Harvest of Land and Sea Songs of Praise


Harvest of Land and Sea

Aled Jones visits Whitby and the North York Moors in search of unusual harvests, and introduces hymns from farming and port communities all over the country.


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Harvest isn't just about ploughing the fields and scattering,

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and gathering in the golden sheaves.

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Some parts of the country, like Whitby on the edge of the beautiful

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but bleak North Yorkshire Moors, have for centuries

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eked out a harsh living from both the land and the sea.

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It was a lifestyle immortalised

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by the photographer Frank Meadow Sutcliffe,

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who documented the development of fishing and farming

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into a new harvest of holidays and tourism.

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Congregations from farming and fishing communities across the land

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sing their songs of praise and thanks for all God's gifts around us.

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Land, sea, history and character.

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Whitby has more than its share of the glories of creation,

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but at this time of year Christians are united in celebrating

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the sheer variety of our British landscape and people

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and the different types of harvest they produce.

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Our first hymn comes from Evesham in Worcestershire

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and describes the cycle of the Christian life

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as a sort of human harvest of souls.

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Whitby in times past is defined by

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the photographs of Frank Meadow Sutcliffe.

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Many of them depict scenes full of Christian imagery

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like loaves and fishes and the Good Shepherd

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but all of them celebrate the local people

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who brought home the harvests of land and sea.

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Photographer Michael Shaw literally inherited this legacy

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when his father bought Sutcliffe's entire collection

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of 1,500 glass plate negatives.

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I think Whitby has physically remained quite similar

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to how it was in Sutcliffe's day in a lot of respects,

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which is why people love coming to Whitby,

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because it has maintained its character.

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I was brought up here, as my father was,

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and my great-grandfather is in one of the Sutcliffe photographs actually.

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One of the fishermen.

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I think to actually be brought up here

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and to appreciate the beautiful scenery, the skies,

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the magical light that this area possesses,

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it really feeds the soul, it really does.

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One of the things that motivated Frank Sutcliffe

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was his love of nature.

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He wanted to capture a world that he saw quickly disappearing

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with the onset of industrialisation and mechanisation.

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In the Victorian period,

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the majority of photographers were portrait photographers

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and Sutcliffe himself was a very successful portrait photographer.

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But what he really wanted to do was capture the everyday working people

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and also inject some artistry into his work.

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He found more beauty in the working people of Whitby

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than maybe some of his portraits that he took.

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The real world he wanted to capture.

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Sutcliffe's photographs depict many forms of harvest, really.

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The bountiful fish that was available in those days

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and the harvest that was found obviously in the countryside.

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and the harvest that was found obviously in the countryside.

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The wheat and barley and everything like that.

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The community itself is in itself a harvest that he saw disappearing,

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the close-knit community that he felt was so important, so special.

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Sutcliffe's images of St Mary's Parish Church

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give a real sense of how unchanging its care for the community has been

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throughout the ages and seasons.

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There's something very special about light,

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lives and landscape shaped by proximity to the sea,

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so let's join with another port community and the church of another St Mary's in Portsea.

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Just a few miles inland from Whitby, Egton Bridge Old Gooseberry Society

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hold the country's oldest gooseberry show every summer

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in the school, which used to be the Catholic Church

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before the community built a bigger one next door.

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This horticultural harvest may seem polite and gentlemanly

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but don't be fooled into believing it's not competitive.

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The show's history dates back more than 200 years,

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its secrets of growing the biggest and heaviest gooseberries

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being handed down the generations.

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And increasingly, there are international reputations

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and even world records hanging on each year's crop.

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These are good!

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The gooseberries are not the only fruit of creation.

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At the foot of the North Yorkshire Moors, a hard livelihood is earned from mixed farming.

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Farming is in the blood.

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I've been involved in it ever since I was knee-high to a grasshopper.

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We're a mixed farm.

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We love animals and we spend a lot of time with animals

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but our land is very variable, from clay to sand,

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and so we've got to accommodate, with crops and animals, the type of soil that we have.

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Harvest time, to me, is a very exciting time.

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I've had a faith in God, in Jesus Christ, for many, many years.

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Over those years, we have seen His goodness, His provision, His care,

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His love expressed, particularly through the harvest that we get.

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Last year, the soil suffered tremendously from the excess water

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that fell from the heavens above.

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An amazing thing has happened this year, though.

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The amazing thing is that God knows how to put the balance right

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and He's brought the sunshine

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and that in its turn has opened up the soil again

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to such an extent that I can almost put my hand down

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and let life begin within the soil again.

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one way or another, but I believe He always has us in his heart.

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For our next hymn, we join the congregation of Pershore Abbey,

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singing a hymn tune written by Francis Jackson,

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named after his North Yorkshire home village of East Acklam.

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Whitby has no shortage of fish and chip shops

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but that's only one type of harvest from the sea.

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In the shadow of St Mary's Church, the famous Whitby kippers

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are still smoked and sold

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by brothers Derek and Barry Brown in a business

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set up by their great, great grandfather in 1872.

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It's been part of our lives since we were children.

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You know, we were brought up, our grandparents and uncle,

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and we were all encouraged to help when we were kids.

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I think we can access the fish a lot easier than my granddad.

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In them days, they would have to wait for maybe bad weather,

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if boats couldn't get to sea, whereas now,

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with the fish being caught at sea, Norwegian, Icelandic supplied,

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and frozen at sea, we can order fish today

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and have it delivered tomorrow to defrost ready for producing kippers.

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This shop hasn't changed since we really opened for business.

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The exterior's the same, the interior's about the same.

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Following on from the shop is a smokehouse,

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where we the smoke the fish, and after that is a prep area,

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where we gut the fish and brine the fish pre-smoking.

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And how important would you say that the harvest of the sea has been

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to Whitby over the years?

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Massively important.

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Years ago, it was very important to the community

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because there were a lot more people involved in the fishing industry,

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going back to before TVs and radio and stuff like that,

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so there was things to talk about such as work, fishing,

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and some of the places would probably be round the church,

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where they might meet Sundays.

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Or the chapels, they used to talk about this sort of thing.

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But certainly bring the quayside, the harbour-side,

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and especially if someone was lost at sea,

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then the community came right together - everyone would pull together for that particular reason,

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because the families were all probably big families in them days

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and if they lost the breadwinner,

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they would need help from the families around,

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and that always works, you know.

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My granddad and my mother told us that sort of thing.

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Can I have a pair of kippers and a pack of bacon twice, please.

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'And would you say the sea is still important to the people of Whitby?

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'Yes, and visitors alike. You know, people on yachts, on the marina.

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'We have the two rowing clubs

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'which are very active during the summer months.'

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So, yeah, it is very important to people still, yeah.

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People still take their living from it as well.

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Salford is not a fishing port, of course,

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but it's a former port nonetheless

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which handled the harvests of the world.

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It's where our congregation are gathered in a church

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dedicated to one of the patron saints of fishermen, St Peter.

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Dominating the windswept headland above the old town

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are the ruins of Whitby Abbey.

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Founded in the seventh century, the original abbey was led by St Hilda.

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One of her many wise decisions was discovering Caedmon,

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the first named poet in the English language.

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It's like a story from a modern-day talent show.

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Caedmon was a simple cowherd

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who had no confidence and believed himself to be tone deaf.

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One night, he had a vision telling him to sing of God's creation

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and the results were so beautiful

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that he's now known as the father of English sacred song.

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Just as creation inspired the psalmists and Caedmon,

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its wonders have moved hymn writers throughout the ages

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to create their very own songs of praise,

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some for us now by a congregation at Exeter Cathedral.

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This is a very special locomotive

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named in memory of the renowned railway photographer,

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the late Eric Treacy, who was Bishop of Wakefield.

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It is one of many engines owned by the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

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Now celebrating 40 years as a heritage railway,

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the line was first built to transport

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the harvests of land and sea, as well as early tourists,

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and it still attracts thousands of

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families, photographers and railway enthusiasts

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like volunteer signalman Adrian Gatrill.

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We're being hauled by Sir Nigel Gresley,

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one of the famous A4 locomotives of the North Eastern Railway.

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People come literally for miles around

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to ride on the train,

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take lots of photographs in this beautiful scenery

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that we're privileged to be in.

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So, what, no harvest link any more, would you say?

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I don't know, maybe tourism's a bit of a harvest, I think perhaps -

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coming to enjoy the scenery and enjoy the creation,

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as we can see out the window, and enjoying the creativity of man.

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I mean, these beautiful old carriages and the steam locomotives,

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that's what people really want to come and enjoy, I think.

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TRAIN WHISTLE SOUNDS

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I mean, I've been interested in trains for a long time,

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since I was a little lad,

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and then coming to live in this part of the country

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and enjoying steam trains and heritage railways,

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what better to combine a hobby and an interest

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with doing something worthwhile

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and volunteering and helping the railway

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to provide its service for the holiday-makers.

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I think it's good to meet other people,

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just to be involved with people in a different walk of life.

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Quite a few people who work on the railway know my occupation,

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and it gives them a chance, if they wanted to,

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to chat about stuff that they might be thinking about.

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I think it's fascinating, because you just think of the skill

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and the expertise and the foresight, really, of building the railway -

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it's got some serious engineering feats on it.

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The trains, the locomotives, the carriages -

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I think it speaks something to me about, you know,

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the skills that we have

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and the gifts that we've been given by God, I believe.

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If we're the pinnacle of God's creation,

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then surely one of the highlights of man's God-given creativity are his inventions

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and, as the congregation of Hexham Abbey reminds us,

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all things should give thanks to God.

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God of the harvest,

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bless us all with your gifts from land and sea

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and give us thankful hearts for the creativity of mankind.

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Fill us with the fruits of your spirit

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and let all creation sing your praises.

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We ask this in the name of the Father and of the Son

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and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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And for this programme,

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we've harvested some of the best in North Yorkshire community talent

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as we've specially commissioned an arrangement

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of local monk Caedmon's hymn

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from distinguished composer Richard Shepherd.

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The modern English version is by Mary Holtby

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and it's performed by James Bywater and Jessica Wright.

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# Let us praise the creator of heaven and earth

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# From the darkness of chaos

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# New light he plucked forth

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# Let us praise him for his purpose

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# His power let us live

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# Our father of glory

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# Our lord and our king

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# With the marvel of the heavens

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# No mortal may span

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# But he made it for a roof

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# And a covering for man

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# There was earth for our dwelling

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# There was sun for our light

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# And he scattered the stars on the ceiling of night

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# Let us praise him

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# The creator of ages and men

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# Of the tree in the forest

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# The beast in his den

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# Of the great and the lowly

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# The Earth and the skies

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# With strength to the simple

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# And wit to the wise. #

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Just as Caedmon heralded the dawn of English sacred music

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here on Yorkshire's East Coast,

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so it's equally fitting that for our final hymn

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we follow the setting sun to the very west of my native Wales

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to a community united by fishing, farming and faith

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in the tiny cathedral city of St David's.

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Next week, I chat with singer Tony Christie about his faith

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and a long career that's impressed some famous faces.

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Tony has a timeless voice.

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If he has a song that tells a story, there's no-one better, really.

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And he leads friends and fans in some favourite hymns and songs.

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