Episode 9 Britain's Heritage Heroes


Episode 9

John Craven and Jules Hudson border-hop through the rolling hills of Herefordshire and Monmouthshire, and meet the people saving the area's disappearing heritage.


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Transcript


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We're travelling across the UK on a mission.

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All over the country our heritage is at risk.

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Ancient buildings and monuments are under threat of demolition.

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Valuable arts and crafts are on the brink of extinction

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and our rich industrial heritage is disappearing fast.

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We're scouring town and country to find the nation's unsung heroes

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determined not to let our heritage become a thing of the past.

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Today we'll meet the people who are determined to save

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this 650-year-old effigy.

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And we spend time with the locals who clubbed together to save

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their traditional pub in Monmouthshire.

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I thought I'd find you here, Jules!

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I've got the situation under control!

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On this journey we're uncovering the hidden treasures of our country,

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treasures worth fighting for...

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And meeting heritage heroes saving Britain at risk.

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Well, John, Herefordshire beckons today and what weather!

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This is unexpected, isn't it? Very nice.

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-Oh, left here.

-Round here?

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-Yep.

-Oh, hold tight.

-I will!

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Yep, right there.

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-These are tight bends, aren't they?

-This is very pretty, isn't it?

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Good fun.

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We started at the top of the English-Welsh border.

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We've driven south through Cheshire, Shropshire and Powys

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and will continue through the Welsh valleys to reach our journey's end

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at the Bristol Channel.

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Today we're border hopping through the rolling hills

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of Herefordshire and Monmouthshire

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as we explore this beautiful area's rich heritage.

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Well, I had a fantastic bacon sandwich for breakfast this morning, John.

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-You like your bacon sandwiches.

-I do like a bacon sandwich,

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on normal bread with lots of butter.

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Of course, not all that many years ago, round this part of the world,

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almost every family would have a pig in the back garden.

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Well, it's hard for most of us to imagine a time without

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supermarkets where food is on the shelves, but the idea of having

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a pig at home was absolutely key to keeping the family going, wasn't it?

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Yeah, and it would be very much a family pet until the moment came.

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-Well, yeah.

-And then, every little bit of it put to use.

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I always feel sorry for pigs because they've got a very bad image,

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haven't they? People think they smell, but, in fact, naturally,

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-they're very clean animals. And very bright.

-Very intelligent.

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Churchill said, didn't he, "Dogs look up to you,

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"cats look down at you, but pigs treat you as equals."

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THEY LAUGH

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At the beginning of the 20th century there were 17 native pig breeds in Britain.

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But as world trade boomed in the 1950s, our government

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became concerned about how competitive UK pig producers were.

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They advised that pig farmers concentrate on just three breeds

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and it had a dramatic effect.

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Today there are just eight traditional pig breeds remaining

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and one family's bid to save the rare species has seen them

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take the idea of the family pig that one step further.

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The Cianchis started their pig farm just four years ago

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and since then, it's gone from strength to strength.

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Ah, look at these two! What have we got here, Ann?

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-He's a Gloucester Old Spot.

-Lovely, aren't they? They're very sweet.

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-How old are these?

-These will be about five months old now,

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so it will be another couple of months before they're ready to go to the abattoir.

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I love what you're doing here.

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I've met lots of pig producers over the years,

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but very few that have started from scratch.

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How did it all begin?

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Our daughter, Emma, at the age of 14,

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asked for two rare breed piglets for her birthday.

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We actually sent her off to a pig farm to find out all about it.

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We thought the smell would put her off cos we didn't know

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-they weren't smelly.

-Oh, right, yes!

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But it's obviously expanding at a rate of knots, Ann.

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I can see all sorts of pigs in different pens down here.

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How many rare breeds have you got?

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We've got five different rare breeds.

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There are eight all together, but we have had up to seven.

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-What have we got here?

-These are Middle Whites.

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Until recently, they were extremely rare, but numbers,

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since we've been keeping them, have come up so we're pleased

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that they're no longer the rarest British breed.

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It's interesting that it wasn't just about keeping pigs that

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attracted Emma and clearly has roped you all in as a family,

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-but the rare breed nature of it. There's a sense of heritage about what you're doing.

-There is, yes.

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I mean, we had no idea, initially, that these

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old traditional breeds were so rare.

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What started out as an interest in an unusual family pet

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has now become a full-time business.

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Their large breeding stock is in high demand and the bacon, pork

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and sausages they produce are proving a big hit

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at local farmers markets.

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Anne recently left her job to invest in the business

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and with Emma at university, her brother Ben and sister Claire

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are also doing their bit.

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So, Ben, what's the plan?

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'Today's task is to move the Middle Whites to a fresh new pen

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'and it seems I've been roped in to give a hand.'

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-OK, then, shall we give it a go?

-OK, if Pete lifts that up, we'll...

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And they'll just go now, will they?

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Literally just shake the bucket under their noses

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and I'll follow you along in case you have any trouble.

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Oh, my God. Right, OK.

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-Come on, pigs!

-Keep up with Ben.

-Oh, dear.

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-Bit faster.

-Right. Bit faster.

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-Come on. Shall we go that way?

-Let's go up here.

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-Come on!

-Take one pig each. Come on.

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Come on!

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Come on, girl. Who's a good girl?

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Straight in there, come on. Come on!

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Good girl! Now you can put some food on the floor.

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There we are!

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Well, that was...a nice bit of exercise, wasn't it?!

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So did you ever think, Ben, that you'd end up being a pig man?

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No, um...when Emma first got them,

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we only had two and they were just pets, really.

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It's grown and grown and almost by accident, I think me and Claire

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have been caught up in the middle.

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-It's like this whirlpool that's drawn everyone in!

-It is!

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But it's lovely that you've all grown to love them,

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but you've got the difficult decision of actually then

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thinking about eating them.

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We know they've had a much better life than almost any other pigs

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in the country because they live a lot longer than commercial pigs,

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obviously they're outside in a natural environment,

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they're eating natural food and they're living as pigs should.

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Obviously, we couldn't keep pigs without eating them,

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to an extent, as it's uneconomical.

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So to preserve them, we do have to eat some of them,

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however strange it sounds!

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Providing a valuable purpose for these rare breeds is crucial

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to their survival and it's heartening to see this family's efforts

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to save them from extinction.

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How do they taste, Ben?

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Delicious!

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JULES LAUGHS

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Spoken like a true farmer!

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Back on the road, we're continuing our drive through Herefordshire

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and taking a little detour through the city of Hereford.

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-There you are, John, Hereford Cathedral.

-Yeah.

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It's famous for the Mappa Mundi, isn't it?

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It is famous for the Mappa Mundi, one of the most important

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Medieval maps in the world, some would say THE most important.

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-From about 1200, something like that?

-1300, they say.

-Yeah.

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It's fascinating though how these great Cathedral centres

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affect the smaller outlying parish churches as well.

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They were great seats of scholarship and learning

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so the clergy were those that could read and write, weren't they?

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Also, they're storage places for great relics of the past.

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And not just cathedrals, but little parish churches as well.

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-Yeah.

-Well, thank goodness our maps have come a long way since then!

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Yeah!

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Otherwise we'd be totally lost!

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And talking of local parish churches,

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just 13 miles south east of Hereford, in Much Marcle,

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is St Bartholomew's.

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And I've come here to see one of the finest medieval effigies in Europe.

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But like many churches up and down the country, it's in desperate need of restoration.

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The roof has undergone extensive repairs and fundraising efforts

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are under way to save the important monuments stored beneath it.

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Janet Chapman is one of the villagers who's been working

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for the past six years to bring the church

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and its valuable contents back to life.

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Well, this is a really beautiful church, Janet, isn't it?

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It's fabulous. Often known as a "mini cathedral".

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But like so many churches, it needs a lot of work doing to it.

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I mean, obviously, from there...

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Well, the west window is under repair now.

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We've had to do the ceiling and the side aisle roofs.

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-How much is all that costing?

-Well, it's approaching half a million.

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And you're the powerhouse behind all this, are you?

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Well, we have a lot of help, it's not just me.

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We have a local benefactor, wonderful fundraising circle,

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and support from many, many trusts.

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What's the latest project?

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The latest project is hugely exciting.

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-It's a beautiful lady which I'm going to show you.

-Right.

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This effigy of Blanche Mortimer

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dates back to the mid 14th century.

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She's been referred to as Much Marcle's "sleeping beauty"

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and has recently been moved from her crumbling tomb in a bid to save her.

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Medieval effigies are typically life-size sculptures

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placed on top of an empty cenotaph or tomb.

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They were commissioned by the rich and powerful

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to glorify their lives in this world,

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and to promote the cause of their souls in the next.

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-So, she's in here, is she?

-She is indeed.

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-Is that her?

-Yes.

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-An effigy?

-Yes.

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An effigy of whom?

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This is Blanche Mortimer, Lady Grandison,

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youngest daughter of Roger Mortimer,

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who ran off with Queen Isabella.

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They were suspected of murdering her husband, Edward II.

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They were indeed.

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-And this is his daughter.

-This is his youngest daughter.

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In effect, he ruled by default because Edward was locked up.

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And she is beautiful, isn't she?

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She's wonderfully beautiful.

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How old is this effigy?

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Well, Blanche died in 1347,

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and she is one of England's finest Medieval effigies.

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She's carved out of one solid piece of stone,

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probably about three-quarters of a tonne in weight.

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She's carved in Painswick stone and, of course, it is softer to carve.

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Wonderful detail. She's got a wedding ring on.

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And two other rings there.

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Yes, and she's holding her rosary.

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Look at the buttons on her dress.

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Yes, beautiful buttons.

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The level of detail in Medieval effigies is not merely decorative.

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Blanche's simple dress implies a lack of ostentation

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and religious devotion.

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And the dog at her feet symbolises fidelity.

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Why is Blanche on this trolley?

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Because she is so wet and full of moisture,

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and she's drying out.

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Janet has enlisted the help of Michael Eastham,

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who's an historic monuments expert,

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and, now that Blanche has been safely moved,

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he's tackling the damp around her tomb.

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This is where Blanche has rested for over 650 years, Michael.

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What are you doing right now?

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I'm taking some moisture readings,

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because when she was here, when we first lifted her off,

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we were getting readings of 90% in the centre of the core.

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How bad is that?

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It's very bad because anything above 20%

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is actually making life very difficult for the effigy.

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So, how are you going to remove all this damp before she can come back?

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The problem is that moisture is rising through this monument,

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and we can't actually stop that. But what we can try and do

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is improve the environment where the effigy will be.

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You'll have to get rid of all of this stuff then?

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Indeed, we are. We'll take off the panelling,

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and then we can excavate the material back to the wall behind.

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That sounds like a pretty big job.

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Yes. There again, taking the effigy off was a pretty big job as well.

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I suppose lots of people wonder why it's important to restore an effigy,

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what's so significant about effigies?

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Well, it has to be seen in the context of the whole monument,

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and it is a very fine structure,

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with some extraordinary carving,

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and the structure of it in itself is quite remarkable.

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You don't have too many of them dating from the 14th century,

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so if you lose one,

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you're one more down the path of ending up with nothing at all.

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Back on the road, John's at the wheel,

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and we're driving through cider country.

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What's your favourite, John - normal apple cider, or how about perry?

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Perry. Yes, perry is very nice - a much sweeter drink, isn't it?

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It is. It's making a bit of a comeback now.

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-Yeah?

-You know, pear production is going up here.

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I had a go at making some about a year ago.

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It's quite involved - there's an awful lot of pressing to be done.

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You need a huge amount of pears to get good quality perry.

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Was it any good?

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It was very nice, actually. But as you say, a little bit sweeter.

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It's nice to see it making a comeback because most people have forgotten it

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in the rush to fill supermarket shelves

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with ever more exotic brands of cider.

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You know, the humble pear is on the march.

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Perry has been produced in the Three Counties area

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of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire for centuries.

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It was traditionally made on the farm for family and workers,

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but as perry pear trees take a few decades to bear viable fruit,

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it's an industry that's struggled to expand.

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Tom Oliver started making perry for his own consumption

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more than 20 years ago, and now he runs a small business

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selling perry from his Herefordshire farm.

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When you're born in Herefordshire,

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you grow up with the orchards

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all around you, and so I've drunk cider and perry all my life.

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So, in the beginning of the 1900s,

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my grandad was making cider on the farm, but it was for the workers

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to have some form of refreshment

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during the hard manual work of haymaking.

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But when agriculture became mechanised,

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it was just too dangerous to drink perry on the farm

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during working hours, and Tom's grandfather cleared the orchards

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to make way for other crops.

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When Tom decided to revive the traditional pear drink

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he had to start afresh.

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We wanted to make great cider and perry,

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but we needed to reinvest in planting trees.

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We needed to get new equipment,

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and start the whole thing from scratch.

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In the past ten years, Tom's seen interest in traditional perry grow

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and he's gone from producing just 600 bottles in the early days,

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to 10,000 every year.

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But the perry pear tree is a fickle creature.

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One year it could give you cartloads of crop,

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yet the next, barely a bagful.

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You need a lot of patience to make perry.

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We live in a world where greed,

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having things now,

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the fact that you are allowed to believe that you can have things now,

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perry pears are just a great reminder

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of what the real world, and what nature is all about -

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it takes a long time for these trees to mature.

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If you want to make a different perry,

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or want to make more perry, someone has to commit to it now,

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and another generation gets the benefit of that commitment

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and that foresight.

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Moving on, and our final stop is a little village with big ideas

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about keeping community spirit alive.

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One of the things that's saddened me about this trip,

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is some of the villages we've passed through where,

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you know, the pub is boarded-up, shop's closed,

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and everything is very quiet and a bit down at heel.

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Yes. It's a very sad reflection these days, isn't it,

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what's happening to the British village?

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What's going to happen in future?

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One of the tragedies is this sense of a lack of a focal point.

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In my village, the pub is the focal point, not just for obvious reasons,

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but because it's where you go to get advice,

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to catch up on the gossip.

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You know, borrow equipment, or just to have a chat.

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If you lose that point where everyone can get together,

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then the heart goes out of it.

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As these older generations die out,

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you lose the folklore, the local history, the stories, the characters.

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In my village, we have a very sort of active social life.

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Everybody knows each other, that's the main thing.

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Well, everybody knows you!

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Everyone!

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Grosmont, in the Monnow Valley,

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sits between the Brecon Beacons National Park

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and the Wye Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

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But the area suffered badly

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through the foot and mouth outbreak,

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and the village lost its local school and pub.

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But Grosmont residents have decided to fight back,

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and all the villagers - around 300 of them -

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are committed to keeping the heart of this rural community beating.

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Lovely, very nice.

0:18:540:18:56

First of all, Jules, I think we need to pop in here -

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Gentle Jane's Tearoom.

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I gather there's a meeting going on. I can hear some hubbub.

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Ah!

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Hi there!

0:19:070:19:09

-Hello.

-Hello.

-Hello there!

-What's going on here then?

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Hello!

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-You must be Jeannette.

-I am Jeanette, yes.

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-I'm Richard.

-John.

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I'm Mike. Hello, John.

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Nice to see you guys, how are you? Very nice to meet you.

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What's going on here then?

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This is a meeting of what we call GADMAG,

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the Grosmont and District Multi Activity Group. A bit of a mouthful!

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Isn't it just!

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'The group was formed when the village school

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'was threatened with closure over 20 years ago.

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'They've kept spirits high through some tough times since then.'

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We decided to form a committee when we knew we'd lose the school,

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to keep the spirit alive in the village,

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and to keep events going.

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-You lost that battle - the school went?

-The school went,

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but the important thing was we kept the village spirit alive.

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Was there a real feeling that the community here was under threat?

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Very much, yes.

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This is what pulled the village together.

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What would have happened if you had not started the group, do you think?

0:20:040:20:08

I hate to think. People come to the village now and say,

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"I want to move here".

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They love the atmosphere.

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Maybe it wouldn't be the same if we didn't have this community spirit.

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Give us a sense of the range of activities that you're now getting behind.

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It can start off with a children's Easter egg hunt.

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We actually ran an event in the nave for the wedding this year.

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We have an apple pie supper,

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which we were talking about when you came in -

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that's like a Harvest Festival get-together.

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He loves apple pie!

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I do!

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Get your ticket in quickly, right?

0:20:410:20:45

Half of the challenge is coming up with new ideas, you know?

0:20:450:20:49

But the spirit in this village is fantastic.

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-What about a village panto?

-Oh, do you know, that would be such fun.

0:20:520:20:56

We ought to do that!

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-We should come back at Christmas!

-We'll have to do that.

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There's certainly no shortage of enthusiasm

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for village life in Grosmont, but the one thing they're lacking

0:21:070:21:11

is a large community space.

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Like St Bartholomew's in Much Marcle,

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Grosmont's church has recently undergone much needed restoration.

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The Reverend Jean Prosser has spent the past five years

0:21:230:21:26

raising funds to refurbish the nave

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into a space that the whole community can use all year round.

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They found a wonderful thing when they stripped this roof.

0:21:340:21:37

-Roofers always sign their roofs, did you know that?

-Yes.

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-They leave graffiti up there.

-And you found it?

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What they found was people signing their name,

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and "Hereford 1887".

0:21:460:21:48

Wow. It's extraordinary, Jean -

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it's a real Mediaeval triumph, isn't it? It is just wonderful.

0:21:510:21:57

This is the oldest church roof in Wales.

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Is it?

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Declared so by the Royal Commission.

0:22:010:22:03

We know from the tree ring dating

0:22:030:22:06

that these timbers were felled between 1214 and 1244.

0:22:060:22:12

-Just before Edward's conquest of Wales.

-Yes.

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And there is documentary evidence as well, which backs it up.

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Hubert De Burgh gave 50 oaks from the Kings Forest

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for building in Grosmont in 1227.

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These are...

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So these are...

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-Those oaks!

-Yes.

0:22:290:22:31

These spaces are so adaptable. It doesn't matter what you do in here,

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you can't spoil it, at all.

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And we're actually set up for a produce show on Saturday,

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and we have ceilidhs, we have barbecues,

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we have children's parties, wedding receptions -

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all sorts go on in here.

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I know there's a growing need for a viable community space in Grosmont,

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it's one thing that people are all working towards. Surely this is it?

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Yes, this is the largest public space for 15 miles around.

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As I see it, we're passing through.

0:23:040:23:07

Yes.

0:23:070:23:08

And if a building like this is going to have a real future,

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then it seems to me that everyone here

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needs to experience coming in here, having a good time

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when they're in here, having some sense of ownership.

0:23:210:23:25

Yes.

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The DNA of the community is in these stones.

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But all the people who have ever lived in Grosmont

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have come here for significant occasions in their lives.

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It's all consecrated,

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and it's all part of the community and the church.

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I don't see them as being separate.

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-As it has been since 1300.

-Forever, yes.

0:23:460:23:48

Brilliant. It's absolutely wonderful.

0:23:480:23:51

Well, just a mile or so from the church in the village,

0:23:580:24:02

is this place.

0:24:020:24:03

It looks like a rather large allotment.

0:24:030:24:06

In fact, it's a great example of the way that the community spirit

0:24:060:24:10

spreads out in this little corner of the world.

0:24:100:24:14

Alistair, can I give you a break for a moment? Good to see you.

0:24:180:24:22

How did this start?

0:24:220:24:24

It started because a group of us in the village

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were looking for a way to develop a community garden,

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or allotments in the village,

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and the landowner here kindly offered to let us start our group here,

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to start growing it.

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So this is all worked by a group, is it?

0:24:380:24:42

It's not individual allotments?

0:24:420:24:43

No, it's a group of people.

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We work together, we share decisions and we share the work.

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Then we share out the produce that comes from it.

0:24:480:24:51

-It's a great view of the village, isn't it, from here?

-Yes.

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What happens when produce is ready - do you sell it in the village?

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A couple of local shops have asked us for produce when we have it spare,

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-and we also give some of the spare crops out to other people.

-For free?

0:25:020:25:07

-Yes.

-And why do you think a community garden like this is important?

0:25:070:25:12

It's important because it brings people together with a green focus,

0:25:120:25:17

with a food focus,

0:25:170:25:20

with a sustainability focus.

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It just gives people an activity

0:25:230:25:25

which is connected to the soil and nature.

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You're making me feel as though I should roll my sleeves up

0:25:280:25:32

and give you a bit of help.

0:25:320:25:33

So, what do you plan to do next today?

0:25:330:25:36

I've got some potatoes over there that need digging.

0:25:360:25:39

Right, OK.

0:25:390:25:40

These potatoes, are they for you?

0:25:400:25:43

These will be for my tea.

0:25:430:25:45

Your tea, right.

0:25:450:25:47

There are some fine ones.

0:25:480:25:50

And it seems that while I've been mucking in at the community garden,

0:25:530:25:57

Jules has been taking things easy down at the local.

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I thought I'd find you here!

0:26:000:26:02

John, I've got the situation completely under control.

0:26:020:26:05

-That's for you.

-Oh, smashing. Thirsty work you know, pulling potatoes.

0:26:050:26:09

I can imagine! I've just been hearing about how this pub has kept going.

0:26:090:26:13

You've got quite an interesting story to tell, haven't you?

0:26:130:26:16

Well, I moved into the village in 2002.

0:26:160:26:20

A few years later, three years later, the pub hit hard times.

0:26:200:26:26

It came up for sale and we really wanted to save it as a village pub.

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So, to preserve it for the village, we bought it.

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My fellow owners are all of the same mind.

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They all live in the village, or very close by.

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They really do not want this place to shut

0:26:420:26:45

and have put their hands in their pockets for it.

0:26:450:26:47

-Has it worked?

-Yes.

0:26:470:26:49

It's worked... We haven't made any money,

0:26:490:26:52

but that's not what it was about. It was about saving it.

0:26:520:26:55

With luck, in time,

0:26:550:26:58

we will actually come into profit and make something out of it.

0:26:580:27:02

-So, do you get free drinks?

-No.

0:27:020:27:04

THEY LAUGH

0:27:040:27:06

I wish I did!

0:27:060:27:09

Grosmont is a village after my own heart, I think.

0:27:110:27:15

I really like it actually.

0:27:150:27:17

There's such a fantastic atmosphere, and a genuine warmth about it.

0:27:170:27:21

The sense of community and spirit that goes into it is palpable -

0:27:210:27:26

you can really taste it.

0:27:260:27:28

A lot of people here are really determined

0:27:280:27:31

that the spirit will live on here - that nothing is going to stop

0:27:310:27:36

a community enjoying themselves in this village.

0:27:360:27:39

And thank goodness they saved the pub!

0:27:390:27:41

We're not driving, so let's have another pint. My turn.

0:27:410:27:44

Go on then!

0:27:440:27:45

-Two more pints please, landlord.

-Thank you!

0:27:450:27:48

It's been another great day on our journey

0:27:570:27:59

down the Welsh/English border.

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I was intrigued by the efforts to save the effigy

0:28:010:28:05

of the sleeping beauty, Blanche Mortimer.

0:28:050:28:08

And for me, pig wrangling alongside a family

0:28:080:28:12

determined to save some of Britain's rare breeds was a treat.

0:28:120:28:16

Next time, we'll be meeting the fishermen

0:28:160:28:19

from the last lave net fishery on the Bristol Channel.

0:28:190:28:21

And being swept off our feet by the locals

0:28:210:28:23

who've been working for the past ten years

0:28:230:28:26

to keep their Miner's Institute.

0:28:260:28:28

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:28:320:28:35

John Craven and Jules Hudson border-hop through the rolling hills of Herefordshire and Monmouthshire, and meet the people saving the area's disappearing heritage.

Rare breed pigs are on the menu as Jules meets a family helping their numbers grow. John discovers a beautiful effigy with a story to tell, and they both enjoy the hospitality of Grosmont, where locals are waving the flag for community spirit after losing their local school.


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