St David's Songs of Praise


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St David's

Josie d'Arby and Claire McCollum are in St David's in Pembrokeshire to explore the city's saintly connections and there's a special performance from Katherine Jenkins.


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This week, I'm in the UK's smallest city, St Davids

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in Pembrokeshire,

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to explore this beautiful part of South Wales

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and to find out more about its saintly connections.

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Welcome to Songs of Praise.

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In today's programme, I meet the new Bishop of St Davids,

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the first female bishop in Wales,

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to find out all about her city's famous saint

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and the special well that sprang up the night he was born.

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It was a healing well throughout the early centuries and the Middle Ages,

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and I think people still come to it on pilgrimage and for prayer.

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Claire McCollum meets a group of city-based children

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making a pilgrimage to the cathedral.

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St David was a man who was spreading the word of Jesus around in Wales.

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And to celebrate this glorious coastline,

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we've a special performance of one of the UK's favourite hymns

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from our very own Katherine Jenkins.

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With a population of just over 1,000,

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St Davids is surrounded by the stunning Pembrokeshire coastline,

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and right at its heart is its majestic cathedral.

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Our first hymn pays tribute to not just St David

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but to all this nation's saints.

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APPLAUSE

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Last year, the 129th Bishop of St Davids was installed,

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and Joanna Penberthy made history by becoming the first female bishop in Wales.

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With St David's Day earlier this week,

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I met Bishop Joanna on the coastal path just outside the city.

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Bishop Joanna, the place where we're stood now,

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what's the significance of this site?

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Well, this is really special because this chapel,

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ruined now, but was built on the site that's reputed to be

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the birthplace of St David, where St Non gave birth to St David.

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Non, like her son David, also became a saint,

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and a legend from her time involves this nearby well.

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St Non was giving birth, she needed water and the Lord opened the ground

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and the spring sprung.

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It was a healing well throughout the early centuries and the Middle Ages,

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and I think people still come to it on pilgrimage and for prayer.

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Our St David's Day celebrations begin at the well,

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where I bless people with the water from the well.

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Why do we celebrate St David's Day, what were his achievements?

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He was an amazing man.

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He lived a religious life but he wasn't just stuck in his community,

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he took the Gospel out across Britain.

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And there are many, many places

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where churches are still dedicated to him.

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As a Welsh Christian, is St David's story something that inspires you?

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Yes, very much, and not because he was a holy person a long time ago,

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but because especially in the festival at St David's Day

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when his bones in their casket are there in the cathedral

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for people to pray in front of, it reminds me he was a human being.

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He's not just this plaster saint from a long time ago,

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he was a real human being that made a difference in other people's lives in his day,

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and that makes me think that we too,

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although perhaps we won't be St David, but nevertheless we too

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open ourselves to the love of God,

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can be transforming in our own communities.

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Is that something you hope to do, in terms of changing people's

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life for the better, in your role as the first female bishop in Wales?

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Yes, yes.

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I would hope that part of my episcopacy would be encouraging

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every person to know their own uniqueness and to know that

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they themselves have something that can be offered to their communities, their families,

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and be channels for the transforming love of God, yes.

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So, on a day like today, what for you would be the perfect hymn to sing next?

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Well, when I first started taking my faith seriously,

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I came across Psalm 139, and where that amazing thing -

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God knows us intimately. "God, you have searched me, and you know me."

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I think that just sums up what it is to be a Christian.

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You don't have to impress God, God knows you from the top to the bottom

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in your innermost hearts and loves you for who you are.

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Bordered on three sides by the sea,

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Pembrokeshire benefits from the Gulf Stream which creates a milder

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climate for farming and a longer growing season.

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Claire McCollum's been to a farm near St Davids

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that's cultivating faith as much as food.

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There are many farms around St Davids, including this one,

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Treginnis Farm.

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But the workers here are a little bit younger than usual.

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It's a residential centre run by Farms For City Children -

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schoolchildren from across the UK visit,

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and those staying this week are from London.

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The charity was started in the 1970s by children's author

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Michael Morpurgo and his wife Clare.

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They were primary school teachers at the time and discovered a real

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sense of need for children to connect with the countryside

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and find out where their food really came from, and they were desperate

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to see those children come out of the city and experience all the countryside had to offer.

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In the seven days that they're here,

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they are immersed in all the muck and the magic of farming life.

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And then enjoying the fruits of their labour,

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so very often what they will eat in the evening is what they've

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been planting or growing or looking after during the week.

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One day of the children's stay on the farm is taken up

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by a special pilgrimage to St Davids Cathedral.

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For some of them, it's their first introduction to Christianity.

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Personally for me, that visit is really important

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because it's a wonderful opportunity for the children

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to go on a journey of discovery, to explore, to question,

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and to discover that perhaps there is more to life.

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Well, when I first saw the cathedral,

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it was actually really big and when you go inside, it's actually bigger.

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It seems bigger than the outside.

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Cathedrals particularly have this wonderful, grand story to tell

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and when you look around a building full of those stories,

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you can't help but be inspired.

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I wonder if you can work out which one is St David.

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There are some clues.

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St David was a man who was spreading the word of Jesus around in Wales.

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And he was also friends with St Patrick who travelled to Ireland

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to tell people about Jesus, too.

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So this is where the priests tell the story

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and say the words of Jesus.

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So, I wonder if one of you might dress up as the priest.

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For some children, that moment, that experience,

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or those collection of experiences over the seven days

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really has changed the course of their life for the better.

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We did the carol singing, with the guys,

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and they did really good, I liked when they sang it, the song.

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# Thou little tiny child

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# By, by, lully, lullay. #

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I really like being here, because we get to explore

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and see how different it looks like to London.

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The cloth onto the table...

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How valuable would you say this whole experience is for a child

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going forward in life?

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For these children, they discover that what they do actually matters in life.

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The responsibility that they have, maybe for the first time ever,

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is something that's really special,

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and goes with them when they go home -

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that the decisions they make, the actions they take really matter.

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St Davids not only has the title, "smallest city in the UK",

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it is also hoping to become a dementia-friendly city.

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Gill and Andrew Lease are two local residents working towards

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this goal, and have very personal reasons for getting involved.

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A few years ago, Andrew was a very healthy 57-year-old

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playing cricket every weekend,

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working probably an 80-hour week, which was too much really.

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But coping with it and loving it.

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And then we started to notice that things were going wrong,

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things were going missing.

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You started to get dip in mood, didn't you, and things like that?

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We went through all the testing then

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and it turned out to be Alzheimer's then,

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what they call young-onset dementia.

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Did you know much about Alzheimer's up until that point?

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No...

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Well, a little, yes.

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A little bit more, and...

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But not a lot.

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And, Andrew, how do you feel?

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I'm OK!

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He's OK. He's got a very good sense of humour.

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I can see that.

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He's been dancing around before we started filming.

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And that has been a big bonus, so...

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And different things - you still like your sport on television, don't you?

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Yeah.

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As his condition develops, Andrew finds it harder

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to communicate, which has had a profound impact on the family.

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I went through a period of sadness.

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I have known Andrew since I was 16, so we have been married now

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for 38 years, and you see somebody that you have

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known for all that time start to change

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and to struggle with things that were very easy.

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I am not saying that I am always praying for a cure because

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I know that for Andrew that probably isn't going to happen.

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But I do pray for myself for patience,

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because you do need a lot of patience.

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And that he stays well,

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because if he stays well and happy, then that is good.

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Rather than be defeated by the diagnosis, it has inspired Gill

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and Andrew to start a dementia-friendly social group

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in their church hall just outside St Davids.

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We actually saw an article on how table tennis could help

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people with dementia and different memory problems.

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And we actually had got at the time

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table tennis down in the church hall.

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So we started asking around and it turned out that the people

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that really wanted the help were the people with long-term conditions -

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so perhaps couldn't go and do a whole hour's keep-fit

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but would be quite happy to come down and do perhaps

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ten minutes of something, have a rest and then go and do something else.

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And I suppose we identified about ten people,

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so we became a dementia-friendly group.

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It is open to anybody in the community

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and it is there for anybody to use that wants to.

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How has your faith helped you through what you have been through?

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I don't think I would have managed without one.

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I don't know how people do.

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-I mean, we've used it a lot, haven't we?

-Yeah.

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What surprised you the most about being in this position?

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I think the different path it has made us take.

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I think we have really both of us taken a positive thing for it,

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-haven't we?

-Yeah, I have.

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And we have become dementia friends and we have encouraged that with

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the Alzheimer's Society and things like that.

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-We have met a lot of nice people, haven't we?

-Yeah.

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You know, so I suppose it has expanded our horizons really.

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Our next piece of music is an inspirational hymn

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sung by stirring Welsh male voice choirs.

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St David isn't the only saint associated with these parts.

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Claire McCollum is meeting Canon Jeffrey Gainer at the cathedral to

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discover Pembrokeshire's links with another of the UK's patron saints.

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St Davids is obviously hugely connected to St David himself,

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but also connected to Saint Patrick?

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Well, Rhygyvarch, who wrote a Life Of St David

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at the end of the 11th century,

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tells us that St Patrick was here some 30 years before David was born.

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Certainly St Patrick, according to Rhygyvarch's account, had a vision

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of Ireland, near the coast somewhere in west Britain -

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it could be here.

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And he was told that he had to go and convert the Irish,

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so that is the link and of course he is shown in one of the icons

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in the restored shrine in the cathedral itself.

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It's a very saintly place, isn't it?

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I think saints are very important in Christianity.

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And we keep St David's Day here, of course,

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quite rightly, as the Irish do St Patrick.

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The important thing is that for generations people have been

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coming here and taking an interest in this place, as they still do.

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And so we are very proud of the connection with St Patrick.

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And the connections with Ireland's patron saint

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don't end at the cathedral.

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In the 17th century, there was an historical reference to

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a medieval chapel on the coast near St Davids

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which was dedicated to him.

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Little was known about the chapel

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until its remains were exposed during winter storms in 2013.

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The following summer, an archaeological dig took place

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on the site to unearth the chapel's hidden secrets.

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Roger Smith was part of the dig team.

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Roger, hard to believe we are standing on the actual site where the chapel is buried.

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Yes, it's underneath us, and in fact there are probably about

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1,000 interments still underneath us as we speak.

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The remains of the chapel are protected from the harsh

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coastal elements and only uncovered during digs.

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Why was a chapel built on this particular site?

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Whitesands Bay, where we are now,

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is actually the end of what is called the Golden Road,

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which is a trackway which has been in existence since the Bronze Age.

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This is where people would have sailed to Ireland

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and indeed further afield.

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Porth Mawr is the name for Whitesands Bay in Welsh,

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that means "big harbour".

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And at that point in history people often used beaches as opposed

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to what we would call harbours now for travelling.

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This is why it is such an important site because this is a place

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of worship next to a major transportation hub,

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just like you have maybe a chapel or place of worship

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at an airport these days.

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People may well have made offerings here before they set sail.

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What is interesting though,

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when we excavated, we found a much earlier site

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where we have burials which go back to 500, 600, 700AD or thereabouts,

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what Christians might call the Age of the Saints which is

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just the time St Patrick and St David and all the other

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saints were worshipping here.

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And now to celebrate this spectacular and saintly coastline,

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here is Katherine Jenkins with one of the nation's favourite hymns.

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# Oh Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder

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# Consider all the works Thy hands have made

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# I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder

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# Thy power throughout the universe displayed

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# Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee

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# How great Thou art, how great Thou art

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# Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee

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# How great Thou art, how great Thou art

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# And when I think of God, His son not sparing

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# Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in

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# That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing

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# He bled and died to take away my sin

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# Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee

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# How great Thou art, how great Thou art

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# Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee

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# How great Thou art, how great Thou art

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# When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation

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# And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart

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# Then I shall bow with humble adoration

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# And then proclaim, "My God, how great Thou art"

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# Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee

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# How great Thou art, how great Thou art

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# Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee

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# How great Thou art, how great Thou art

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# How great Thou art, how great Thou art

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# Thou art. #

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Next week, Katherine will be visiting some brand-new mums

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to celebrate Mothering Sunday.

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And Pam Rhodes talks to the Christian woman helping those

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for whom Mothering Sunday can be a difficult time.

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We return to the city's stunning cathedral for our final hymn.

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So in the words of St David, be joyful and keep the faith.

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Josie d'Arby and Claire McCollum are in St David's in Pembrokeshire to explore the area's saintly connections. Josie meets a couple who've found a new way to live with dementia and Claire visits a farm where city children get to experience country living.

There's also a special performance from Katherine Jenkins.

Music: All Saints of Wales from St Davids Cathedral O God You Search Me and You Know Me from St Davids Cathedral Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer from St Davids Cathedral Praise the Lord His Glories Show from Morriston Tabernacle Chapel, Swansea How Great Thou Art performed by Katherine Jenkins on the Pembrokeshire coast The Day Thou Gavest from St Davids Cathedral.