Hugh Dennis and Julia Bradbury explore the most stunning parts of Cornwall and Devon to learn how Britain's past lives on in fascinating stories and characters.
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The Great British countryside. Beautiful, glorious.
And very, very old.
For 3 billion years,
these British Isles have been growing and changing.
They've never stood still.
If you love the British landscape the way we both do,
then you might be very familiar with it,
but there is another story to be told.
The story, that's always fascinated me,
of what happened here those millions of years ago.
And how that still affects our lives every day.
Hey, look out!
Look at that!
For a country of our size, we have a greater variety of landscapes
than anywhere else on earth.
It's all down to our dramatic history.
Over millions of years,
we've been flooded, frozen,
and ravaged by mighty earth movements.
What's even more astonishing
is how that distant past
still shapes the countryside today.
We're going to all four corners of the country
to discover how Britain's epic past lives on
in the most surprising ways.
I'm ready for a bit of adventuring, but you're the geology buff.
-Where do you want to go first?
-I want to go everywhere.
-Of course, you do.
-I'm a boy.
-Can I come with you?
-Where are you going?
-Is this a footpath?
We're in Cornwall and Devon,
and if you like your landscape tough and craggy,
This part of Britain was shaped by violence,
by brutal weather,
and molten rock, and the result is very impressive.
I've always loved it for walks along the coast.
Scratch the surface,
and we'll see how the landscape has shaped the history,
and brought danger to these shores.
The coastline that so many of us visit every summer
has been created by a massive tug-of-war -
a battle between the land,
the sea and the weather.
And it's proper weather when we arrive.
But that's what happens if you go in November.
It's a very British thing to be doing, isn't it?
Standing here, getting blown around by gale force winds.
It really shows how British I am because I actually love this.
-Look at everybody.
-I'm confident it's going to brighten up later.
-That's the most British thing you could possibly say.
That's not confidence. That's being completely misguided.
But this is Britain's top tourist destination,
Devon and Cornwall.
-More people come here than anywhere else.
-About 10 million a year.
You can see why - you're never very far from the sea.
We are uncomfortably close to it, er,
if I'm honest, at the moment.
But, up there, you've got the moors,
fantastic countryside. There's something for everyone.
And that's because it this geological jigsaw,
-a landscape for every family.
-Do you want to play that game
where you have to lean into the wind?
-See how far forward you can lean.
-When I was about 12, I did that.
-Yeah, that's all right.
-I'm just getting wetter, though.
That doesn't count if you do that. That's not leaning into the wind!
-That's just odd.
-It is odd, yeah.
It is definitely odd.
The wind and the sea pound this coastline.
This corner of Britain sticks straight out into the Atlantic.
Only the toughest of tough rocks
can survive the harsh conditions of Land's End.
I want to see how this bit of the country stands up to such a pounding
PILOT MAKES CHECKS
So, I've hitched a ride to what must be one of
the toughest rocks in Britain - Wolf Rock.
This is like mowing the grass at really high speed.
Now, we've got ten miles to run.
This isolated lighthouse was built on a tiny outcrop of rock
in order to protect our busy Atlantic shipping lanes.
I'm with the maintenance team, who fly out regularly
to keep it working, if they can land the helicopter.
That's the landing pad.
It's tiny. Little.
That is, effectively, the size of a basketball hoop.
And we're going to land on it.
It all seems a bit precarious, to me.
OK, running in, forward six, straight ahead.
I've lost sight of it.
It makes me feel a bit nervous.
Forward three, dead ahead.
This is ridiculous.
Look at this!
I love this.
And so do the seagulls.
It's a hell of a way to change a light bulb.
But the risks have to be taken,
because those hard rocks down below
are a danger to shipping.
It may seem fairly calm now,
but principal engineer Ron Blakeley faces the very worst of the weather.
So, sometimes if we come here
after a winter period,
we find half the helipad missing.
That's amazing that we're only about a third of the way up,
but it feels really high, here,
but the sea gets so high that it takes out bits of the helipad out.
The helipad is at 41 metres,
so the sea just rolls up the tower and just punches the pads out.
So, if the sea is powerful enough to punch out the helipad,
how come this stubborn lump of rock
that the light house stands on
is still here?
Time to step back over a hundred million years.
Back then, Wolf Rock was the molten core
at the heart of an active volcano.
The North Atlantic was dry land,
and you could have walked from here to America.
When the volcano became extinct,
the molten rock inside solidified into igneous rock - hard rock formed from magma.
Outside, the volcanic cone then suffered 130 million years worth of erosion.
Finally, a succession of Ice Ages flooded the land with meltwater,
which washed away the last of the cone,
leaving only the harder inner core lurking amongst the waves.
We're sitting on a big lump that's been left after everything else has been washed away.
It's amazing, though, isn't it? Cos all this was once dry land.
And now it's, you know...
Things got eroded so quickly apart from igneous rock.
It just stays here, wrecking ships.
Which leaves me with one nagging question.
What's the lighthouse built of?
The answer, of course, is granite.
Tough enough for lighthouses, kerbstones,
and industrial-strength kitchen worktops.
And every piece of this granite also comes form Cornwall.
Tough rocks define Cornwall and Devon,
from the granite that dominates the wild moors
to the great jumble of rock on the craggy coastline.
That's where I'm heading first.
The resistant rocks
that protect Devon and Cornwall from the Atlantic
might prove a bit of a headache for ships,
but there's a whole community here
that take full advantage of that very same geology.
And if it wasn't for that geology, life for them would be pretty dull.
I'm in Newquay, on the north coast of Cornwall.
Here, the hard Cornish rock, the soft sand,
and the Atlantic rollers create a surfer's paradise.
Surf school tutor Aidan Salmon is master of the waves.
When we look out here,
what's happening underneath that's having an impact
on the waves and the pattern of the waves?
OK, so, you've got the sandbanks,
which are ever-changing. Wherever you've got rock formations
you'll have sand that'll build up around those rocks,
and that'll cause the waves to break.
As a wave comes in, it hits shallower water,
the bottom part of the wave slows down,
whereas the top part of the wave keeps moving.
As that crashes over and breaks,
that's when you get your riding.
That's what you can see. The wave goes from green to white.
So, what is it about this place
that makes it such a Mecca for surfers in the UK?
The main thing is that there's waves almost every day,
and that there's so many different features
that make the waves break in different manners
that are, sort of, for everyone.
The shallow sandy bays of the north coast
are protected by headlands of hard rock.
When the Atlantic rolls into the bays, the rocks can create giant waves.
When a big wave hits the rocks at the side of the bay,
it bounces back into the wave behind it
and pushes that second wave up even higher.
If you're really nasty,
you call your friend into the first wave, because that's the rubbish one,
-and you wait for the second.
-You can be the best surfer,
-but if you don't know when the wave's coming...
You probably won't be the best, unless you know that.
I'll take his word for it.
The rocks along the rugged coastline of Cornwall and Devon
were all created by power struggles, millions of years ago.
But they are not the only bits with a violent past.
I'm heading to the wild moors.
I'm on Dartmoor.
I'm not so sure about this.
It also has a reputation that doesn't encourage visitors
to hang around when it gets dark.
These moors are famous for weird animal sightings and legends.
It was Dartmoor that inspired Sherlock Holmes's terrifying
Hound Of The Baskervilles.
'Nick Groom lectures in Landscape And Literature.
'He knows these moors well, and he reckons'
he knows why they're so spooky.
Why is this place the home to so many mysterious legends,
especially revolving around dogs and beasties?
I think, because it's a depopulated landscape.
Years ago, it was a very busy landscape.
There were tinners here. There were stonecutters.
There were many more farmers.
But all these people generally migrated off the land,
so they left this vacuum. They left this space.
This is a savage, untamed country that you can walk across all day
and not see another soul alive or dead.
And rather like the mist arising from a mere,
these legends and these myths developed.
And you get these abiding images of beasts, of dogs, large cats.
It is, to our eyes, a wilderness, I think,
and these huge tors, with their broken granite masonry,
look like the remains of some ancient civilisation.
Dartmoor didn't always look like this.
Years ago, it was covered in dense woodland.
Then, when people moved into this area,
they cut down the trees for building and firewood.
The landscape was devastated. All the trees were gone.
The people moved out, leaving the ancient rocks
to create this eerie landscape.
"Standing over Hugo and plucking at his throat,
"there stood a foul thing.
"A great black beast shaped like a hound
"yet larger than any hound that ever mortal eye has rested upon."
Not exactly a bedtime read, is it?
"The three shrieked with fear and rode for dear life,
"still screaming, across the moor."
Shall we go home now?
Let's go home.
Wisely, perhaps, I've chosen to come to Dartmoor in daylight.
But where did these massive granite peaks come from?
What's astonishing about this landscape is that it was once
all underground. A huge area of granite was formed,
a huge layer of it, kilometres thick, and enormously wide,
stretching from way over there in Devon,
right off the end of Britain - Land's End - out to the Scilly Isles.
And it's this granite that gives us these tors,
it gives us the moors...
It's fantastic to look at, to walk past, to jump off, to build with...
It really shapes the lives of everybody who lives here.
This rocky high ground started life as giant boils
under the skin of Cornwall and Devon.
They began brewing 300 million years ago,
under a thick layer of rock.
But seven kilometres underground, something was stirring.
Hot magma rising from the Earth's molten reservoirs,
trying to force its way upwards.
But the rock above was too thick.
And instead of allowing the magma to erupt in volcanoes,
like it did elsewhere,
it was forced to gather in giant underground domes.
With no volcanoes to release the pressure,
the surface rock strained as it was pushed up.
The underground magma eventually cooled
into permanent domes of hard granite.
The broken, softer rocks at the peaks were easily weathered away.
Now, we're left with the exposed underground granite
in the form of granite tors.
But the tors aren't the only thing that makes Dartmoor famous.
There are lots of high areas of moorland in Britain,
but something about this place has lodged it in the national consciousness.
That's partly to do with the landscape, partly to do with the prison,
but it's also down to another set of inhabitants of this area,
who are not residing at Her Majesty's pleasure,
This ancient breed of ponies has evolved
to be as tough as the moors they thrive on.
You go back 3,500 years ago, we know there was ponies,
there was cattle and there was sheep,
and that's exactly how farming today is carried out on Dartmoor.
Dru Butterfield runs the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust.
She's helping a local farmer round up his ponies from common land on the moor.
Each farmer will own so many ponies depending on the number of rights
that they have to graze the common.
And this particular farmer has got about 20 mares
running with the stallion, and we're bringing them in, now,
because we're going to pick out some ponies to be sold to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.
The ponies help preserve the landscape that our ancestors created,
If we didn't graze the area, if we didn't keep the gorse
under control, it would just turn into a huge scrub area.
People wouldn't be able to access the moor.
It would look a totally different place.
They graze in such a different way to cattle and sheep.
They browse the moor and they're eating up
for 18 hours a day, so they're our organic scrub cutters.
They are integral to this area.
To lose them is like losing your family silver. It's unthinkable, actually.
Back in the 1930's, Dartmoor's ponies worked in the mines
and quarries that were here then.
And there were 30,000 of them on the moor.
Nowadays, about a thousand ponies are enough to conserve it.
Now all that mining's gone, they have a rather more sedate life,
if you can say that about living in this harsh moorland environment.
But they're still vital.
Because they keep this moor looking exactly how we like it.
But the powerful forces that created the moors
did more than just build up this high ground.
They also created a giant mash-up on what is now Cornwall's north coast.
I've come to Tintagel, where nothing is where it should be.
All rocks are higgledy-piggledy.
And it's all rather magical.
Which maybe why it's such a centre of folklore and legend.
King Arthur was supposedly conceived here.
So, in spite of the fact that you don't get this landscape
anywhere else in these islands,
you can't really get much more British than this.
The reason for Tintagel's extraordinary landscape is, well,
As Geologist Jane Anderson will explain, these rocks are interlopers,
brought here by the massive forces that shaped Cornwall and Devon.
These rocks have not come from here.
It's at least Bodmin Moor,
and maybe further beyond that.
So that's, like, 30 miles or something is it?
And the drag associated with them has folded and faulted them,
and when they've come to rest here, they've been uplifted to angles of 45 degrees,
but it's all weakened the rock.
Incredibly, millions of years ago,
even before the sea was here,
great chunks of ground from inland were dumped here at Tintagel.
A giant lasagne of hard and soft rocks.
Volcanic rock, slate, sandstone, slid down hill
and concertina-ed into this folded and jumbled landscape.
And when the sea arrived, it got in wherever it could.
At the end of each fault, the sea has got in at the base.
It produces these wonderful landforms, caves,
and even a waterfall here.
And one of these is Merlin's Cave, isn't it?
That one, there. Yep.
And you can, at low tide, you can walk all the way through.
So, it basically,
it is fantastically weird,
because it's fantastically weird.
Yeah, exactly it, yeah. Very, sort of, mystic,
and craggy and...
It's great, isn't it?
Tintagel is a chaotic mix of rocks,
and I'm on the lookout for one rock in particular.
The rock formations here are really strange.
Now, normally you would expect to get younger rocks, sheets of them,
on top of older rocks. Here, there's so much buckling and twisting,
that you sometimes get older rocks, and sheets of that,
on top of younger rocks. It's very bizarre.
But if you want proof of how bizarre it really is,
you want to have a look at this compass.
Now, at the moment, it's telling me that north is over there,
but when I hold it up to this rock here...
..it spins right round. Whoa!
That's cos this is a mineral called magnetite.
It's the most magnetic mineral on Earth,
and it makes your compass go crazy.
You actually have no idea where you are.
So, next time you lose your bearings in Tintagel,
maybe outside the pub, you can blame it on the rocks.
We've really begun to get a sense of the powerful forces that shape
this dramatic, beautiful landscape
and the lives of the people that live here.
But there's even more for me and Hugh to discover.
-That's a proper "we woz here" mark.
-From deep underground...
..to the craggy coastline.
That was fantastic!
Before that, we're off to a very special bit of the coast.
How many people do you think know that Devon gave its name
to one of the great geological periods?
Well, not very many, I don't suppose, but it did.
It's called the Devonian.
I suspect more people know that this
swathe of coast, from here right through to Dorset,
is called the Jurassic Coast.
-Well, you can't forget that, can you?
-Well because of Jurassic Park.
And it's the same thing, it is the time of the dinosaurs.
Which goes back a long time. Older than you, even!
Considerably older than me, and thank you for that.
If you combine the age of Bruce Forsyth,
and the entire cast of Last Of The Summer Wine,
you would get nowhere near it.
It's About 150-200 million years ago.
It's good, though. Look!
This is the magnificent Jurassic Coast.
95 miles long and one of the best places in Britain
to look for prehistoric fossils.
Which is what I'm doing, with dedicated fossil hunter
Most people start off looking for small bones,
small backbones off ichthyosaurs, vertebras.
'But do most people start on a stormy beach at low tide
'just before nightfall?'
So, this isn't great weather for fossil hunting, presumably?
-This is perfect condition for fossil hunting!
Lots of rain, rough sea. Rain washes down the clay,
washes the face of the cliffs. The sea erodes what's washed out.
'In Jurassic times, this was the seabed of a warm tropical ocean,
'filled with prehistoric creatures.'
-This is something from the Cretaceous, right at the very top.
'When storms come in, more fossils come to light.
'Though, not where I am, it seems.'
'All it takes is time and patience - more than I've got -
'especially for the big finds,
'of which Mike has plenty, and one in particular.'
A fossil discovery of huge scientific interest.
Oh, that is ridiculous!
-You found that?
-I did. Yep.
-And what is that?
-It's an ichthyosaur skull.
-It's a marine reptile, is it?
-Marine reptile. Top predator at its time.
-And this is just its head!
So, how big was an ichthyosaur?
This one would have probably been about 25 to 30 foot.
So, there's a lot more to collect.
What are you going to do? You're going to run out of room. Have it right to the front door.
Well, it would be, wouldn't it? Except for...it's going to take me a few years to get it all.
'Mike first discovered parts of this huge reptile in 2008
'after the coast's biggest landslip in 100 years.
'The trouble is, he'll have to wait for more storms
'to reveal the rest of it, piece by piece.'
How did you feel when you found it?
Like winning a very big scratch card.
Massive scratch card, like the Euro lottery,
I would have thought, really.
Well, you spend years looking for this sort of thing,
and people don't realise
that you go out time and time again and, you know,
pretty fruitlessly, so these things don't come up very often.
But that's fantastic because
-you're not a professional fossil hunter are you?
-So, what do you do most of the time?
-I work at Tesco's.
How did you get that in your trolley?
There's incredible detail in this find.
It's thought the silt on the Jurassic Coast seabed
was so fine there was very little oxygen in it.
So, this whole creature decomposed slowly enough to become a perfect fossil.
And what a journey this thing has had, then, if you think about it.
-Well, it is fascinating.
-It popped out of the cliff.
Mow it's heading back to the sea.
And now it heading back to the, well, it's heading to your kitchen.
That's the most unexpected bit of its journey.
-It didn't see that, did it? No-one saw that coming.
-It didn't see that coming, no.
Mike knows there are many other prehistoric creatures hidden here.
If he finds any more big ones, he might just need a bigger kitchen.
There are many other hidden treasures here.
These are Cornwall's famous tin mines.
For centuries, they brought wealth to the area,
then the industry fell on hard times.
All the mines were closed.
But now, preparations are underway to reopen one ancient Cornish mine.
These rocks don't surrender their rewards
without a lot of hard work, dirt, and some risk taking.
Glynn, we've got a situation. Need the team ready as soon as possible.
This is the South Crofty Rescue Team.
Like firefighters, every member of the team has to be on call 24/7.
Just be aware, Keith, of team safety.
And, like firefighters, they have to be prepared for anything.
We have a vehicle that's crashed and there are reports of smoke.
But unlike firefighters, these men do it all underground.
South Crofty Tin Mine is about to re-open
after a shutdown that's lasted more than a decade.
Mine Rescue. Can you hear us?
Practice drills like this are essential.
-Got a simulated fire in the engine bay!
-Right hold it there!
Normal emergency services aren't trained to deal with the extreme conditions.
Johnny, air? 217!
If things go wrong down here, they can go wrong fast.
Can you hear us? He's not responding.
We've got to get him out of here quickly.
The team must be ready to deal with situations up to a kilometre underground -
fire, floods, tunnel collapse, or total darkness.
We're almost out, OK?
All this effort to prepare the mine should be worth it.
South Crofty's geologist, Gareth Joseph
wants to show me what's still down there.
He's discovered new veins of metals,
like copper, that were previously ignored.
OK, so we can look here, and this tells us
we've got some copper here. 1% And then tin. Just over 4%.
-That's pretty good.
If we had a few tons of that I'd be very happy.
So, basically, you need to get back to that seam.
-This would be a good place to be working.
With this drilling, is we've identified a zone.
So, we now have to put some more holes into that,
and, eventually, connect those points together,
and then we know exactly where we can go on mine.
Super hot liquid carried
these valuable metals from deep underground,
and left them behind in the rock.
There is such a variety of rock here, isn't there?
-It's a geologist's dream, really.
It is, a geologist's dream. Some might say,
at times, it can be a geologist's nightmare.
It all makes it very challenging to piece it all together
and work out the best way to find the metals.
It's well worth the effort.
Metals like copper and tin have rocketed in value again
because they are essential components
of our electronic gadgets.
South Crofty mine is poised to re-open
for its fifth century of business.
I bet when you studied geology, you didn't think you'd end up here.
I didn't. I grew up in this area.
The mine closed the year that I left 6th form.
So, to actually be here, 10, 12 years later,
being involved with helping to re-open it.
You couldn't imagine it. So, it's a real opportunity.
It's quite exciting.
It's not just the geologists who are excited.
Local miners like Chief Health And Safety Officer, Robin Whale,
look forward to a whole new era of mining.
I've yet to meet a miner who isn't truly passionate about their job.
I mean, what is it
about spending hour upon hour
underground in dark, wet, cold conditions?
What goes on in your head?
It's a bit of a strange thing.
I remember when I was a teenager, my doctor told me
if you spend six months underground, your brain turns to granite.
That was his official medical opinion.
-And is he right?
The Cornish miners have travelled all over the world.
-Delivering their expertise to mines everywhere.
There's a saying - if the hole is deep enough, you'll find a Cornishman at the bottom of it.
And one of the main reasons is,
in Cornwall our geology is so different,
one week you can be drilling rock so hard your drill bounces off it,
the next week, you can hit a patch of granite so soft you can push your finger in.
So, we have lots of different geologies, rock types, and problems.
Precious metals and fossils aren't the only things
that the violent past of Cornwall and Devon have given us.
I'm en route to discover another ancient treasure,
in a tiny valley tucked away near the village of Beer in Devon.
It's not metal ore,
it's a very special kind of stone.
A rock that has built some of the greatest buildings in Britain.
People started carving through this rock 2,000 years ago.
And these are not natural grooves, they're tool marks.
This labyrinth of underground stone quarries
was first dug out centuries ago.
You can find rounded arches carved by the Romans,
square Saxon tunnels,
even Norman pillars.
'Owner John Scott explains what's so great about the stone down here.'
What attracted the Romans to this stone?
Well, they realised that it was perfect
for very fine detail carving.
But when you take it in the outside world it dries,
then it becomes five times harder.
So, it is the perfect building material.
You can still find reminders of the lives
of the quarrymen who worked here.
To think, these candle holes were first blackened
by Saxon candles over 1,000 years ago.
Julia, we always say that every pillar here tells a story centuries later.
You can actually see where two men, who were quarrying Beer stone, here,
wrote their names in 1750.
You can tell they were quarrymen because they always wrote with charcoal,
whereas every Stonemason who worked here throughout the centuries carved his name with pride.
So, even a signature, to this day, will tell you what trade a man was, all those years ago.
That is an incredible thought.
John Hayes and George...
That's a proper "we woz here" mark.
The fine quality limestone from Beer has always been in great demand.
Four-ton blocks were hauled hundreds of miles
to decorate some of the most important buildings in Britain -
the Tower of London,
St Paul's Cathedral,
and Westminster Abbey,
And, close by,
there's Exeter Cathedral.
Resident master mason
Gary Morley is still using stone from Beer
to maintain this magnificent building.
Why is this stone, Beer stone, so magical to work with?
Well, we've got a very fine grain, for a start,
and you can get very fine detail carved into the stone.
And it also gives a good sharpness in the cut of the stone,
and also forms shadow and so gives it that crisp look.
And that really is unique. That is different from any other stone.
In Exeter Cathedral, Beer stone was reserved
for the most delicate carving work.
These carvings are hundreds of years old.
Limestone is usually soft and erodes easily.
But, when the damp lime in Beer stone eventually dries in the air,
it forms a hard skin, like cement setting.
So, what you're doing is taking level by level.
And as you're working, you then follow the same
chisel line, what you've just done, and then work the next line in.
Right, can I have a go?
'This is a great stone for a great craftsman to work with.
'And, apparently, even I can't mess it up.'
So, let's have a go.
Oh, it's not easy.
What I'm frightened to do is to go too far down.
I'm trying to follow the line.
-Right, I've done a bit. Let's have a look.
-All right. That's all right.
-It's not a big block,
not a big lump out of there, is there?
I'll take you on. OK, all right?
The limestone of Beer has been used all over Britain.
Another treasure from Cornwall and Devon is even more widespread.
It's not as grand,
and you've probably got some on your kitchen table right now.
We associate mining and quarrying with serious industrial activity
and it's not difficult to imagine
where those heavy-duty raw materials end up.
Although, you might be surprised.
Mysterious landscapes that look like distant planets...
..are actually much closer to home.
This is not the birthplace of extra-terrestrial life.
It's actually the birthplace of millions of teacups.
These are the china clay deposits near St Austell in Cornwall.
And they're even a source of inspiration for artists.
Whenever I come into the clay pits,
it's a heightening of the senses, completely.
Jenny Beavan is Artist In Residence,
well, artist knee-deep in clay and water, anyway.
I think, to any outsider, it might seem quite a crazy thing
to do on a day like this,
which is, for me, just great fun, actually.
Jenny uses china clay for her ceramics,
because it's uniquely strong and delicate.
That's why it makes such fabulously good tea pots, cups and saucers.
But, unlike some artists, Jenny likes to get hands-on with her raw materials.
Well, just being here,
you can see the graduation between the rock
and then something that's a bit softer,
and it gets softer and softer until you can really,
you know, dig it.
And it's quite nice taking it in layers
because the kind of transition from hard to soft is quite inspiring.
Being so pliable is one of the things
that makes china clay great to use.
It was created in an act of unbelievable alchemy.
These hills were originally granite
until a corrosive chemical cocktail attacked the rock.
It was so powerful,
it transformed parts of the rock
into a substance called kaolin.
When it's fired, this soft clay goes rock hard.
Perfect for the finest quality china.
And, in its raw form, lots of other things in our homes.
Of course, you find china clay in things like plates and cups,
but what about paper?
Plastic toys? Toilet seats? Even indigestion remedies?
You've probably come into contact with china clay today.
If all this clay is in Cornwall, why is it known as china clay?
Well, China was the first to use kaolin successfully.
But Cornwall became the world's biggest producer over 200 years ago.
So far, £15 billion worth of this glorified mud has been sluiced out.
But that's worth more than all of Cornwall's tin and copper put together.
MALE CHOIR SINGS
And like many of Britain's mining communities,
the clay pits have inspired a strong musical tradition.
Some say the singing helped to clear out the lungs
after a hard day's work in the mines,
in the days when it was all a lot dustier.
We've had a good look at the rocks hidden underground.
But, above ground, one thing you notice
is that the fields of Cornwall
are divided by these very distinctive hedges.
because they're not hedges at all.
We all know what a hedge is. It's a hedge.
It's a long row of plants separating fields or gardens.
Not in Cornwall.
Down here, the hedges are, in fact, made from rock.
And making them is an ancient tradition.
'John Wakefield is a member of the Guild Of Cornish Hedges.'
Will he show me how to build a hedge?
Oh, that doesn't sound right.
Why is it called a hedge, then, when it's quite obviously a wall?
Because it's a living thing.
You've obviously got grass growing on the top,
or any other shrubs, gorse, any local vegetation.
It's different to the dry stone walling
because the dry stone has stones from one side to the other
whereas this has two independent sides.
-There's Earth in the middle.
-Massive stones in the bottom.
-Yup - the grounders.
-That makes sense.
It's like that, isn't it?
It's thicker at the bottom than it is at the top.
Yeah, it's thicker at the bottom, so, the way it's angled will tighten itself.
The design of the Cornish hedge is actually very clever.
It makes a solid windbreak for farming.
It also prevents soil erosion
and reduces flash flooding,
which is just the thing in a landscape
as weather-beaten as this one.
And how fast can you do this, then?
On a double-sided hedge, a meter long,
would take about a day.
-Do you want me to do a bit?
-If you like. There's a hammer.
I will not have weird-looking stones in my wall.
Listen, there are standards.
Some of these walls -
sorry, hedges - were first laid down in the Bronze Age.
Loose stones from the fields have been used to top them up ever since.
If a wall is built properly, like this one, how long would it last?
Oh, hundreds of years, yeah.
The Guild of Cornish Hedges guarantee them 100 years
-You guarantee 100 years.
-That's without the extended warranty.
-Yeah. Without, yeah.
'As the sun sets on a satisfying bit of proper manly work,
'it's good to know there is a little piece of Cornwall
'that will for ever be Hugh Dennis,
'until the cameras have gone, and John builds it again, properly.'
Devon and Cornwall bear all the scars of the continual battle
between the landscape and the relentless forces of nature.
And if you want to feel close to them, there's no better place.
Wild weather and merciless winds scour the hills.
But the coastline is still the biggest battleground.
So, I'm going back to the front line for one last bit of Cornish fun.
Coasteering! A daring mix of jumping, swimming and climbing.
And, apparently, it's sufficiently dangerous
that I have to look like I'm going to a fancy dress party
dressed as Tinky Winky.
We'll stop here, have a quick chat about safety.
'For adrenaline junkies Sam Starkie and Dave Rainbird -
'even their names are out there -
'the wild coast of Cornwall is the perfect venue for coasteering.
'I wonder if it began as some sort of dance craze.'
Roman handshake, OK?
And it's November. I said I wanted to look at what was underneath Britain,
but this isn't really what I meant.
Yeah, try and keep your mouth closed.
So, try get your feet nice and high up against the rocks.
'And it's feet first. My only defence against being dashed on the rocks.'
So, whenever we are around the rocks, this is the position we want you to be in.
So, that way, you can just fend it off quite happily.
If you can try and get used to just relaxing and floating around.
'Oh, yeah. I'm really relaxed now.'
'There's nothing more likely to take your mind off things
'than being tossed around in the world's second biggest ocean.'
Stand back a little bit.
Just waiting for it to get nice and calm.
'The Cornish coast has been standing up to the sea
'for over 50 million years.
'I, by contrast, am finding five minutes a bit of a challenge.'
Grab those rocks.
Well done, Hugh. That's brilliant.
'Just to cling on to these jagged rocks is really difficult,
'because they are a razor-sharp mixture of hard slates
'and soft clays, laid down over millions of years.'
Some areas can be quite fragile and break off in your hands,
so you've got to be a little bit careful. Watch out for the waves splashing up.
'Yes, the trouble with following Sam and Dave up here,
'is that you know what's going to have to happen.'
Nice big step out of here, Hugh.
Whenever you're ready, you can go for it.
'Common sense tells you not to try swimming,
'climbing, or jumping around here.'
'But once you've mastered doing all three safely,
'you can do things like this.'
I imagine they are thinking an awful lot about the geology, at the moment.
I think it's probably the thing that really excites them.
One, two, three.
'Coasteering gives you access to parts of the coastline
'that you would never find in any other way.
'Like the caves that once made perfect hiding places for smugglers.'
They've just been in a group of caves called the Tea Taverns.
They're called that because a lot of tea was smuggled here. There was a very high tax on tea at one point.
So, all the contraband was put into those caves
and then horses would wait at the top of the hill.
And then they'd take all that contraband away.
Pretty good swimmers, aren't they?
Do you not think you'd be happier, maybe, working in an office?
After all that, Sam and I will share a moment of geological contemplation.
That is a real proper mixture, isn't it? Of soft and hard.
Yeah, as you can see behind us, totally burrowed out by the sea,
drawn out and leaving some amazing little features.
-This is fantastic, isn't it? That arch is great.
-Yeah, it's amazing.
-And to think that...
-And that's scary, isn't it?
Tons of rock is just being held up by this foot diameter of...
OK, do don't go on about it!
It's not something you're really going to think about
when you're lying on a beach here, but for centuries,
from piracy and smuggling, right through to the present day
with coasteering and the whole tourist industry,
in these beaches and in these coves,
life in Devon and Cornwall has been determined, really,
by this fantastic landscape,
by this intricate jumble of rocks and water,
and by the jigsaw of its geology.
Picture postcard views are just the cover page of the story of Britain.
Scratch the surface in an area like Cornwall and Devon,
and you see how much geology is part of who we are,
and how the tough rocks
created millions of years ago still shape our lives today.
There's an iceberg melting
and a volcano erupting somewhere.
It's changing everything, as we speak.
-It all changes all the time, in fact, doesn't it?
-But so slowly.
Yeah, and this coast is going, and, you know,
in hundreds of millions of years it's not going to look like this.
Nothing will be, like, the same.
I think it's my favourite toe of Britain.
Sort of stuck into the Atlantic.
You're thinking of Britain as someone sitting down with their legs out,
-sticking out the front, aren't you?
-Yeah, with bits, with dangly bits.
Very oddly shaped person.
The landscapes of Cornwall and Devon have had a tough upbringing,
but they wear it well.
And we get breathtaking scenery that's world-class in its variety.
Next time, Hugh and I are deep in Britain's biggest county,
getting a taste of Yorkshire's rocky past.
And discovering its spectacular landscape.
How fantastic is that!
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Hugh Dennis and Julia Bradbury venture across the most stunning parts of Cornwall and Devon to discover how Britain's epic past lives on in the most fascinating stories and characters.
Hugh experiences the full force of the Atlantic as he leaps from a sharp granite clifftop into a lashing sea - his first taste of coasteering. He also attempts to land on Britain's scariest helipad - at the top of a lighthouse, which regularly gets punched out by the power of the sea. Back on land, he attempts to build a hedge that isn't actually a hedge, and retraces the steps of King Arthur at the weirdly-shaped Tintagel Castle.
Julia finds out why Cornwall is a mecca for top surfers, and ventures to the spookiest part of Dartmoor, recently featured in Sherlock. And between them, they uncover how the rocky upheavals in our deepest past created the landscape itself. For a country our size, Britain has the biggest variety of geology on earth, which has created not only a beautiful landscape, but also a fascinating industrial heritage, a rich history and many legends.
Hugh and Julia are a pair well met. Hugh's been obsessed by the shape of the landscape, and how it formed, since he was a child - and he went onto study it as part of his Cambridge degree. And Julia's loved walking the British countryside since she could toddle.