Connie Fisher's Pembrokeshire Songs of Praise


Connie Fisher's Pembrokeshire

Connie Fisher returns home to Pembrokeshire and introduces hymns and songs from John Owen-Jones at St Davids Cathedral.


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Transcript


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# We'll keep a welcome in the hillside... #

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'Singing is in the blood of the Welsh

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'and I began here at an early age, before taking to the West End stage.

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'My singing career started in church

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'in the Good News choir, in Pembrokeshire,

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'and this quaint chapel in my home village of Hayscastle

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'is one of my favourites.'

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There's something about Pembrokeshire

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that draws people back.

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Today, for Songs of Praise, I've come to revisit

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the places of my childhood and meet people who have also returned

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to the land of their fathers and resettled back in Wales.

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I meet a singing star

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who rediscovered her faith on her return to Wales,

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catch up with a man who literally has a cross to bear,

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fellow West End star John Owen Jones performs for us,

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and we have a wealth of wonderful Welsh hymns.

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'I moved to Pembrokeshire when I was four.

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'For me, growing up here,

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'the beaches, coves and fields were my playground.'

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Wales is, of course, the land of song

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so today, all our music comes from Welsh artists both old and new.

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Let's start with a Welsh classic,

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sung in Pembrokeshire's own cathedral at St David's,

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Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer.

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'Saundersfoot has been home to a Beach Mission

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'since 1956, when it was started by a local vicar,

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'Reverend Norman Ellison.

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'A young John Welsby and his future wife Cherry joined Norman

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'and took it over in 1978.'

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I think I'm going to come and see if you want some gold!

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'Now it's the turn of daughter Robyn and her generation to teach

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'holidaymakers and their children about the Bible and its message.'

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Robyn, tell me, what does a giant tarantula have to do

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with telling stories of the Bible?

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Yes, well, this is Boris the spider, and he...

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-He's not in the Bible, right?

-He's not in the Bible.

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But we do use him as part of our props for dramas

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and telling different stories and quizzes and all the fun things

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that we do on the beach with the kids and families in the summer,

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so sometimes we don't use Boris because he's a little bit scary

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for the younger ones, but we do have a lot of fun with using props.

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He's scary for me. So tell me more about the beach missions.

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How long have you been involved with the beach missions in Saundersfoot?

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Oh, well, I suppose I've grown up with it, really, so even

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when I was a baby, I was brought down to the beach

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-to see my dad doing that.

-Did you wear one of these?

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-Well, I'm sure...

-Quite fetching.

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I'm sure I was given equally embarrassing things

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to be involved with, but, no, I started being involved with them

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when I was 16, when I was old enough, so, yeah,

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it was very influential in my growing-up years

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because every summer, we would have an influx of people who'd...

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you know, whose lives had been changed by the love of God

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and who wanted to share it, so it was exciting.

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-We were in school at the same time, weren't we?

-I believe we were.

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And I remember your face from around town

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because we had a Christian bookshop in Haverfordwest,

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which I believe is still there.

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It is, yes, that was started way back with Reverend Ellison in his house

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and then it developed into a stall in the market and, from there,

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a shop in town.

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'Robyn trained to be a music teacher

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'and taught at a school in India for three years,

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'but she realised she also wanted to teach children about God.'

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The Lord opened the way for me

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to study Theology for two years in Hertfordshire

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at All Nations Christian College,

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and I'm enjoying doing two things that

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I really love - one is music teaching in your old school...

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-Oh, really?!

-Yes.

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..and the other is doing a programme called

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Bible Explorer, which is going into primary schools

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and is telling Bible stories, and it's a real privilege to do it

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because those stories have been the foundations of my life

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and it's lovely to be able to pass them on.

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# Give us, O Lord, a sight

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# Of Calvary

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# Let this land be broken

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# And set free

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# Tear open our hearts

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# As we see the cross

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# I'm glad to know

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# The heart that bled for love

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# Then sings my soul

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# Then sings my soul

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# Then sings my soul

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# Then sings my soul

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# Then sings my soul

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# O, my Saviour gone

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# To Thee

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# How great Thou art

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# How great Thou art

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# Then sings my soul

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# My Saviour God

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# To Thee

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# How great Thou art

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# How great Thou art

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# Give us, O Lord, a sight

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# Of Calvary

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# Let this land be broken

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# And set free

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# Tear open our hearts

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# As we see the cross

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# I'm glad to know

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# The heart that bled for love

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# Give us, O Lord, a sight

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# Of Calvary

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# Let this land be broken

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# And set it free

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# Tear open our hearts

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# As we see the cross

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# I'm glad to know

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# The heart that bled for us

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# How great Thou art

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# How great Thou art

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# Then sings my soul

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# My Saviour God, to Thee

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# How great Thou art

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# How great Thou art. #

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Freshwater West is used to unusual sights.

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When I was 12, I made a music video here

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as part of the Good News Choir.

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It is also a popular location for Hollywood films.

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It's been featured in Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows

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and in Robin Hood, but at Eastertime,

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it witnessed a seasonal, but strange sight.

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For the past two Easters, Andy Garratt and Jonathan Beharral

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have walked along the coastal path here,

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carrying a seven-foot cross, made out of driftwood

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collected from the beach.

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Last year, we did it as a prayer for witness to Open Doors

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and the Persecuted Church

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and this year, we did it for SASRA,

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the Soldiers' And Airmen's Scripture Reading Association, and prayerfully

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considering those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

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How long did you walk for?

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-Last year, we walked for 24 hours.

-Wow!

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And this year, thankfully, we did it a bit shorter

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at about five-and-a-half hours, six hours, about 15 miles.

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Jonathan, what was the reaction like from those that you met?

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For the majority of the time it was very positive.

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But we do remember, and the Scriptures tell us this,

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that the cross is a stumbling block for those who struggle to believe.

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And although we do not set out to provoke a reaction,

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we are aware that the cross will provoke a reaction.

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-Are you encouraging others to walk with you?

-We are indeed.

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And others who've joined us for a short time

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consent to know what it is all about.

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-Not 24 hours, though, right?

-That's yet to happen.

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Andy, you weren't always in Pembrokeshire, were you?

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No, I was brought up in Pembrokeshire and I went away

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when I was younger and joined the military

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and served in the armed forces for a number of years

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and then joined the police service.

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And 12 years ago, came back home to Powys Police

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and I have been living here ever since. So it is great to be back.

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-It is lovely.

-Andy, it looks like it might be getting heavy now.

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-Could I maybe have a go?

-Yes, sure.

-I'll bear the load.

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It's heavier than I thought. And you carried this for how long, you say?

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We did 24 hours and then five hours.

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But we were changing who was carrying it regularly as a team.

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I would be changing very regularly. This is quite heavy.

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-Well, you are part of the team.

-I am now.

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Maureen Guy and myself have a lot in common.

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The mezzo soprano also grew up in Wales, she sang at the Eisteddfod

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and we both left as teenagers

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to pursue our singing careers in London.

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-How old were you when you left Wales?

-I was just 18.

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How did that feel, leaving your homeland?

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I was burning with ambition.

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Sounds like me.

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And I felt I wanted to go places, I wanted to meet people.

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I felt it was a phase of life I wanted to go for.

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I can see from the photos you have got here,

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your career took you all over the world.

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What would you say your highlights have been?

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Working with some very, very fine conductors.

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I did the concert that was given for Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space.

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This has to be a highlight surely,

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the Investiture Of The Prince Of Wales.

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Oh, yes.

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Yes, I enjoyed that.

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It was wonderful being chosen as one of the Welsh soloists

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to sing at the investiture.

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Somewhere along the way, you met your husband, John.

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Well, I met John, you know,

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when I was in the early days of Sadler's Wells.

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Was it love at first note?

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No, I just admired him as an artist.

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-And we worked up from there.

-He followed you back to Wales.

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And he followed me back to Wales, yes.

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'John was also an internationally-renowned singer

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'who was born in the Lancashire village of Blackrod.

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'But when it became time to retire 13 years ago,

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'they both agreed Pembrokeshire was the place.

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'Since being here,

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'they've rediscovered their all-important faith.'

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When you were growing up, were you always chapel-goers?

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Yes, yes, I was brought up in the chapel, christened there

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and made a member of Bethel chapel.

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-And we got married there.

-Yes.

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Has moving back to Wales helped your faith?

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I feel I belong here. I'm Welsh. When we moved here, we bought a house.

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And we met a gentleman taking a walk

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and we started talking about chapels

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and how we would like to settle down here and so forth and he said,

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"Why don't you come and see Carew?" So we did.

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We loved the people and they have been...

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It is an extension of the family.

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-And we have been happy here ever since, haven't we?

-Yes.

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Although Blackrod is still in me,

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it is not as much now as it was ever before.

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I feel far more Welsh than Blackrodian.

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-Maybe that's because the Welsh are better singers.

-I don't know.

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I don't know. They're not bad in Blackrod.

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# Every morning when I wake

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# Dear Lord, a little prayer I make

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# O please to keep thy loving eye

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# On all poor creatures born to die

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# And every evening at sun-down

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# I ask a blessing on the town

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# For whether we last the night or no

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# I'm sure is always touch-and-go

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# We are not wholly bad or good

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# Who live our lives under Milk Wood

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# And thou, I know, wilt be the first

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# To see our best side, not our worst

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# O let us see another day

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# Bless us all this night, I pray

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# And to the sun we all will bow

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# And say goodbye

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# But just for now. #

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Pembrokeshire National Park stretches for 260 miles along

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the Welsh coast and receives over four million visitors every year.

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One of the best ways to see the coast is from the water,

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so today I'm off with three generations of the same family

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to explore the coastline by kayak.

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George Middleton, his daughter-in-law Sarah,

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and granddaughter Alice regularly take to the sea around St David's

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but they aren't just out for a day trip.

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They are water-bound Wombles, clearing the coastline

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and beaches of rubbish.

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Alice, when you are kayaking you don't see the rubbish

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but it totally washes up.

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Yes, not only does it look ugly on this beautiful beach

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but it is also causing huge amount of damage to the wildlife.

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Every year, 100,000 mammals and one million sea birds die from ingestion

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of plastic and also entanglement in things like these fishing lines.

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How often do you come out?

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Well, I live just a mile from here so I'm constantly on the beaches

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and I'll do a beach clean every day if I'm on the beach.

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Alice was married in nearby St David's like her mother before her.

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Mum Sarah and her father-in-law George are regulars

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at the cathedral but find the outdoors equally as spiritual.

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I have a passion for where I live and whether it is on the water

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or inland up on the hills, it is part of my soul, part of my lifeline.

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You've not always been based here, though.

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In my young twenties, I lived in London and worked as a nanny.

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-CONNIE LAUGHS

-Me too!

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-We have something in common.

-Yes!

-Did you wear a habit?

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Yes, I just couldn't quite resist that Christian look, so...

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-Couldn't kick the habit!

-Yes!

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So what brought you back?

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Was it the countryside, was it that you feel...?

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There was always a calling for this area.

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I used to find driving away from Pembrokeshire, going back -

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whether it was to school or to work in London - I'd have tears

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rolling down my face just thinking, "Why am I leaving this area?!"

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And other times, coming back, as you come over a brow of a hill,

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you just have this span of St Brides Bay opening up before you

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and it just opens your whole being. And again, just crying because of

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that sense of coming home to where I'm meant to be.

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Heavenly Father, we thank you for your creation.

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We see you in the beauty that lies all around us.

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We thank you that we can

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take your love with us

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wherever in the world we find ourselves.

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And we thank you that we can teach others about you through play,

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prayer and preaching.

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Amen.

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Coming back to the place you grew up is full of potential pitfalls.

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Will it have changed, will it be the same,

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will my memories be ruined?

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Well, from what I've experienced from those I've met,

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sometimes there's no place like home.

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Our final piece of music today is a classic hymn of thanksgiving.

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Sung at eventides at churches all over the world, The Day Thou Gavest.

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Next week, to celebrate Pentecost Sunday,

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David visits Brighton and looks at the alfresco art

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with a spiritual message,

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meets a prayerful community,

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chats with worship leader Stuart Townend,

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and Lou Fellingham and Phatfish lead hymns

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and songs to lift your spirits.

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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

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The Sound of Music star returns home to Pembrokeshire where she grew up, goes kayaking in secret coves, meets the seaside missionaries and introduces rousing hymns and songs from John Owen-Jones and St Davids Cathedral.


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