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We're travelling across the UK on a mission.
All over the country our heritage is at risk.
Ancient buildings and monuments are under threat of demolition.
Valuable arts and crafts are on the brink of extinction
and our rich industrial heritage is disappearing fast.
We're scouring town and country in search of the nation's unsung heroes
determined not to let our heritage become a thing of the past.
Today, we meet the woman who's single-handedly taken on
the restoration of this historic Shropshire mansion.
Had I known anything about buildings, I probably would've run a mile.
And I take to the skies to see the work being done to reveal Britain's hidden historical sites.
-That's the sort of thing we'd think for an Iron-Age farmstead.
On this journey, we're uncovering the hidden treasures of our country,
treasures that are certainly worth fighting for.
And meeting heritage heroes saving Britain at risk.
There's not much point in looking at the map - there's only one road.
-We'll see where it takes us.
We started at the northernmost point of the English/Welsh border.
We've driven south through Denbighshire, Cheshire and Powys
and will continue into South Wales until we reach our journey's end
at the Bristol Channel.
Today, we're exploring the rural idylls of Shropshire and Herefordshire,
shining a light on the area's disappearing heritage.
Look at this, John. Ponies.
-Yeah, quite a herd of them.
-I had no idea.
-They look pretty healthy, don't they?
-Nice, fat tummies on them.
Hello, you lot.
We're not far from the Stiperstones,
one of your old stamping grounds, I think.
Yeah... Strange name, isn't it, Stiperstones?
It's actually the name of a range of hill.
I think it goes on for about ten miles, if I remember rightly.
And it's bleak, open land like this. Very forbidding countryside, really.
I've been up there in the middle of winter and it's quite spooky, I'm telling you.
When there's a mist up there, as there often is,
and a chill in the air,
it sends shivers down your spine.
In the mid 1800s, the mines of the Stiperstones area in Shropshire
produced over 10% of Britain's lead.
As the workforce grew,
some miners set up squatter's cottages on the hills
high above the village of Snailbeach.
It's thought five families lived in this lonely place.
The cottages were abandoned in the 1950s
and stayed that way for more than 50 years.
As they're situated in a Natural England nature reserve,
the organisation raised funds to restore them
before they disappeared entirely.
Simon Cooter and Tom Wall have been involved with the project
since its beginnings over a year ago.
This was common land?
Yeah, this was common land,
so the idea was that if anyone could build a chimney
and have smoke coming out of it overnight,
then they could squat in that area and live there
but then pay a rent to the landlord.
As far as they could throw the axe from the corner of their house,
-that was where they could till the land from.
So the small squatter cottage then turned into the larger dwellings
and then settlements, and so quite large settlements were here.
-And it that one of those squatter cottages there?
-That is, yes.
That's what's referred to as Cook's Cottage,
which is one of the last ones to be occupied, indeed up to the 1950s.
And why do think it's important to restore small cottages like that?
It's important because they're rare. There's few of them now.
We find them here in their natural environment
which enables us to understand more about the lives of the people who lived here and worked here.
As well as restoring the cottages,
the group are involved with an oral history project,
asking relatives to share their memories of past generations.
-What did he grow?
-Oh, potatoes and cabbage.
Their stories will be turned into a book which, hopefully, will raise even more money
for the restoration scheme.
There was a grocery delivery but that's by horse and cart.
'Clifford Davies is one of the interviewees.
'His grandfather Edwin lived in the second cottage for over 30 years.
'He made the two-hour journey up and down the hill to the lead mine
'almost every day.'
-And this is where your grandfather lived?
-That's right. This is it.
-Years ago, it was just stone.
-No roof on it?
-The rain coming in?
-That's right, yes.
The sheep going in through the door!
So, this would be, what, the main living room
-and the kitchen as well?
-Everything went on in here.
-Old grate down there. Is that the original?
You can remember sitting round, can you?
I can remember sitting round that and the table here.
I can more or less see it now. There was a settee there.
-He used to come through the door there
and he used to put the saddle on the one arm of the settee.
What was this room, then?
This, in the latter years, was my grandad's bedroom.
There was only him so he had no need to go upstairs.
What was this, then?
This was the scullery sort of thing here.
We used to have a bench there with a bowl on it
and he had his water which he carried from outside.
-Tin bath here as well?
-Yes, tin bath, and that was all there.
How do feel now, coming back to this place?
I'm quite pleased they've done it up.
I thought, you know, they'd forgot about it.
But they've made a darn good job of it.
He'd think he was in Buckingham Palace if he were here now.
Restoring these humble cottages
has led to the re-discovery of the living history held within their walls.
They're important reminders of the mining families who once made
this harsh, isolated countryside their home.
We're back on the road and continuing our drive through Shropshire.
One thing Shropshire isn't short of, John, is gorgeous deciduous forests.
The road here either side of us is just packed with clearly quite ancient woodland.
Yeah, certainly down the valleys,
some really beautiful old oaks. Of course, at the moment,
the big tragedy facing our oak trees is this disease -
acute oak decline.
The oaks are being struck down by this terrible disease
which is just sweeping across the country.
The oak tree has long been a powerful symbol of Britain's history and culture.
The tree's durable timber was used to build thousands of sailing ships,
establishing Britain's power as our Empire grew.
But, today, it's at risk from this new threat.
Attingham Park is one of the National Trust estates
feeling the full brunt of acute oak decline.
In the past five years, up to 20 of the estate's 100 oak trees have become affected.
Bob Thurston is the gardens manager for the estate
and he's determined to tackle the problem.
In the wider parkland around here,
we've got trees 200 years, 300 years, 400, 500,
up to 650 years old,
and they're really, really important.
In fact, they've been designated by Natural England
as a Site of Special Scientific Interest just for those old trees
and the things that are living in them.
So, I'm really worried that if this disease is going to kill old oaks.
we've got a collection of really old, precious oaks just here.
In this little woodland here,
we've gone from one tree to now 15-20 trees
in a woodland that's got no more than 100 in it anyway.
So it's quite a worrying thing.
It's thought that bacteria causes the tree to weep a black fluid from its trunk.
It then goes on to lose its leaves.
The weaker tree is now vulnerable to the agrilus beetle
that can kill it within five years.
Today, we've got a tree - it's died, it's dangerous.
I need to get it on the ground and try and piece together what's happening.
What is causing this disease and from that,
how do we treat it and stop it spreading across our countryside?
Bob's called in Dr Sandra Denman - a Forestry Commission scientist
whose research is at the forefront of the battle to save the oak trees.
Once the tree is felled, she will examine the bark
to see if she can find traces of the beetle.
-Look at the bark. There's hardly any bark left.
That's the bark, there's outer bark
and here, it's into the sap wood,
so, yeah, that's pretty bad. Very dry.
Here you can see the remnant of that blackened cavity
and lots and lots of agrilus activity all the way around here.
Sandra will then take a sample of the infected bark
back to her lab in Surrey for further analysis.
I love my oak trees and I want to do everything I can
to help protect them and to ensure their future...
..because we are looking after a living heritage
and we want to ensure that they're going to be there in future generations.
We're moving south through Shropshire
and are just north of the ancient market town of Ludlow.
-Where it says "private drive"?
We're allowed to go somewhere it says "private", are we?
-We've been specially invited.
If I can get it out of gear.
-Where are we?
-This is the entrance to Stokesay Court.
-..does look rather impressive.
-Lovely parkland, sweeping drive.
-Very impressive driveway.
The lady that now owns it didn't know she was in line to inherit it,
opened a letter one day from the solicitor's
and found herself the proud and I think somewhat daunted owner
-of a crumbling Victorian pile.
-Good heavens. Was she pleased or not?
We'll have to ask her and find out.
This grand residence was built in 1892
by wealthy Victorian industrialist John Derby Allcroft.
Stokesay Court required armies of staff to upkeep all 90 rooms
and saw many grand coming-of-age balls
and village fetes throughout the early 1900s.
But the frivolity was cut short with the beginning of World War I
and the house was never the same again.
Current owner, Caroline, is the niece of Allcroft's granddaughter
and opened the door to an extremely run down
and neglected Stokesay in the mid-1990s.
She's spent the past two decades painstakingly restoring
and maintaining the building.
-Hello. Anyone at home?
Do you think we've come in the back door?
-That is the back door, which makes you wonder what the front's all about.
-Welcome to Stokesay. Very nice to see you.
-Lovely to see you.
-Goodness me, how about this?
-It is quite something, isn't it?
Isn't it? Good heavens, that is just beautiful.
-I wasn't expecting this at all.
-Proper kind of Edwardian country house, isn't it?
and it hasn't had any alterations to it since it was built.
But when I came, this was in a terrible state.
The roof was leaking and the entire structure was completely rotten,
which we didn't realise until we peeled the lead off the roof.
Then found that really all that was holding it up were oak casings.
You inherited this unexpectedly.
Totally unexpectedly. I received a long, brown envelope when I got back from work in London one day,
and in the envelope was a copy of a will and a compliment slip.
I knew nothing at all about buildings, which is probably a very good thing
because, had I known anything about buildings, I probably would have run a mile.
As Stokesay is Caroline's home, she's not eligible for any heritage funding
and had to sell the entire contents of the house
to fund death duties and repairs.
Everything from Edwardian toys to suits of armour went under the hammer.
It took over ten years to get the house in a liveable state.
But just as Caroline had managed to complete the basics,
a stroke of good luck came her way.
This is colourful.
Well, this is the dressing room/ master bedroom suite
and when I came, this was in a most terrible state.
And I had just got to the point where I had re-wired it
and put radiators in and along came Atonement.
-What, the movie?
-So they shot the movie here?
-Keira Knightley and...?
Keira Knightley and James McAvoy.
-Did they dress it for you? Are we looking a the remains of Atonement?
Well, this is complete film set and I haven't actually changed it
since the filming of Atonement.
It was built entirely for the film. So everything you see if fake.
The light switches and the sockets are all behind in the wall.
-There's panelling behind there.
-This is an oak-panelled bedroom.
-So this is all just dressing?
I guess, obviously, the money from the film had a big impact
but also just allowing you to address some of the fabric issues with the building at the same time.
Yes, it was absolutely brilliant
and a lot of the decoration has helped enormously.
The film set has provided a temporary solution
to the ongoing decoration problems
and, importantly, has brought in additional revenue
in the location tours that Caroline now runs.
But there are more than 60 other rooms that need attention,
as well as the ongoing maintenance required for a mansion of this size.
Up on the roof, local craftsman Ivor and his son-in-law Gavin
are re-doing the lead work.
What a racket!
-Hi, guys, how are you?
-Nice to see you. Is it Ivor?
-Nice to see you, fellas.
I heard you two a mile away.
This is clearly what it's all about, reinstating some of the lead work.
-Is it a never-ending job here?
It took us about 10, 12 years to get over it all.
-It's all been replaced.
Over the years, they've had to turn their hands to anything
from cleaning over 600 window panes
to sweeping all 15 chimneys.
Can you imagine the day
when this may have simply been left to disintegrate?
I'd hate to think of it, but without Caroline, it was possible.
She's got on top of it, she's on top of it now.
This is her life. This is her love, this is her passion for the place.
If you take away your heritage, what have you got?
Sounds obvious, but not everybody would agree.
This is what it is. This is what we were.
Keep it as much as you can, you've got to.
-Try and bend it first.
And then just dress.
Keeping Stokesay's heritage alive clearly takes a lot of elbow grease.
And while Jules rolls up his sleeves to give the boys a hand,
I'm finding out about Caroline's plans
to secure a sustainable future for the house.
Well, I'm thinking about what to do with this building here,
which, as you will see in a moment, is in a very bad state of repair.
-And it wasn't...
-So it is, yes.
That's no understatement, is it?
This is the original stables for the riding horses, I think,
-as you see that their names are all still there.
-Oh, yes - Bayleaf,
Rajah, The Doctor.
What's your plan for here, then?
Well, I think the future for the house,
and I'm trying to create a sustainable future for it,
must lie with opening and inviting more people in.
Probably, the way forward is to open the gardens,
and then maybe to turn this into tea rooms.
There's a fantastic space up above there,
which could be perhaps a gallery.
But with this, obviously,
we've got major capital works to undertake
and when I have lots and lots of visitors,
the house comes alive,
and that seems to me to be
a way forward for the house, and the right way forwards.
People love visiting,
and so I want to share it with them.
So I say, hats off to Caroline.
Absolutely. Can you imagine opening the post
and finding you're going to be guardian of all this lot?
Cos that's what she is, a guardian, not an owner, really.
And what a millstone round your neck,
to be in charge of somewhere like that.
But she's taken it on, I think brilliantly, and valiantly,
and now, it looks as if it has got a future.
Yeah. Because a lot of people who own great piles like this privately
put up the "keep out" signs, don't they? But not Caroline.
Nope. "Come on in and make what you can of it." I love it.
Back on the road,
we're leaving Shropshire behind and talking shoes.
Have you got a pair of clogs, Jules?
Do you know, John, I haven't.
I bought a pair for my girlfriend recently
and she absolutely loves them, and I quite fancy some.
They're becoming fashionable again, clogs.
They're meant to be good for your feet.
And apparently great for working in, in the workshop, in the garden.
Yeah, as you say, making a bit of a comeback.
But of course,
two or three generations ago, everybody would wear clogs.
Well, they were the utilitarian footwear of their day, I suppose.
I think they were the poor people's footwear, weren't they?
They're very expensive now, I can tell you.
But in the old days, get a pair of clogs, you were lucky.
You were lucky to have a pair of feet, never mind a pair of clogs!
Aye, son, back in the day!
The wooden clog was the original working man's shoe,
worn in steel mills and factories throughout the Industrial Revolution.
From many hundreds of traditional clog-makers,
there are now only a handful of remaining craftsmen
making bespoke clogs entirely by hand.
Jeremy Atkinson makes and sells clogs from his workshop in Kington.
He passed on his skills to Geraint,
who works full time over the border in Wales, demonstrating clog-making
at the St Fagans Museum near Cardiff.
All right there?
HE SPEAKS IN WELSH
The craft is extremely specialised
and it's taken Jeremy over ten years to master the knife work.
It's almost impossible to work out how they're supposed to work
without somebody taking you through it.
I think you have to have somebody who's done it to teach you.
See, you have to manipulate the sole, turn the sole
as well as moving the knife...
on the curves.
Each piece of wood has different problems.
There's grain structures, the word wants to go a certain way,
you have to cut it on the bias. All sorts of stuff to know.
Once Jeremy has hand-carved the sole,
he attaches the hand-cut leather upper.
The toetins are 1920s stock.
The nails, I start off with maybe a 7/8 nail here,
and then half-inch up here,
and a 5/8, 3/4 here.
The letter is from Chesterfield,
but it was basically for hedging gloves.
It's going to last 1,000 days,
which doesn't sound very much, it's only three years,
but that's continuous use.
I very rarely get a pair back much less than 10, 12 years.
As each order takes two to three months to complete,
it's impossible for Jeremy to earn a full-time living
and for him, the ancient craft has inevitably become a labour of love.
But Geraint's job at the museum
ensures the craft is still offering him a living wage
and affording him the time to pass on his knowledge to the next generation.
You see a lot of people come in.
Some of the older people, they remember clogs
and they remember a clog-maker from their local village
or their grandfather used to repair them, or whatever,
so you get a lot of stories from them,
and also, you get children coming in
and they've never seen anything like this,
and of course they think, "What? Wearing wood on your feet!"
It's a common misconception
that clogs are heavy and clumpy and uncomfortable, and they're not,
so it's really good to educate people
and show people that these crafts are important.
The hope being, as I come up to my retirement age,
I will get an apprentice,
and they'll work with me for four or five years,
and then I will retire and they just take over the workshop.
There will be a clog-maker and the craft will hopefully survive,
and that is my hope.
We're continuing our trip through the borderlands
and weaving our way north to our final destination.
Just look at that view, Jules.
Absolutely gorgeous, John.
It feels as if we're flying, almost, doesn't it?
-Well, I've got a little treat coming up.
I'm jumping in a plane with an aerial archaeologist
-to have a look at Herefordshire from above.
-Can I come with you?
Mind the sheep here. There's a sheep asleep on the road.
Come on! Off you go!
I'm hoping that we might find something we've never seen before.
That would be exciting, a true moment of discovery, wouldn't it?
Aerial photography was used during the First World War,
and archaeologists later discovered
that reconnaissance photos could reveal ancient sites
in more detail than from the ground.
Hundreds of archaeological sites
are still being discovered by aerial surveyors every year
and their important research ensures
that sites are not damaged or destroyed.
I'm meeting archaeologist Neil Rimmington
at Shobdon Airfield in Herefordshire to see what we can discover.
Nice to see you, sir. How are you?
-Ooh, watch your head.
-A bit of a mixed day for flying, clearly. Bit of rain.
Our weather forecast seems to have changed over the last day,
-so it's not ideal for us.
-But we'll still get a chance to get up.
We'll still go up and have a look.
We're at the end of the season for spotting archaeological crop marks
but we'll have a look, see what's left out there.
How vulnerable is this survey to the economic pressures of today?
Highly vulnerable. In fact, nationally, in terms of England,
there's only about ten people who actually do what I do.
But what can we see from the air that we can't make out on the ground?
Some of them are places where people lived,
so we get Iron-Age farmsteads, we get castle sites,
-we get mediaeval moated sites...
Roman sites, and in fact today, hopefully, we'll see one of those.
We're on the lookout for crop marks
that may show the outline of ancient buildings.
1015 2-4 Alpha...
If we spot any, Neil will take a series of photos
that will be added to the National Monuments Record,
hopefully leading to more research
and conservation of these discoveries.
-Look at that.
-It's a long way up.
-This is absolutely terrific.
I've seen a lot of Herefordshire in my time, but never from the air.
You realise just what a kind of rolling landscape this is.
Very much a rolling landscape. We're on the edge of the Welsh hills.
OK, we're on the Roman side here, Neil, and obviously we've got the rain coming in from the west.
And we can still see it, which is nice.
-Oh, is that it down there?
-You can still see it.
I mean, it's showing there as a sort of pale golden colour or a darker golden colour.
Any idea, you know, of date for that one, Neil?
This one dates from between about 70 AD and 130 AD.
-Our first Roman site of the day.
-First Roman site of the day!
As you can probably tell, Neil's opened the window!
Incredibly windy. Bob is about to go for a very tight turn
to get Neil as near vertical as he can over this Roman site, to get a nice clear shot of it.
That's the corner of the fort... emerging.
A very important site, really, for our understanding
about how the Roman Conquest of Britain was happening.
Oh, that's better!
Look beneath us now. Little square enclosure.
-Yes, another fort!
-Not a fort.
I reckon that's about 50 metres square.
That's the sort of thing we'd think for an Iron-Age farmstead.
-Am I allowed to take a photograph?
-Yes, I'll just come round that way.
That part of that monument - that's the first time that's been seen.
-So there you go, we did have something new today as well.
That is excellent, right. I'll take that off.
Shut the weather out again, shall I?!
Well somewhere down there is John Craven.
But what he's up to, I've no idea!
That's a very, very nice ride, Bob, thank you very much.
-OK, wait until we are down!
-Yes, I don't want to tempt fate!
-We're down. Thank you very much, Bob.
-OK. My pleasure.
Well, it's been fascinating to meet the people who are still uncovering ancient historic sites.
It's exciting to think just how many archaeological gems are out there, waiting to be discovered.
What an extraordinary day in our journey along the Welsh-English border.
I loved meeting Caroline and hearing about her inspirational battle
to save Stokesay Court.
And for me, a highlight was discovering the story behind the miners' cottages in Shropshire.
Next time, we meet the villagers who clubbed together
to save their traditional country pub.
And I take part in some pig wrangling with the family determined to save some of Britain's rare breeds.
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