ocean

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without ever having to drink, so they can essentially just

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either create their own water metabolically, or they can

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excrete salt sufficiently not to need fresh water.

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They look a bit hopeless on land. The legs are placed

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so far back on the body that they can't balance well.

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They flatten themselves out, don't they?

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-They are sort of waddling very low.

-Yeah.

-Very strange gait, isn't it?

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-Very strange gait.

-SHE LAUGHS

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'There are more than 100,000 breeding pairs on Skomer.

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'And nest cameras are providing new insights

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'into how they rear their young.

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'Researchers like Tim have tagged the birds

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'with electronic geolocators.'

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OK, that's great.

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-Out you come.

-Brilliant.

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-So, this is one of the tagged birds.

-On this leg...

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That's the geolocator there?

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-On this leg is the geolocating device.

-It's so small!

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It's a bit perturbed now.

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'The electronic log of this bird's position is downloaded

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'to produce detailed maps.'

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This tells us, for every day and night of the year,

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where the bird has been.

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So, at last now, we can reconstruct its entire migratory journey.

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The male is the black one and the female is the purple one.

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What we see is an outward migration down the west coast of Africa,

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across to Brazil, and then down to Argentina to overwinter.

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They had back then in the early spring,

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they take slightly different routes, but what you do see is this

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extraordinary curve through the Caribbean. They don't come back the way he went out.

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-Isn't that incredible they're not doing the same journey there and back?

-It is.

-I wonder why.

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Well, we think they're exploiting the North Atlantic currents,

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these circular currents.

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So, the currents and the weather systems move like this

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so they're basically following weather systems,

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making it efficient, using the winds.

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'And soon they're off back out to sea.

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'By daybreak, the shearwaters have vanished.

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'Perhaps the most remarkable secret of this magical seabird sanctuary

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'on the Pembrokeshire coast.'

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'Miranda Krestovnikoff and the beautiful birds of Skomer Island.

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'My journey continues along the coast to Laugharne,

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'the occasional home of a great Welsh poet.'

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1953 was an interesting year.

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The Coronation happened, Stalin died, Everest was conquered

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and Dylan Thomas, one of Wales' greatest literary heroes,

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was spending the last few weeks of his life

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here on the south coast of Wales.

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'In my craft or sullen art

0:21:000:21:03

'Exercised in the still night When only the moon rages

0:21:030:21:06

'And the lovers lie abed With all their griefs in their arms,

0:21:060:21:10

'I labour by singing light Not for ambition or bread

0:21:100:21:14

'Or the strut and trade of charms On the ivory stages

0:21:140:21:18

'But for the common wages Of their most secret heart.'

0:21:180:21:22

He lived here with his wife and family

0:21:220:21:25

and it was the spectacular views from this boathouse

0:21:250:21:28

that inspired some of Dylan Thomas' greatest works,

0:21:280:21:31

Including Under Milk Wood, Fern Hill and In My Craft or Sullen Art.

0:21:310:21:36

'Not for the proud man apart From the raging moon I write

0:21:380:21:42

'On these spindrift pages Nor for the towering dead

0:21:420:21:45

'With their nightingales and psalms But for the lovers, their arms

0:21:450:21:51

'Round the griefs of the ages, Who pay no praise or wages

0:21:510:21:56

'Nor heed my craft or art.'

0:21:560:21:59

His flamboyant and evocative use of language

0:22:010:22:05

created poetry and prose of gothic, mystical and surrealist imagery.

0:22:050:22:10

His writing shed here on the clifftop

0:22:100:22:12

is where he could most often be found.

0:22:120:22:14

Hello, John.

0:22:210:22:22

'Jon Treganna is a curator at The Boathouse,

0:22:220:22:25

'which is steeped in the history of Dylan's life.'

0:22:250:22:28

-Jon, it really is like stepping back in time coming in here.

-Yeah, it is.

0:22:310:22:36

How different is it now to how it would have looked when Dylan Thomas lived here?

0:22:360:22:40

This house was bought for them by Margaret Taylor,

0:22:400:22:43

an American actress who was a big fan of Dylan's.

0:22:430:22:46

So, when they move in, it would have been plain, cold and damp.

0:22:460:22:49

One of the first things they did was - Caitlin and Dylan were very bohemian, very vibrant.

0:22:490:22:54

You don't get that in black-and-white images, but...

0:22:540:22:57

He'd go out talking to local farmers and he'd have purple trousers on

0:22:570:23:02

and she would have a dress made out of curtains. They were really vibrant people

0:23:020:23:05

so they painted the walls bright colours and they got rugs

0:23:050:23:08

-and they begged, borrowed and stole all furniture they could get.

-Tonight is a relatively warm

0:23:080:23:14

summer's evening, golden sunshine, but I imagine on winter's night this place could feel very bleak.

0:23:140:23:19

It would have been freezing. There was no central heating. Today, you can put the heating on.

0:23:190:23:24

They had nothing like that then. There would've been coal fires. But the house is right on the coast,

0:23:240:23:29

it's exposed, you've got all the winds. When Dylan went to write in the shed,

0:23:290:23:33

he probably went to warm up because the shed was tiny and he had a little coal stove in there.

0:23:330:23:38

This house was busy. It was full of children, it was full of Caitlin and friends,

0:23:380:23:43

it was full of people dropping in, there was a housekeeper here, there were dogs.

0:23:430:23:47

This was a noisy house. The man needed his peace and quiet to work.

0:23:470:23:50

Caitlin, I think, is undervalued in the impact she had.

0:23:550:23:59

He used to run a lot of material past her to get her approval.

0:23:590:24:03

I think it was very important to Dylan that Caitlin not only loved him passionately as a woman

0:24:030:24:07

but also admired him as a writer.

0:24:070:24:10

And in real life then when business had to be done,

0:24:100:24:13

was she quite strict?

0:24:130:24:15

If he didn't deliver poetry or a story or a broadcast to the BBC,

0:24:150:24:19

they wouldn't have any money. So, if he had a deadline, she'd march him up to the shed,

0:24:190:24:23

she'd lock him in at 2pm in the afternoon

0:24:230:24:26

and then come back and get him at 7pm in the evening,

0:24:260:24:28

with nothing but his work and the coal fire

0:24:280:24:32

and maybe a bucket for company.

0:24:320:24:36

-How did he write poetry? Was it easy for him?

-No, no.

0:24:360:24:39

It was terribly difficult, yes.

0:24:390:24:42

He used to go into his little shed and scrape and scratch and mutter and mumble...

0:24:420:24:47

..in tone and change. He was frightfully slow, you know.

0:24:470:24:52

In one afternoon, from about two till seven, he might have

0:24:520:24:55

done just one line or taken out one word or put in one word.

0:24:550:24:59

He had a bit of a rock 'n' roll image though, didn't he?

0:25:030:25:06

Yeah. I mean, when he went to New York in the '50s, he was mobbed in the streets.

0:25:060:25:11

People asking for autographs, women throwing themselves at him.

0:25:110:25:14

He wasn't the best looking guy in the world, but had charisma. People wanted to be with him.

0:25:140:25:18

It's hard to marry that image with this lifestyle

0:25:180:25:21

because it's a beautiful home, but it's very basic and it's in the middle of nowhere.

0:25:210:25:26

But I think it's what happens when you take any kind of simple soul

0:25:260:25:29

and give them that level of fame.

0:25:290:25:31

I think that's as much today now as it was then, you know.

0:25:310:25:35

But when he was back here, he was diligent and hard-working. He was a caring, family man.

0:25:350:25:40

'Dylan Thomas left the boathouse on 8 October 1953 and went to America,

0:25:420:25:49

never to return to Wales. Just one month later, he died.

0:25:490:25:53

'Further along the coast is Swansea, a town with a great

0:25:570:26:00

'metalworking tradition that's been carried on for generations.

0:26:000:26:04

'It was nicknamed "Copperopolis"

0:26:040:26:07

'because an amazing two thirds of the world's copper was once produced here.

0:26:070:26:11

'Mark Horton uncovers the story of the area's metal monopoly.'

0:26:110:26:15

'I'm here to discover an alchemist's ancient secret

0:26:170:26:21

'that once made Swansea the copper capital of the world.'

0:26:210:26:26

Open it at the bottom, close it at the top.

0:26:270:26:29

'Eddie Daughton is an experimental archaeologist.'

0:26:290:26:33

This is a lot of fun, isn't it?

0:26:330:26:35

-Erm, to start with!

-THEY LAUGH

0:26:350:26:38

'We're using 4,000 year old methods

0:26:380:26:41

'to rediscover the magic of turning rock into metal.

0:26:410:26:45

'The Welsh knew the secret and Eddie thinks he's cracked it.

0:26:480:26:51

'First, we have to get the fire hot enough,

0:26:530:26:55

'and it's not as easy as it looks.'

0:26:550:26:58

-So, if you want to stop bellowing.

-Phew! That's exhausting!

0:26:580:27:03

So, what's the recipe to make copper?

0:27:030:27:06

For this furnace, it's about 10 kilograms of charcoal,

0:27:060:27:10

half a kilogram of copper ore...

0:27:100:27:14

..and a little tiny bit of ironstone.

0:27:160:27:19

And we should end up making a quarter of a kilogram of copper,

0:27:190:27:23

maybe not quite that much.

0:27:230:27:25

So, what you're seeing is you need 10 times as much fuel

0:27:250:27:30

-and carbon to make copper than the copper ore itself?

-Yeah.

0:27:300:27:35

So that explains why Swansea's here

0:27:350:27:38

-where there's masses of coal.

-Masses of carbon.

0:27:380:27:41

FOLK MUSIC

0:27:410:27:44

'Put together copper ore with coal to make the metal

0:27:440:27:48

'and the sea to transport it, and you get a winning formula.'

0:27:480:27:52

-Do you think this is going to work?

-With luck...yes.

0:27:530:27:58

-I'm deeply sceptical.

-It's so simple! Believe!

0:27:580:28:01

'As Swansea's metalworkers mastered the art of copper extraction,

0:28:010:28:05

'a city grew from primitive beginnings

0:28:050:28:09

into a scene of satanic industry.'

0:28:090:28:11

'By the late 18th-century,

0:28:150:28:17

'the whole of the Towy Valley was filled with smelters.

0:28:170:28:22

'The works operated day and night, producing sulphurous fumes

0:28:220:28:26

'so horrendous that downwind the land is still toxic to this day.

0:28:260:28:31

'These docks were built to expand the trade still further.

0:28:350:28:39

'200 years ago, Swansea's copper was in demand.

0:28:430:28:47

'Who was after it? The Royal Navy.'

0:28:470:28:50

-Hello, David.

-Hello, Mark! Croeso i Tywi.

-Oh, fantastic!

0:28:500:28:54

'David Jenkins knows the story

0:28:540:28:57

'of the city's copper-bottomed deal with Nelson's Navy.'

0:28:570:29:01

This is an ingot of pure copper, as would have been produced in Swansea.

0:29:010:29:06

-That's pure copper?

-That is pure copper.

0:29:060:29:10

That was the essential copper.

0:29:100:29:12

-What did they need it for in the 19th century?

-The main use of copper was this.

0:29:120:29:17

This is what gave Nelson's navy

0:29:170:29:19

-massive tactical advantages.

-Fantastic.

0:29:190:29:22

It's a sheet of copper ore

0:29:220:29:23

from the hull of HMS Victory.

0:29:230:29:26

You can see, Vivian & Sons, Swansea.

0:29:260:29:28

Look, I can see. And the number, 2802.

0:29:280:29:32

That's right, yes. Copper ore

0:29:320:29:34

and obviously copper itself was very valuable,

0:29:340:29:37

but its value was not so much monetary as tactical.

0:29:370:29:39

The manoeuvring that took place before the Battle of Trafalgar

0:29:390:29:43

owed a great deal of its success

0:29:430:29:45

to the fact that Nelson's ships had this on their bottoms.

0:29:450:29:49

It means that no weeds grow on the hull of your ship.

0:29:490:29:51

The water slips much more quickly over the hull of the ship,

0:29:510:29:55

and therefore it gave the ship excellent manoeuvrability.

0:29:550:29:59

Swansea's dominance of the world copper trade

0:29:590:30:03

meant that the Royal Navy

0:30:030:30:05

had copper-bottomed boats that the French didn't.

0:30:050:30:10

A tactical advantage that could be traced back 4,000 years

0:30:100:30:14

to those prehistoric Welsh experiments in metallurgy.

0:30:140:30:19

Now, have we managed to rediscover the secrets of their success?

0:30:230:30:28

-Carry on pumping?

-Carry on pumping.

0:30:280:30:30

-You must have a stitch by now.

-Just a bit.

0:30:300:30:33

Do you think you've got copper?

0:30:330:30:35

I think so. I hope so,

0:30:350:30:37

but I'm not giving any guarantees.

0:30:370:30:39

-OK.

-All right, I'm going to stop pumping.

0:30:390:30:43

-Keep pumping.

-Right.

0:30:430:30:45

OK, stop pumping. Get round the other side with the stick.

0:30:500:30:53

-Whoa!

-Whoa!

-Isn't that fantastic?

0:31:050:31:09

That's it.

0:31:090:31:11

That is probably frozen by now.

0:31:130:31:16

I can probably pick that up with the tongs. That is copper.

0:31:160:31:20

-A small ingot of copper.

-A small lump of copper.

0:31:200:31:23

It's absolutely incredible when you think of the energy

0:31:230:31:26

and that effort that's gone into winning a metal.

0:31:260:31:30

Needless to say, don't try that at home.

0:31:300:31:34

My journey which began in Pembrokeshire

0:31:370:31:39

at the coastal resort of Tenby

0:31:390:31:41

and continued to Laugharne in Carmarthenshire

0:31:410:31:44

has now reached Mid-Glamorgan.

0:31:440:31:46

Just up the road from Pontyclun

0:31:500:31:52

in the Welsh valleys is the little village of Llanharry.

0:31:520:31:55

It's typical of the south of Wales in that it has links with mining,

0:31:550:31:58

a working men's club, and of course, a rugby team.

0:31:580:32:02

It also has some rather impressive vegetables,

0:32:020:32:05

and I am talking giant vegetables.

0:32:050:32:09

Local man and gardener Philip Vowles has been growing

0:32:180:32:21

giant vegetables for over a quarter of a century.

0:32:210:32:24

He exhibits in the Llanharry Giant Vegetable Show, and wins nearly every year.

0:32:250:32:31

Last year, he grew a 300lb pumpkin.

0:32:310:32:34

His 128lb marrow nearly smashed the world record.

0:32:340:32:37

But don't worry, his 1990 cucumber

0:32:370:32:40

did make the Guinness Book of Records,

0:32:400:32:44

weighing in at 18lbs, five and three-quarter ounces.

0:32:440:32:47

Yeah, I grew a very good marrow last year,

0:32:470:32:49

just a pound from the world record.

0:32:490:32:52

But it split on me. That's the joy of growing.

0:32:530:32:56

You get some bad luck and you get some good luck,

0:32:560:32:59

and I had the bad luck last year.

0:32:590:33:01

And it's not just Philip that gets involved.

0:33:010:33:04

The whole family does too,

0:33:040:33:06

including his grandchildren.

0:33:060:33:08

Look at that!

0:33:120:33:13

Granddad's vegetables are much nicer than the shop vegetables.

0:33:190:33:24

I'm really proud of my grandpa growing all this veg all himself.

0:33:330:33:37

He's put a lot towards it, you know. He's up here most of the time.

0:33:370:33:43

You hardly get to see him because he's working so hard up here.

0:33:430:33:46

And what he does, I'm really proud of him.

0:33:460:33:50

Philip's brothers grow giant veg too,

0:33:500:33:53

and can be a bit competitive with him.

0:33:530:33:56

Philip, are you going to give us our plants

0:33:560:33:59

a little bit earlier this year than last year?

0:33:590:34:02

You can have them at the same time

0:34:020:34:04

-as I plant them.

-Last year, we were six weeks behind you.

-Right.

0:34:040:34:08

So the pounds we were down on in the show...

0:34:110:34:15

-..we would have made up in them six weeks.

-You're just making excuses.

0:34:170:34:20

Philip's prize-winning allotment is tucked away

0:34:220:34:24

at the back of his house.

0:34:240:34:27

He's very proud of his rows and rows of vegetables.

0:34:270:34:29

Well, let me show you my allotment.

0:34:320:34:36

It's a bit of ground I've tidied up 40 years ago.

0:34:360:34:39

I grow a bit of everything.

0:34:400:34:42

Mainly for the house originally, because I've got a large family,

0:34:440:34:51

and we try to supply them all.

0:34:510:34:53

Then I decided I'd go into growing giant veg,

0:34:530:34:56

and I've had a lot of fun out of it.

0:34:560:34:59

I grow a lot of stuff, as you can see. I've got my strawberries.

0:34:590:35:03

I grow a lot of flower plants.

0:35:030:35:06

I've got some nice lettuce, which I supply the whole family with.

0:35:060:35:10

I've got my garlic, my onion bed.

0:35:100:35:12

And these are my giant cabbage, which I'm very proud of.

0:35:150:35:18

I've had a lot of luck over the years,

0:35:180:35:20

growing them up to about 80lbs

0:35:200:35:22

in weight, which is a lot of cabbage.

0:35:220:35:25

At the end of the day, they're too big for the house,

0:35:250:35:28

so I supply the local pub, and they cook them up for Sunday lunch.

0:35:280:35:33

We've grown them now for 25 years.

0:35:330:35:37

They seem to get bigger and bigger every year.

0:35:370:35:40

Anybody can grow a big cabbage. Anybody.

0:35:410:35:44

No, there's no big secret.

0:35:440:35:47

I start them off in the autumn,

0:35:480:35:50

I pot them through the winter months,

0:35:500:35:52

and then just plant them out

0:35:520:35:54

early spring in a good bed of manure,

0:35:540:35:58

and it's as simple as that.

0:35:580:35:59

But really, if it's that easy, why aren't we all growing giant veg?

0:36:010:36:06

Well, actually,

0:36:080:36:10

there is a little bit of a secret to growing giant cabbage.

0:36:100:36:14

It really started with an accident.

0:36:140:36:17

As you can see, I like to keep the ground really clean,

0:36:170:36:20

and I caught the actual stalk of the cabbage

0:36:200:36:24

with my hoe and split it.

0:36:240:36:26

So I thought I had damaged it, but it rehealed itself,

0:36:260:36:31

and the cabbage seemed to grow that much quicker and bigger.

0:36:310:36:35

And now every year, I get a knife and I cut through the main stalk.

0:36:350:36:40

And I only do it to one, but very often, that's the one I show,

0:36:400:36:45

the best cabbage.

0:36:450:36:47

So it's damaging the stalk

0:36:470:36:49

and making it reheal, getting it to grow quicker and bigger.

0:36:490:36:53

That's one of my secrets.

0:36:530:36:55

Oh, the bell's gone. Got to go.

0:36:580:37:00

Going for dinner.

0:37:010:37:03

Once that bell goes, I've got to go.

0:37:040:37:06

Or I'll have a row off the wife.

0:37:090:37:11

When it's time for Philip to come down for breakfast,

0:37:140:37:17

I ring the bell once.

0:37:170:37:18

I come back in, I start eating my breakfast.

0:37:180:37:21

I wait a few minutes, no Philip,

0:37:210:37:23

I go back out and ring the bell a little bit harder,

0:37:230:37:26

because he's always talking.

0:37:260:37:27

Phillip spends so much time at the allotment

0:37:270:37:30

that I feel like the allotment widow.

0:37:300:37:32

I'm always here by myself. Come the weekend -

0:37:320:37:35

"I've got to go up to the allotment. We'll go out later."

0:37:350:37:39

And later comes, and he doesn't come down.

0:37:390:37:42

Well, I spend all day, every day up in my allotment,

0:37:420:37:46

and I thoroughly enjoy it.

0:37:460:37:47

Brenda thinks I'm mad. Well, she might be right.

0:37:470:37:51

But I thoroughly enjoy it.

0:37:510:37:53

And sometimes she'll come up and help me out. She enjoys it, really.

0:37:530:37:58

We have a wonderful time.

0:37:580:37:59

I'm a poor man, but I feel like a millionaire,

0:38:060:38:09

because I get so much enjoyment

0:38:090:38:11

out of growing vegetables, all of them as well as the giants,

0:38:110:38:16

and supplying the house and the grandchildren.

0:38:160:38:20

I do feel like a millionaire.

0:38:200:38:23

Philip Vowles, a man rich in his passion for vegetables.

0:38:240:38:28

He may not specialise in giant marrows,

0:38:280:38:30

but Jimmy Doherty is a passionate farmer.

0:38:300:38:33

He's travelled the country to find out about new farming practices.

0:38:330:38:37

He went to Caerphilly,

0:38:370:38:38

where he found a dairy farm that's swapping tradition for change.

0:38:380:38:42

And they're pretty radical changes.

0:38:420:38:45

Alan and Paul Price run 400 cows on their farm.

0:38:510:38:53

It's one of the biggest dairy businesses in South Wales.

0:38:530:38:57

The brothers inherited a very traditional farm,

0:38:570:39:00

and they come from a very traditional farming family.

0:39:000:39:02

We're the third generation farmers.

0:39:020:39:06

They've always produced milk there.

0:39:060:39:09

We used to milk the cows before we went to school.

0:39:090:39:12

We started off with 24 cows, and we've gone on from there.

0:39:120:39:15

They've just installed a new £400,000 milking parlour,

0:39:150:39:20

but the real money-spinner is round the back of the shed,

0:39:200:39:24

and it's not what I expect to see on a farm.

0:39:240:39:27

These farming brothers have changed the way they use their land completely.

0:39:290:39:34

They have turned their farm into a giant rubbish dump.

0:39:360:39:40

It's incredible. When you look at this, you see a big pile of pallets,

0:39:400:39:44

a big pile of timber over there and wood chippings. They form these lovely little hills.

0:39:440:39:49

At the back, you've got the Welsh hills in the background.

0:39:490:39:52

You've built your own landscape, haven't you?

0:39:520:39:55

What I like about Alun and Paul is they are using their farm

0:40:020:40:06

to help solve a major environmental crisis.

0:40:060:40:09

Most of our household rubbish is buried in landfill sites.

0:40:090:40:15

The problem is,

0:40:150:40:16

the UK is running out of suitable places to stash our junk.

0:40:160:40:20

On this farm, Alun can recycle 80% of all the rubbish he receives.

0:40:210:40:27

When you stand here and look at all these piles around you

0:40:270:40:30

and you go back five or six years, they were going to landfill.

0:40:300:40:33

-Yes.

-Now, we are turning them into a useful product,

0:40:330:40:38

-which as you can see, is going to produce electricity.

-Yes.

0:40:380:40:42

They have invested £3.5 million and now employ 20 men to sort

0:40:440:40:48

and recycle the rubbish.

0:40:480:40:50

It is not as easy as it looks.

0:40:560:40:58

This is such good fun.

0:41:010:41:04

It is a bit like being at the pier. Trying to pick up those teddy bears.

0:41:040:41:08

But in fact, this is easier. Because those teddy bear thing's a con.

0:41:110:41:16

He doesn't want to stop! He's enjoying himself!

0:41:160:41:20

HE LAUGHS

0:41:200:41:21

Just sorting out where all these little things go.

0:41:230:41:27

I can go for a cup of tea and leave him to it!

0:41:270:41:30

What they are doing at this farm here is to take all this material

0:41:300:41:34

and recycle it into a product which we can use

0:41:340:41:37

and it's what we are going to have to do more and more in the future.

0:41:370:41:41

These guys are really on the button.

0:41:410:41:43

It's clear that a major part of all this household rubbish is food.

0:41:490:41:55

And this really upset me.

0:41:550:41:57

As a farmer, looking at someone throwing away a perfectly good tomato, to me, is a sin.

0:41:570:42:03

There is a world food crisis.

0:42:050:42:08

Crop prices are rising and yet we throw away a third of all our food.

0:42:080:42:13

The great thing is that in this building,

0:42:180:42:20

they can turn food waste into something very useful.

0:42:200:42:24

Compost.

0:42:240:42:26

Sawdust is mixed in with the waste food to soak up the surplus liquid.

0:42:270:42:31

Then it is all fed into a giant shredder to be very finely chopped.

0:42:310:42:36

The important thing is that all the food items

0:42:360:42:40

are broken down sufficiently enough that they are not then

0:42:400:42:45

eaten by rats and become a problem for pests and vermin.

0:42:450:42:49

Actually, compost is quite exciting.

0:42:490:42:51

It doesn't look exciting but I love the process because you are turning

0:42:510:42:55

waste into something you can use and it is something we all have to do.

0:42:550:43:00

As Alun loads a tunnel, I feel like a midget in a giant's kitchen.

0:43:030:43:07

This tunnel is in fact a monster cooker which heats up

0:43:080:43:11

and kills unwanted bacteria in the food.

0:43:110:43:14

Alun is paid to take in the food waste.

0:43:180:43:21

-So it turns into a good business for him.

-It is fairly profitable.

0:43:210:43:25

Like any business you've got costs and overheads.

0:43:250:43:28

-It is more profitable than milking cows.

-Yes.

0:43:280:43:30

The Price brothers turn all the food waste into rich compost

0:43:370:43:40

which they can use themselves or sell.

0:43:400:43:43

And this is the end product.

0:43:460:43:48

Thick, lush compost. It's really quite moist and juicy.

0:43:500:43:54

Doesn't really smell but that is lovely and warm.

0:43:550:43:57

That composting process, but all this from rubbish.

0:43:570:44:01

Now at last I feel like a farmer again

0:44:150:44:17

because it's time to help Alun spread his compost on the fields.

0:44:170:44:20

When I first arrived - I have been in every machine here

0:44:240:44:27

and picking out plastic bags and sofas and broken records -

0:44:270:44:32

I felt like a million miles away from farming, but, the composting

0:44:320:44:36

and now putting it back on the grass that the cows are going to eat that you're going to milk

0:44:360:44:41

-and sell the milk to go into the shops.

-It is complete circle.

0:44:410:44:44

Jimmy Docherty looking at the use of farming land for recycling.

0:44:450:44:49

My journey is now reaching its end in the capital of Wales, Cardiff.

0:44:490:44:54

Nowhere quite says Cardiff like Cardiff Castle.

0:45:000:45:04

The Romans built a fort here, the Normans erected a keep

0:45:040:45:07

and over time, this site has established itself

0:45:070:45:10

as one of the UK's truly great medieval castles.

0:45:100:45:13

So it is a pretty good place from which to start a journey back in time.

0:45:130:45:17

Today, at Cardiff Castle, there is going to be a re-creation

0:45:170:45:21

of a 13th century joust, put on by the Knights of Royal England.

0:45:210:45:27

And in true medieval fashion, before the spectacle come the sideshows.

0:45:270:45:32

There are lots of school children here to see the action

0:45:350:45:38

and pick up a bit of first-hand history.

0:45:380:45:41

Jousting was a hugely popular form of entertainment

0:45:500:45:53

during the Middle Ages. But it was more than just a sport.

0:45:530:45:57

It helped knights keep fit between battles, honing skills

0:45:570:46:00

and improving strength.

0:46:000:46:02

The jousting knights represented their liege lord or entered

0:46:040:46:07

competitions to compete for prize money.

0:46:070:46:11

In this tournament, the knights in the red colours led by Sir Jasper

0:46:160:46:20

are battling those wearing blue and the kids love it!

0:46:200:46:24

CHILDREN CHEER

0:46:240:46:25

Sir Jasper is played by Jeremy Richardson.

0:46:520:46:55

Jeremy! I am in absolute awe, Sorry, I should say Sir Jasper.

0:46:570:47:02

-Why, thank you, Lady Helen.

-I am in absolute awe of what you did out there.

0:47:020:47:06

You organise and perform in the tournament and you look after the horses. Please tell me

0:47:060:47:10

you have been riding horses for a very long time.

0:47:100:47:13

I have, yes. I think if you have got to go out there

0:47:130:47:16

and you have to start thinking about how to ride

0:47:160:47:18

and thinking about the horse, then you have got a problem.

0:47:180:47:21

Once the horse is trained, it takes a couple of years,

0:47:210:47:24

once he is trained and sorted, he will be great for life, then.

0:47:240:47:27

-Tell me about this horse. Who is this?

-This is Debetto.

0:47:270:47:31

He's an Andalusian stallion.

0:47:310:47:33

And, as you can see, away from the arena, nice and quiet, lovable, nothing wrong with him.

0:47:330:47:38

Doesn't kick, bite, he's perfect.

0:47:380:47:40

Out in the arena, he is a wild beast!

0:47:400:47:42

CHEERING

0:47:420:47:45

'Looks like Ashley for the reds!'

0:47:450:47:48

-Is it dangerous?

-Yes. Yeah. It's dangerous. Horse-riding's dangerous.

0:47:480:47:54

-Have you ever been hurt?

-Yeah, lots.

0:47:540:47:57

Actually, when I was a teenager, more than later on in life.

0:47:570:48:01

But as a teenager, I got hurt a lot. Had a lot of falls and stuff.

0:48:010:48:05

Got a good few injuries, a good few broken shoulders and things.

0:48:050:48:09

But not too bad now. I get about one injury a year.

0:48:090:48:12

'Right, who wants to see a fight?!'

0:48:120:48:15

CHEERING

0:48:150:48:17

-How historically accurate is it?

-Reasonably. Probably about 75, 80%.

0:48:170:48:23

The main difference is, we put on a 45-minute jousting tournament,

0:48:230:48:26

that same jousting tournament would have lasted probably three days.

0:48:260:48:30

It's condensing everything that goes on in that tournament to 45 minutes.

0:48:300:48:34

So there's a lot more jousting and fighting and combat

0:48:340:48:37

and talking than you would normally see in a real jousting tournament.

0:48:370:48:40

Thank you for the show. Thank you, I'm going to let you de-robe...

0:48:400:48:45

-Undress!

-..the horse. Thank you!

0:48:450:48:47

Well, the rain has been almost torrential here in Cardiff

0:48:530:48:56

but it has not dampened our mood

0:48:560:48:58

and I will be getting into the fighting spirit a bit later on.

0:48:580:49:01

But first, here is the Country Tracks weather for the week ahead.

0:49:010:49:04

'My journey today has taken me along the beautiful South Wales coast.'

0:51:070:51:11

I met lemurs in Tenby, visited the home of Dylan Thomas in Laugharne,

0:51:110:51:16

and admired monster marrows in Llanharry.'

0:51:160:51:19

'Now I've reached Cardiff and I'm about try my hand at medieval martial-arts.'

0:51:190:51:25

'Earlier on, we saw Mark Vance fighting in full armour.'

0:51:300:51:34

'Mark is trained in stage combat and has been performing with medieval swords for over 20 years.'

0:51:340:51:39

'I want to have a go,

0:51:390:51:41

but first, I asked him how he makes the fights look so realistic.'

0:51:410:51:45

The secret is that many of the moves we put in

0:51:480:51:51

come from real fighting manuals from the period. So they are real moves.

0:51:510:51:56

We just incorporate that into the staged combat.

0:51:560:51:59

If they're real moves, don't you ever get hurt?

0:51:590:52:02

Yes, which is why I am going to put you in some armour,

0:52:020:52:05

particularly gloves and a helmet.

0:52:050:52:08

-Oh, my parents will be pleased. Let's get me some armour.

-Get some armour.

0:52:080:52:12

Da-na! I thought I would feel like a fearless warrior.

0:52:160:52:20

That wasn't meant to happen, was it?

0:52:200:52:23

But I feel a bit cumbersome. It's heavy, isn't it?

0:52:230:52:26

-It's heavy, but you look good.

-Right.

0:52:260:52:30

-I want to look like a fighter.

-Let's teach you some moves.

-OK. This way.

0:52:300:52:35

Mark, this isn't just thrashing around with swords and cool costumes.

0:52:360:52:41

-These are actual moves from medieval times?

-Exactly.

0:52:410:52:44

Medieval knights were trained warriors.

0:52:440:52:47

These are real moves from a real sword fighting book that I'm going to show you.

0:52:470:52:51

It's Italian, it's called Flower Of Battle, it's 600 years old.

0:52:510:52:54

-OK.

-It's very much a Western martial art.

0:52:540:52:57

-Is this how you learnt, from this book?

-Yes.

0:52:570:53:01

-Left leg forwards. Hold the sword in both hands, right hand on top.

-OK.

0:53:010:53:05

The secret of a good cut, and this is a fendente cut,

0:53:050:53:09

the secret of it is you're not just hitting with your arms.

0:53:090:53:12

There's not enough power. If you're enemy is wearing armour, you won't get through.

0:53:120:53:16

What you need to do is step into the cut.

0:53:160:53:18

As the sword comes down, step forward.

0:53:180:53:20

-OK. You put all your body weight behind it.

-Yep.

0:53:200:53:25

Nice one.

0:53:250:53:27

Together.

0:53:270:53:28

Good.

0:53:300:53:32

-Ha-ha!

-That's your first cut. Next bit is to teach you how to block.

0:53:320:53:37

Start in this position, which is called "iron door" - porta de ferro.

0:53:370:53:41

I want you to step back and bring the sword up and strike mine.

0:53:410:53:46

-So knock your sword out of the way?

-Place it on it.

0:53:460:53:49

You're blocking, you're protecting this side of your body.

0:53:490:53:52

But keep the point pointing towards me.

0:53:520:53:55

When you work out a routine that you show to the public,

0:53:550:53:58

do you and your guys know what you're going to do next? Is it like a dance routine?

0:53:580:54:03

There are different ways to do it. Most of the fights that we do are pretty much free-flowing.

0:54:050:54:10

We've trained together, we know how each other fights

0:54:100:54:13

and we might put little bits in, some exciting bits.

0:54:130:54:17

An end or a star. But most of what is happening is as it happens.

0:54:170:54:21

So if it's as it happens and it is free-flowing,

0:54:210:54:24

presumably there are more accidents.

0:54:240:54:28

Well, yes and no. Because it's free-flowing, you have to watch.

0:54:280:54:32

Sometimes with over-choreographed fights, people are expecting something to happen

0:54:320:54:36

and when it doesn't, or happens in a different way, that's the danger.

0:54:360:54:41

So it keeps you sharper, if not all the moves are fully worked out.

0:54:410:54:45

-Back and block.

-Yes.

-And then you stab.

-Got it.

0:54:500:54:55

-Argh.

-Excellent.

0:54:560:54:58

When knights are wearing full body armour, it is incredibly tough stuff to cut through.

0:54:580:55:04

Your best way is to stab through it.

0:55:040:55:07

The extra control and the close grappling work means that it's far more effective

0:55:070:55:13

-if you grab the sword in a position like this.

-OK.

0:55:130:55:16

From here, you can use it to stab, you can also use this end to smash.

0:55:160:55:21

-Ooh!

-HE LAUGHS

0:55:210:55:25

And so you can also wrestle and push with it.

0:55:250:55:27

Mark, you've got the devil in your eyes when you do that!

0:55:270:55:30

There's a lot more control.

0:55:300:55:32

-I am going to mean it this time.

-Oh, gosh.

-Ready.

0:55:320:55:35

-Argh!

-Excellent.

0:55:380:55:39

This is a Western martial art.

0:55:390:55:42

This is as worthy as any of the martial arts that are around in modern times.

0:55:420:55:47

How popular is it?

0:55:470:55:49

It's one of the fastest-growing forms of martial art, historical martial arts.

0:55:490:55:53

There's a lot of treatises that have been translated or rediscovered in the last few years.

0:55:530:55:59

Italian ones, German one, English ones, that all date from the Middle Ages.

0:55:590:56:03

'My journey along the south coast of Wales has been enhanced by a series of colourful characters.'

0:56:110:56:17

'A designer-turned-zookeeper,

0:56:170:56:20

'a record-holding vegetable grower,

0:56:200:56:23

'a rock'n'roll poet...

0:56:230:56:24

'..jousting supremo Jeremy Richardson...

0:56:270:56:29

'..and a medieval martial arts expert, Mark Vance,

0:56:330:56:37

'who seems to have taught me rather well.'

0:56:370:56:39

-So, eyeball, so you can see when I start.

-OK.

0:56:390:56:42

Here we go. In you come.

0:56:420:56:44

Smash, slash, stab.

0:56:440:56:48

One in the thigh, one in the neck, and a jump on your chest just for good measure

0:56:480:56:52

and then go again! Yielded?

0:56:520:56:55

-Yeah.

-And I have ended my journey across the south coast of Wales on a high.

0:56:550:57:00

Come on, then, get ready for round two.

0:57:000:57:03

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:57:040:57:07

E-mail [email protected]

0:57:070:57:10

Helen Skelton explores the spectacular South Wales coast. She starts her journey at Manor House Wildlife Park, where owner Anna Ryder Richardson has created an African Village to inspire visitors. Next she visits Laugharne, where Dylan Thomas's boathouse overlooks the tranquil beauty of River Tâf, a landscape that evoked some of his finest works. Helen ends her journey enjoying a joust at Cardiff Castle, where she also tries her hand at medieval martial arts.


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