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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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 to find the nation's unsung heroes
determined not to let our heritage become a thing of the past.
Today we'll meet the people who are determined to save
this 650-year-old effigy.
And we spend time with the locals who clubbed together to save
their traditional pub in Monmouthshire.
I thought I'd find you here, Jules!
I've got the situation under control!
On this journey we're uncovering the hidden treasures of our country,
treasures worth fighting for...
And meeting heritage heroes saving Britain at risk.
Well, John, Herefordshire beckons today and what weather!
This is unexpected, isn't it? Very nice.
-Oh, left here.
-Oh, hold tight.
Yep, right there.
-These are tight bends, aren't they?
-This is very pretty, isn't it?
We started at the top of the English-Welsh border.
We've driven south through Cheshire, Shropshire and Powys
and will continue through the Welsh valleys to reach our journey's end
at the Bristol Channel.
Today we're border hopping through the rolling hills
of Herefordshire and Monmouthshire
as we explore this beautiful area's rich heritage.
Well, I had a fantastic bacon sandwich for breakfast this morning, John.
-You like your bacon sandwiches.
-I do like a bacon sandwich,
on normal bread with lots of butter.
Of course, not all that many years ago, round this part of the world,
almost every family would have a pig in the back garden.
Well, it's hard for most of us to imagine a time without
supermarkets where food is on the shelves, but the idea of having
a pig at home was absolutely key to keeping the family going, wasn't it?
Yeah, and it would be very much a family pet until the moment came.
-And then, every little bit of it put to use.
I always feel sorry for pigs because they've got a very bad image,
haven't they? People think they smell, but, in fact, naturally,
-they're very clean animals. And very bright.
Churchill said, didn't he, "Dogs look up to you,
"cats look down at you, but pigs treat you as equals."
At the beginning of the 20th century there were 17 native pig breeds in Britain.
But as world trade boomed in the 1950s, our government
became concerned about how competitive UK pig producers were.
They advised that pig farmers concentrate on just three breeds
and it had a dramatic effect.
Today there are just eight traditional pig breeds remaining
and one family's bid to save the rare species has seen them
take the idea of the family pig that one step further.
The Cianchis started their pig farm just four years ago
and since then, it's gone from strength to strength.
Ah, look at these two! What have we got here, Ann?
-He's a Gloucester Old Spot.
-Lovely, aren't they? They're very sweet.
-How old are these?
-These will be about five months old now,
so it will be another couple of months before they're ready to go to the abattoir.
I love what you're doing here.
I've met lots of pig producers over the years,
but very few that have started from scratch.
How did it all begin?
Our daughter, Emma, at the age of 14,
asked for two rare breed piglets for her birthday.
We actually sent her off to a pig farm to find out all about it.
We thought the smell would put her off cos we didn't know
-they weren't smelly.
-Oh, right, yes!
But it's obviously expanding at a rate of knots, Ann.
I can see all sorts of pigs in different pens down here.
How many rare breeds have you got?
We've got five different rare breeds.
There are eight all together, but we have had up to seven.
-What have we got here?
-These are Middle Whites.
Until recently, they were extremely rare, but numbers,
since we've been keeping them, have come up so we're pleased
that they're no longer the rarest British breed.
It's interesting that it wasn't just about keeping pigs that
attracted Emma and clearly has roped you all in as a family,
-but the rare breed nature of it. There's a sense of heritage about what you're doing.
-There is, yes.
I mean, we had no idea, initially, that these
old traditional breeds were so rare.
What started out as an interest in an unusual family pet
has now become a full-time business.
Their large breeding stock is in high demand and the bacon, pork
and sausages they produce are proving a big hit
at local farmers markets.
Anne recently left her job to invest in the business
and with Emma at university, her brother Ben and sister Claire
are also doing their bit.
So, Ben, what's the plan?
'Today's task is to move the Middle Whites to a fresh new pen
'and it seems I've been roped in to give a hand.'
-OK, then, shall we give it a go?
-OK, if Pete lifts that up, we'll...
And they'll just go now, will they?
Literally just shake the bucket under their noses
and I'll follow you along in case you have any trouble.
Oh, my God. Right, OK.
-Come on, pigs!
-Keep up with Ben.
-Right. Bit faster.
-Come on. Shall we go that way?
-Let's go up here.
-Take one pig each. Come on.
Come on, girl. Who's a good girl?
Straight in there, come on. Come on!
Good girl! Now you can put some food on the floor.
There we are!
Well, that was...a nice bit of exercise, wasn't it?!
So did you ever think, Ben, that you'd end up being a pig man?
No, um...when Emma first got them,
we only had two and they were just pets, really.
It's grown and grown and almost by accident, I think me and Claire
have been caught up in the middle.
-It's like this whirlpool that's drawn everyone in!
But it's lovely that you've all grown to love them,
but you've got the difficult decision of actually then
thinking about eating them.
We know they've had a much better life than almost any other pigs
in the country because they live a lot longer than commercial pigs,
obviously they're outside in a natural environment,
they're eating natural food and they're living as pigs should.
Obviously, we couldn't keep pigs without eating them,
to an extent, as it's uneconomical.
So to preserve them, we do have to eat some of them,
however strange it sounds!
Providing a valuable purpose for these rare breeds is crucial
to their survival and it's heartening to see this family's efforts
to save them from extinction.
How do they taste, Ben?
Spoken like a true farmer!
Back on the road, we're continuing our drive through Herefordshire
and taking a little detour through the city of Hereford.
-There you are, John, Hereford Cathedral.
It's famous for the Mappa Mundi, isn't it?
It is famous for the Mappa Mundi, one of the most important
Medieval maps in the world, some would say THE most important.
-From about 1200, something like that?
-1300, they say.
It's fascinating though how these great Cathedral centres
affect the smaller outlying parish churches as well.
They were great seats of scholarship and learning
so the clergy were those that could read and write, weren't they?
Also, they're storage places for great relics of the past.
And not just cathedrals, but little parish churches as well.
-Well, thank goodness our maps have come a long way since then!
Otherwise we'd be totally lost!
And talking of local parish churches,
just 13 miles south east of Hereford, in Much Marcle,
is St Bartholomew's.
And I've come here to see one of the finest medieval effigies in Europe.
But like many churches up and down the country, it's in desperate need of restoration.
The roof has undergone extensive repairs and fundraising efforts
are under way to save the important monuments stored beneath it.
Janet Chapman is one of the villagers who's been working
for the past six years to bring the church
and its valuable contents back to life.
Well, this is a really beautiful church, Janet, isn't it?
It's fabulous. Often known as a "mini cathedral".
But like so many churches, it needs a lot of work doing to it.
I mean, obviously, from there...
Well, the west window is under repair now.
We've had to do the ceiling and the side aisle roofs.
-How much is all that costing?
-Well, it's approaching half a million.
And you're the powerhouse behind all this, are you?
Well, we have a lot of help, it's not just me.
We have a local benefactor, wonderful fundraising circle,
and support from many, many trusts.
What's the latest project?
The latest project is hugely exciting.
-It's a beautiful lady which I'm going to show you.
This effigy of Blanche Mortimer
dates back to the mid 14th century.
She's been referred to as Much Marcle's "sleeping beauty"
and has recently been moved from her crumbling tomb in a bid to save her.
Medieval effigies are typically life-size sculptures
placed on top of an empty cenotaph or tomb.
They were commissioned by the rich and powerful
to glorify their lives in this world,
and to promote the cause of their souls in the next.
-So, she's in here, is she?
-She is indeed.
-Is that her?
An effigy of whom?
This is Blanche Mortimer, Lady Grandison,
youngest daughter of Roger Mortimer,
who ran off with Queen Isabella.
They were suspected of murdering her husband, Edward II.
They were indeed.
-And this is his daughter.
-This is his youngest daughter.
In effect, he ruled by default because Edward was locked up.
And she is beautiful, isn't she?
She's wonderfully beautiful.
How old is this effigy?
Well, Blanche died in 1347,
and she is one of England's finest Medieval effigies.
She's carved out of one solid piece of stone,
probably about three-quarters of a tonne in weight.
She's carved in Painswick stone and, of course, it is softer to carve.
Wonderful detail. She's got a wedding ring on.
And two other rings there.
Yes, and she's holding her rosary.
Look at the buttons on her dress.
Yes, beautiful buttons.
The level of detail in Medieval effigies is not merely decorative.
Blanche's simple dress implies a lack of ostentation
and religious devotion.
And the dog at her feet symbolises fidelity.
Why is Blanche on this trolley?
Because she is so wet and full of moisture,
and she's drying out.
Janet has enlisted the help of Michael Eastham,
who's an historic monuments expert,
and, now that Blanche has been safely moved,
he's tackling the damp around her tomb.
This is where Blanche has rested for over 650 years, Michael.
What are you doing right now?
I'm taking some moisture readings,
because when she was here, when we first lifted her off,
we were getting readings of 90% in the centre of the core.
How bad is that?
It's very bad because anything above 20%
is actually making life very difficult for the effigy.
So, how are you going to remove all this damp before she can come back?
The problem is that moisture is rising through this monument,
and we can't actually stop that. But what we can try and do
is improve the environment where the effigy will be.
You'll have to get rid of all of this stuff then?
Indeed, we are. We'll take off the panelling,
and then we can excavate the material back to the wall behind.
That sounds like a pretty big job.
Yes. There again, taking the effigy off was a pretty big job as well.
I suppose lots of people wonder why it's important to restore an effigy,
what's so significant about effigies?
Well, it has to be seen in the context of the whole monument,
and it is a very fine structure,
with some extraordinary carving,
and the structure of it in itself is quite remarkable.
You don't have too many of them dating from the 14th century,
so if you lose one,
you're one more down the path of ending up with nothing at all.
Back on the road, John's at the wheel,
and we're driving through cider country.
What's your favourite, John - normal apple cider, or how about perry?
Perry. Yes, perry is very nice - a much sweeter drink, isn't it?
It is. It's making a bit of a comeback now.
-You know, pear production is going up here.
I had a go at making some about a year ago.
It's quite involved - there's an awful lot of pressing to be done.
You need a huge amount of pears to get good quality perry.
Was it any good?
It was very nice, actually. But as you say, a little bit sweeter.
It's nice to see it making a comeback because most people have forgotten it
in the rush to fill supermarket shelves
with ever more exotic brands of cider.
You know, the humble pear is on the march.
Perry has been produced in the Three Counties area
of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire for centuries.
It was traditionally made on the farm for family and workers,
but as perry pear trees take a few decades to bear viable fruit,
it's an industry that's struggled to expand.
Tom Oliver started making perry for his own consumption
more than 20 years ago, and now he runs a small business
selling perry from his Herefordshire farm.
When you're born in Herefordshire,
you grow up with the orchards
all around you, and so I've drunk cider and perry all my life.
So, in the beginning of the 1900s,
my grandad was making cider on the farm, but it was for the workers
to have some form of refreshment
during the hard manual work of haymaking.
But when agriculture became mechanised,
it was just too dangerous to drink perry on the farm
during working hours, and Tom's grandfather cleared the orchards
to make way for other crops.
When Tom decided to revive the traditional pear drink
he had to start afresh.
We wanted to make great cider and perry,
but we needed to reinvest in planting trees.
We needed to get new equipment,
and start the whole thing from scratch.
In the past ten years, Tom's seen interest in traditional perry grow
and he's gone from producing just 600 bottles in the early days,
to 10,000 every year.
But the perry pear tree is a fickle creature.
One year it could give you cartloads of crop,
yet the next, barely a bagful.
You need a lot of patience to make perry.
We live in a world where greed,
having things now,
the fact that you are allowed to believe that you can have things now,
perry pears are just a great reminder
of what the real world, and what nature is all about -
it takes a long time for these trees to mature.
If you want to make a different perry,
or want to make more perry, someone has to commit to it now,
and another generation gets the benefit of that commitment
and that foresight.
Moving on, and our final stop is a little village with big ideas
about keeping community spirit alive.
One of the things that's saddened me about this trip,
is some of the villages we've passed through where,
you know, the pub is boarded-up, shop's closed,
and everything is very quiet and a bit down at heel.
Yes. It's a very sad reflection these days, isn't it,
what's happening to the British village?
What's going to happen in future?
One of the tragedies is this sense of a lack of a focal point.
In my village, the pub is the focal point, not just for obvious reasons,
but because it's where you go to get advice,
to catch up on the gossip.
You know, borrow equipment, or just to have a chat.
If you lose that point where everyone can get together,
then the heart goes out of it.
As these older generations die out,
you lose the folklore, the local history, the stories, the characters.
In my village, we have a very sort of active social life.
Everybody knows each other, that's the main thing.
Well, everybody knows you!
Grosmont, in the Monnow Valley,
sits between the Brecon Beacons National Park
and the Wye Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
But the area suffered badly
through the foot and mouth outbreak,
and the village lost its local school and pub.
But Grosmont residents have decided to fight back,
and all the villagers - around 300 of them -
are committed to keeping the heart of this rural community beating.
Lovely, very nice.
First of all, Jules, I think we need to pop in here -
Gentle Jane's Tearoom.
I gather there's a meeting going on. I can hear some hubbub.
-What's going on here then?
-You must be Jeannette.
-I am Jeanette, yes.
I'm Mike. Hello, John.
Nice to see you guys, how are you? Very nice to meet you.
What's going on here then?
This is a meeting of what we call GADMAG,
the Grosmont and District Multi Activity Group. A bit of a mouthful!
Isn't it just!
'The group was formed when the village school
'was threatened with closure over 20 years ago.
'They've kept spirits high through some tough times since then.'
We decided to form a committee when we knew we'd lose the school,
to keep the spirit alive in the village,
and to keep events going.
-You lost that battle - the school went?
-The school went,
but the important thing was we kept the village spirit alive.
Was there a real feeling that the community here was under threat?
Very much, yes.
This is what pulled the village together.
What would have happened if you had not started the group, do you think?
I hate to think. People come to the village now and say,
"I want to move here".
They love the atmosphere.
Maybe it wouldn't be the same if we didn't have this community spirit.
Give us a sense of the range of activities that you're now getting behind.
It can start off with a children's Easter egg hunt.
We actually ran an event in the nave for the wedding this year.
We have an apple pie supper,
which we were talking about when you came in -
that's like a Harvest Festival get-together.
He loves apple pie!
Get your ticket in quickly, right?
Half of the challenge is coming up with new ideas, you know?
But the spirit in this village is fantastic.
-What about a village panto?
-Oh, do you know, that would be such fun.
We ought to do that!
-We should come back at Christmas!
-We'll have to do that.
There's certainly no shortage of enthusiasm
for village life in Grosmont, but the one thing they're lacking
is a large community space.
Like St Bartholomew's in Much Marcle,
Grosmont's church has recently undergone much needed restoration.
The Reverend Jean Prosser has spent the past five years
raising funds to refurbish the nave
into a space that the whole community can use all year round.
They found a wonderful thing when they stripped this roof.
-Roofers always sign their roofs, did you know that?
-They leave graffiti up there.
-And you found it?
What they found was people signing their name,
and "Hereford 1887".
Wow. It's extraordinary, Jean -
it's a real Mediaeval triumph, isn't it? It is just wonderful.
This is the oldest church roof in Wales.
Declared so by the Royal Commission.
We know from the tree ring dating
that these timbers were felled between 1214 and 1244.
-Just before Edward's conquest of Wales.
And there is documentary evidence as well, which backs it up.
Hubert De Burgh gave 50 oaks from the Kings Forest
for building in Grosmont in 1227.
So these are...
These spaces are so adaptable. It doesn't matter what you do in here,
you can't spoil it, at all.
And we're actually set up for a produce show on Saturday,
and we have ceilidhs, we have barbecues,
we have children's parties, wedding receptions -
all sorts go on in here.
I know there's a growing need for a viable community space in Grosmont,
it's one thing that people are all working towards. Surely this is it?
Yes, this is the largest public space for 15 miles around.
As I see it, we're passing through.
And if a building like this is going to have a real future,
then it seems to me that everyone here
needs to experience coming in here, having a good time
when they're in here, having some sense of ownership.
The DNA of the community is in these stones.
But all the people who have ever lived in Grosmont
have come here for significant occasions in their lives.
It's all consecrated,
and it's all part of the community and the church.
I don't see them as being separate.
-As it has been since 1300.
Brilliant. It's absolutely wonderful.
Well, just a mile or so from the church in the village,
is this place.
It looks like a rather large allotment.
In fact, it's a great example of the way that the community spirit
spreads out in this little corner of the world.
Alistair, can I give you a break for a moment? Good to see you.
How did this start?
It started because a group of us in the village
were looking for a way to develop a community garden,
or allotments in the village,
and the landowner here kindly offered to let us start our group here,
to start growing it.
So this is all worked by a group, is it?
It's not individual allotments?
No, it's a group of people.
We work together, we share decisions and we share the work.
Then we share out the produce that comes from it.
-It's a great view of the village, isn't it, from here?
What happens when produce is ready - do you sell it in the village?
A couple of local shops have asked us for produce when we have it spare,
-and we also give some of the spare crops out to other people.
-And why do you think a community garden like this is important?
It's important because it brings people together with a green focus,
with a food focus,
with a sustainability focus.
It just gives people an activity
which is connected to the soil and nature.
You're making me feel as though I should roll my sleeves up
and give you a bit of help.
So, what do you plan to do next today?
I've got some potatoes over there that need digging.
These potatoes, are they for you?
These will be for my tea.
Your tea, right.
There are some fine ones.
And it seems that while I've been mucking in at the community garden,
Jules has been taking things easy down at the local.
I thought I'd find you here!
John, I've got the situation completely under control.
-That's for you.
-Oh, smashing. Thirsty work you know, pulling potatoes.
I can imagine! I've just been hearing about how this pub has kept going.
You've got quite an interesting story to tell, haven't you?
Well, I moved into the village in 2002.
A few years later, three years later, the pub hit hard times.
It came up for sale and we really wanted to save it as a village pub.
So, to preserve it for the village, we bought it.
My fellow owners are all of the same mind.
They all live in the village, or very close by.
They really do not want this place to shut
and have put their hands in their pockets for it.
-Has it worked?
It's worked... We haven't made any money,
but that's not what it was about. It was about saving it.
With luck, in time,
we will actually come into profit and make something out of it.
-So, do you get free drinks?
I wish I did!
Grosmont is a village after my own heart, I think.
I really like it actually.
There's such a fantastic atmosphere, and a genuine warmth about it.
The sense of community and spirit that goes into it is palpable -
you can really taste it.
A lot of people here are really determined
that the spirit will live on here - that nothing is going to stop
a community enjoying themselves in this village.
And thank goodness they saved the pub!
We're not driving, so let's have another pint. My turn.
Go on then!
-Two more pints please, landlord.
It's been another great day on our journey
down the Welsh/English border.
I was intrigued by the efforts to save the effigy
of the sleeping beauty, Blanche Mortimer.
And for me, pig wrangling alongside a family
determined to save some of Britain's rare breeds was a treat.
Next time, we'll be meeting the fishermen
from the last lave net fishery on the Bristol Channel.
And being swept off our feet by the locals
who've been working for the past ten years
to keep their Miner's Institute.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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.