Calderdale Songs of Praise


Calderdale

Surprises in store for Aled Jones on a mystery tour in West Yorkshire involving people who are passionate about Calder Valley. Plus hymn singing from Halifax Minster.


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Transcript


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Well, I've come to Halifax in West Yorkshire,

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and I have to admit, I haven't got a clue where I'm going next.

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I was told to prepare for an unusual journey

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and to come here and await further instructions.

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All very mysterious.

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Oh, thanks.

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"Welcome, Mr Jones, to a marvellous mystery trail.

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"You must follow the clues and be sure not to fail.

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"Prepare for a journey uphill and through vale

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"as you explore the place called Calderdale."

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At least it rhymes. Better get going, I suppose.

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So, join me as I set off into the unknown

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on a tour of this beautiful part of Yorkshire.

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I'll be meeting some fascinating people along the way

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and there'll be some wonderful hymns.

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Well, it wouldn't be Songs Of Praise without them.

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The River Calder has flowed through the rugged landscape of West Yorkshire

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for thousands of years, winding its way down from the glorious South Pennine moorland

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into the Calder Valley, which is part of wider Calderdale.

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Lining the Dale are textile towns and villages that flourished during the Industrial Revolution

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and still remain close communities today.

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Halifax, Calderdale's largest town,

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has its own proud industrial heritage

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and a rich musical tradition.

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This building, blackened by centuries of industry, has been at its heart for 900 years.

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MUSIC: "Jerusalem" by Sir Hubert Parry

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Once Halifax's parish church, it was recently given the title Halifax Minster,

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and it's where congregations and choirs from all over the area have gathered

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to sing our hymns this week. The first one is Immortal Invisible.

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Back on my quest, I reckoned what I needed was another clue,

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and, sure enough, I found it, a few miles from Halifax,

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in the town of Hebden Bridge.

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"Be sure to pack a raincoat to keep the weather at bay,

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"as many modes of transport will take you on your way.

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"On foot, on wheels, on water onward like an arrow,

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"but first go to the boat that is so long and narrow."

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I think I'm in the right place!

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DUCKS QUACK

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This is the way to travel, is it?

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It really is, isn't it? It's a wonderful, unique place, Aled.

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I'm delighted you've come to see it because this is where I live

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and I've lived for 40 years. I absolutely love it.

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When you move into this valley, it's a whole different culture.

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And it always has been.

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If you were here 1,400 years ago,

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this was the ancient Celtic kingdom of Elmet

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and when you pass over here, you'd have to speak Welsh.

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-You'd know all about that.

-That's why I'm feeling at home, obviously!

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So, Calderdale, where does it start and where does it end?

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If you go to the other side of Todmorden, we all call it Tod here.

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So it starts there and ends...?

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Starts there and if you go the other way,

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you go to the other side of Brighouse and the canal goes right through.

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Some of the place names, even for a Welshman, they're pretty bizarre.

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Oh, yes! I was talking to evacuees who came here from Brighton during the war

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and he said he'd never been able to say Mytholmroyd properly!

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THEY BOTH LAUGH

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What's so special about Calderdale?

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Well, it's an area that's changed immensely

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because if you came here, say, 50, 60 years ago even,

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there'd be mills as far as the eye could see.

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This was the cradle of the Industrial Revolution here

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and they were handloom-weaving in the villages up there.

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And when you go wandering now through those little valleys that come down into the Calder Valley,

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you can still see the old ruins of the mills and that.

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It's a wonderful place to go walking.

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There are things that still exist here, there are practices,

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there are traditions, that have died out elsewhere.

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There's a lot of eccentric people, a lot of very arty people, actually. That's probably why I'm here!

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These clues are getting more and more mysterious.

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And more and more off the beaten track.

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I've now come up into the hills where I'm supposed to find a rather different mode of transport.

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And before I knew it,

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round the corner cycled mountain bike instructor Stephen Hall.

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Going back a long, long time, a guy lent me a mountain bike for a day.

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He says, "Have a go at this, it's going to be the next big thing."

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I had a go and I thought, "That's fantastic."

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And then I met Ruth, who's now my wife.

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She was a local Mytholmroyd lass, so just down the road from here.

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And she took me out on these trails and I've stayed...

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LAUGHS ..and just ridden here ever since.

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What do you get out of it, would you say?

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Partly it's a really good workout.

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It's in a relatively safe environment in that it's away from cars.

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You get to see this fantastic scenery in complete peace and quiet.

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You're away from the crowds,

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you've just got the sound of the wind, the curlews,

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the grouse across the moorlands.

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And it's just a complete escape.

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It's funny. My wife, when she was at church on Sunday,

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one of the chaps asked her, "Where does your husband worship?"

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And she says, "In the great outdoors.

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"There's no roof on his church."

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You look at this scenery and you think,

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well, as an ex-geography teacher, I can explain it

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by river processes and climatic change and all things like that,

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but really, just looking at it, the whole is far greater than the sum of the parts.

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And as a local man, Ted Hughes, the ex-poet laureate,

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he had a poem called Moors, and the opening line was,

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"Moors are a stage for the performance of heaven."

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And, you know, when you see the light shafting down through the clouds,

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it really is quite an experience

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and it's far more than just being out on a bike.

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-So what's the best thing about being a mountain-biker here?

-The hills.

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-Really?

-The hills.

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You get fit going up them and you have an absolutely fantastic time going down them again.

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Here's the plan. I'll do the downhill bits and you can do the uphill bits. How's that?

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-Have a look at some of the downhill bits and see if you really want to have a go.

-Really?

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'One of the reasons that it's so good here is as we're not a National Park,

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'we don't get hundreds of thousands of people piling in

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'like places like the Lake District and the Peak District at weekends.'

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It's one of those places that you could ride forever

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and still be exploring and finding new places.

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It's a relatively small area

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but it's absolutely riddled with bridleways

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and it means that whatever your ability,

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you can find something that's really good to ride.

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And I think part of the motivation is getting people to realise

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that themselves and the bike are a team.

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You can be going at speeds up to 30, 40 miles an hour in quite rough terrain,

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and if you do come off, it can be quite painful, to say the least.

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You find that...

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you more tend to lose yourself

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just in the environment and in the sounds.

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You become far more acutely aware of everything that's around,

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whether it's the birdsong or just tiny bits of the landscape,

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and, yeah, it is quite a spiritual experience going out and riding

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in those sorts of conditions.

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"Another clue, another rhyme

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"For now, you must step back in time

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"Discover the truth of an ancient tale

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"of a man whose name is a brand-new ale."

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Any idea?

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Sounds good, though, doesn't it? Come on.

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Inside the pub, I found that the local ale is named after the Archbishop of York.

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Not the current one, but an early Christian missionary, Paulinus.

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Three years ago, we were researching into early Christianity,

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and Paulinus was part of the Augustine mission to Britain - 627 -

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and we discovered, to our amazement,

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that he spent most of his time in northern Britain.

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And the more we explored, we felt, "Well, how has this man been so forgotten?"

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He converted thousands and thousands and thousands of people.

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And we thought, "Well, how had this man spread all of the word?"

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And it was literally by walking mile after mile,

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connecting one place to another.

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He, basically, was definitely known to be in Dewsbury,

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and definitely known to be in Burnley and Whalley on the other side.

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And so, thinking, "How did he get across?"

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Obviously it was through Todmorden Gap,

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across the old Neolithic ways, and we found a Paulinus-style cross,

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to our amazement, up on the moors above Todmorden.

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We hoped that we could open a new pilgrim way.

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And we looked through the old maps and the old routes

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and we found that we could find a walkway in most of the area,

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from Todmorden to York, so we set about organising a festival

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and goodness knows what with all the people of Todmorden behind us.

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We then had all the community getting involved. It sort of grew.

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And we had the Lord Bishop of Wakefield coming along,

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wanting to be involved, and supporting us from the beginning.

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We had the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu,

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who was also supportive and wanted to meet us in York when we arrived there.

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And we even had someone creating a special footprint,

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so that pilgrims setting off on their first journey

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can place their foot in the footprint as they set off.

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So what have you two taken from it?

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I think one of the things for me is, when you are researching

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someone like this, to actually walk in that person's footsteps,

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actually makes you realise for the first time how important

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these northern saints were, and the impact that they had on people, and people's lives.

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And, actually, the impact they're still having on us now.

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I feel that, after being on the pilgrimage,

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it has given me a little closer connection to God.

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And it has really made me, sort of, feel quite humble, actually,

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to realise what these people actually achieved.

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And just to walk for a little time in their footsteps

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has been quite magical, and quite an amazing experience.

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The village of Heptonstall provides a welcome rest stop

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on the Paulinus Way.

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But if the pilgrims choose to stop for longer,

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then there's plenty to be discovered in this historic little community,

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including Heptonstall Methodist Chapel.

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John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, preached here frequently,

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and he personally oversaw the unusual octagonal design.

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Completed back in 1764, it's the oldest Methodist chapel in the world

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that has been in continuous use,

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and will soon celebrate 250 years of prayer and praise.

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I'm now in Todmorden, the westernmost town of Calderdale

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and the point at which Yorkshire meets Lancashire,

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and there's definitely something strange going on.

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All over the town, fruit and veg are growing in the most unusual places.

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I discovered it was all part of a remarkable project that's the brainchild of Pam Warhurst.

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We've got vegetables growing in very public places.

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We've got them in not-so-public places.

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We've got them in police stations, health centres. We've got them at the railway station, the bus station.

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So, suddenly, people who only see things wrapped in cellophane in a supermarket

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start to see where it grows in its natural state.

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We're working with all the schools.

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We've got children now doing qualifications in agriculture.

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This is a town that isn't naturally, you know, a farming community.

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Uh-huh.

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So, suddenly, there are job opportunities around local food.

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You've got people thinking about it, people growing it, kids learning about it.

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That means that they start to think about how they spend their money.

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So that means they start to support the local market.

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That means they start to support local farmers. And suddenly, the town starts to work again as a community,

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as market towns always used to be.

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You know, every year we have a harvest festival,

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and it's where we bring all the produce from the town and cook it up.

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And we have a really fantastic time. It doesn't cost anybody anything.

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So if I'm walking past one of these spaces

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and I see a cabbage growing, I just help myself?

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You help yourself. You absolutely help yourself.

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We're trying to spread kindness, we're trying to reconnect people,

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and when people are reconnected - particularly in hard times -

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fabulous and magical things happen.

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The story that I tell, which, to me, really touches my heart -

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my friend, Mary, turned her front garden, which was a rose garden,

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into a veg patch with a great big "please help yourself" sign on it.

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So we found local families going past and picking with the kids.

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And one particular local family did that, and the next day,

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they left the soup they'd made from the veg on Mary's doorstep.

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Now, these people - never spoken to Mary before in their entire life.

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That, for me, is what communities are all about,

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and we're starting to see that all over the place.

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The churches in Todmorden have also embraced the spirit of Incredible Edible.

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I met with a vicar who's helped open up one local graveyard to gardening.

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I suppose, if we put a positive spin on it, the rain is good for the vegetables.

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Very good for the vegetables. They're doing remarkably well.

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-I have to say, it's a normal day for Todmorden, really.

-Right.

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It's not often you see vegetables growing in a graveyard.

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It's not. It's been four years now, and the community have accepted it.

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Originally, I think people thought, "That's a bit strange. People won't like it."

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But Incredible got in touch with us and said, "How about putting some vegetable beds in here?"

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We thought about it, went through the channels and said, "We'd welcome it."

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It's been a really good opportunity for the community.

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So who comes up here?

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A lot of the time, you'll see the children from the school through the back there.

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The children will come and tend the vegetables,

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but any vegetables are there to be taken by the community.

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So people who visit family graves come, people who just come

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and walk their dog through the woods and churchyard will come.

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-Everybody in the community comes and takes a look and enjoys.

-It's a great idea.

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Absolutely fabulous. It's quite anarchical,

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I think, to have a churchyard that is a sacred space,

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but actually to give it over to God's creation

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in a lateral-thinking sense, really.

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This sounds absolutely perfect, so why isn't it happening in every community around the world?

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It's starting to happen. We have 20 communities and we've got people working in Africa

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and in Spain and in Northern Ireland and in Holland, so it's starting to happen.

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We do have some wonderful leaders.

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We do have churches that have put fruit trees and bushes,

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and we are working in the local church

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to put a nut orchard at the back.

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But if we could actually have that push - that drive -

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by the churches in every single town, to say,

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"We are the heart of the town,

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"and edible churches is the way forward, so let's bring our community together and grow collectively."

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You've obviously got a massive passion for it - do you feel this is, er, a calling for you, in a way?

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I've done lots in my life, in the private and public sector.

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I've never done anything more important than this, ever,

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because this is about trying to change the world around us for our children.

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Instead of being victims, it says,

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"If we're positive about it, we can make a heck of a difference and pass on a better world."

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So there... There is nothing more important to do than this.

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Well, having reached the end of Calderdale in one direction,

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I guessed it was time for me to head back.

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But if I was hoping for an easy ride, I was in for a shock.

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Heavenly Father, as we look at the world around us,

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open our eyes to see you.

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Help us to see your hand in the beauty of creation.

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To see your heart in our communities.

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To see your footsteps in those that have gone before us,

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and to see your face in everyone that we meet.

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Amen.

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"The final rhyme, the final clue

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"There's nothing more for you to do

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"Congratulations - you've passed the test

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"We hope you enjoyed your Calderdale quest."

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Well, it's not been the most straightforward way

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of exploring an area, but I've thoroughly enjoyed my mystery tour of Calderdale.

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But if you don't mind, I think I'll go home using a more conventional mode of transport.

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Until next time, goodbye.

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Have you ever heard of a town in Essex called Camulodunum?

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Well, Pam will be there next week to discover how Ancient Rome

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meets the hi-tech future.

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And as well as great hymns - ancient and modern -

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there's some wonderful music from new opera star Noah Stewart.

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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

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E-mail [email protected]

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There are surprises in store for Aled Jones on a mystery tour in West Yorkshire, involving all kinds of transport and people who are passionate about the beautiful Calder Valley. Plus glorious hymn singing from Halifax Minster.


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