At the Mercy of the Weather

Rain halts play is a familiar expression and no truer when it comes to the film making process of the Bald Explorer productions. This is not because I am particularly adverse to working in wet weather. It has more to do with not having the right sort of waterproofing for my camera equipment, gaining access to certain locations when knee deep in boggy conditions and asking people to help out with the filming and having them get cold and soggy in the process.

The nature of my documentaries as a history/travel adventure is to show off the landscape. I want my viewers to appreciate the location, the architecture the buildings shot and beautiful imagery presented when the sun is shinning or the sky is bright. These videos will be hanging about for a while, one hopes, and rather than impatiently knock them out, I do prefer to wait for the right conditions. That said it is incredible frustrating when the weather lets you down day after day.

The other irritating thing that happens to annoy me is how wonderful the weather is when I am not actually available to get out and film. This is continuously happening and drives me mad, but you do learn to shrug your shoulders and try not to let it get to you too much.

The key to these none shooting days is to make use of the time as much as possible. So I am currently researching and planning episode five. If I can get the script ready for that one two, it is then feasibly possible to shoot the next two back to back and just utilise the good weather for filming when it comes.

Well, that is the plan. Ideally, one should write several episodes in the winter and use the spring and summer months for production purposes only. Maybe this winter I will do that.

The Priest’s House

The Priest's House in West Hoathly, Sussex

I have always been intrigued by the name of this property and wondered who the priest was and the history of this attractive timber-framed house in West Hoathly, in East Sussex. In this podcast, I take a visit. My guide is Anthony Smith, who lives there, or at least, in one side of the house.

This is just one of a number of fascinating places cared for by the Sussex Archaeological Society. They also look after Lewes Castle, Anne of Cleeves House, Bull House, the Long Man of Wilmington and Michelham Priory.

The Priest’s House has had a number of distinguished owners in it time, including Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell,  Anne of Cleeves, Mary I and Elizabeth the first, although probably none actually lived there.

Furnished with seventeenth and eighteenth century possessions and domestic objects which are scattered to give you a glimpse of how peopled lived back then. These were wealthy people. The rest of the village would have been far poorer, consisting of smaller basic properties and hovels.

The cottage garden is well worth a look at too. Filled with plants and herbs from the period, many of which were grown for medicinal purposes.

I hope you enjoy the tour of the tour. Listen to the podcasts below.

Download as Podcast – Part 1.
Download as Podcast – Part 2.
Download as Podcast – Part 3.

Podcast: The Foredown Tower – Camera Obscura

The Foredown Tower Camera Obscura

In this podcast I am off to the Foredown Tower, a former water tower in Portslade, near Brighton in East Sussex in order to investigate the old Victorian camera obscura.

I had often read about these things in history books but never actually seen one so I was very curious to find out more.

The tower that the camera obscura is housed in was built in 1909 and as already mentioned  was a water tower. It served the isolation sanatorium, Foredown Hospital, which looked after patients with infectious diseases. The hospital was demolished in 1988, but the the tower was left intact.

The camera was installed and open to the public in 1991 and gives a panoramic view across the south downs and apparently is one of only two operational ones in the south east of England.

A camera obscura is essentially a pin hole camera on a grand scale but acting as a projector. They are not designed to take photos as such, but display the chosen image onto a large plate, in this case a circular dish, below the lens. The room is darkened to enable the image to been viewed as the light source is the natural external light of the scene immediately outside the building.

Download as Podcast.

These boots will do the walking…

A Boot for a Bald Explorer

Every now and again, the Bald Explorer has to  invest in a new pair of shoes. Naturally for walking over the rugged muddy terrain of Great Britain I visit one of the many outdoor specialist shops that sell just the kind of gear for that purpose.  Here I find a myriad of shapes and styles to choose from and depending on my price range I can make my selection and away I go.

When filming the videos for the Bald Explorer website, however, I try to look reasonably stylish, just  for the sake of the camera, you understand.  Many have confused this look with ‘Quirky’ and who am I to argue.  The main thing is, I believe,  to be comfortable in all situations from the toes up.

Now, because I am not always ascending a hideously steep mountain or trekking across the snow covered ice packs of Antarctica, I just need  comfortable footwear which I can happily stroll the highways,  back lanes and paths of this nation in, but also amble through a public building, clamber up an old church tower and drive my beat up old car in. So with this in mind, I have selected an all purpose smart 100% leather boot from Jones, the Bootmakers and I am rather hoping they will last a few years.

I cannot say they were cheap, but when it comes to foot wear I don’t think you want to scrimp too much. It is essential to look after your feet and keep them in good shape. They take a lot of pounding in life and to wear the wrong kind of shoe for extended periods of the day isn’t going to do you any favours.  So when you are out filming you do need something that allows you the freedom to do many things.

Next time you watch the Bald Explorer videos, take a look at the ends of my legs and check out the clodhoppers I am wearing . In the very first episode I started with a pair of Converses, and while they are an excellent deck shoe for lounging about the house, I soon began to crave for something more sturdy especially towards the end of the long days stomping the streets of Lewes I can tell you.

If you have a favourite kind of boot that you like to wear, I would love to hear about it. Post your thoughts below!


History You Can Touch

I was thinking about some of  the previous video incarnations of the Bald Explorer the other day and I recalled a film I made in Wiltshire which looked at some of the old tombs that have been left on the landscape. It was called History You Can Touch and concentrated on ancient man and his need to build a monument to death.  It fascinated me at the time as I researched the history of the Long Barrows and Round Barrows which had been constructed by our ancestors about six thousand five hundred years ago.

Looking in at the Devil's Den near Marlborough

One of my favourite ‘tombs’, if we can accurately call them that, is of course the fabulously preserved West Kennet Long Barrow, but a slightly lesser known and usual place is the Devil’s Den.  I liked it so much I even  started my film with it, journeying there on a glorious hot March morning.  But it is not so easy to get to if you have a load of heavy video equipment because it is off the beaten track up on the Marlborough hills. It stands today stark against the ploughed fields of rural Wiltshire, all forlorn and out of context. Most people wouldn’t guess it’s true purpose if they stumbled across it by accident and it would appear ambiguous and almost an enigma.

If you could travel back in time six centuries you wouldn’t see the stones as presented now for they would have been buried under a mound of earth, chalk and turf. The Devil’s Den, back then, was the entrance piece to an important long barrow belonging to a forgotten tribe whose name and numbers we can only guess at.

One of the reasons I called this video by this peculiar title was simply that there are some historical places that have not been fenced off, put in glass cases or had turnstiles installed  requiring a fee to pass through.  My imagination is also ignited by the fact that even the professional university lecturers and senior archaeologists do not really know precisely what these mysterious remnants of our past were actually for.

The prehistoric barrows in Wiltshire are definitely worth exploring. You will get a buzz visiting these old Neolithic tombs. Parking is usually easy and they tend not to be over crowded. Places like the Belas Nap, which now run by English Heritage, involves a delightful walk and simple climb. It was excavated in 1863 and 1865 and the remains of 31 people were found in the chambers.



Video: The Battle of Lewes

As part of my first Bald Explorer adventure I journeyed to the East Sussex county town of Lewes.  It was here in the 13th Century that an important battle took place. I decided to pull on my walking boots and take to the hills. I good stout walk and a hearty climb too me to the top of the South Down’s which over look this quaint old market town.

The Battle of Lewes was one of two main battles of the conflict known as the Second Barons’ War. It took place above Lewes in Sussex, on 14 May 1264. Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, was the main instigator, and made him the “uncrowned King of England”. He won this battle but was  killed in Evesham the following year.

Henry the third was touring the country and was staying in the priory at Lewes with his son  Prince Edward, later to be Edward the first. As the sun came up over the chalky hills, so too did De Montfort’s troops and the Henry III was forced into action.

Richard Vobes AKA the Bald Explorer is off to Lewes in East Sussex to investigate the battleground and tell the story of this important conflict. Being an avid filmmaker I was very keen to shoot a video about it and present it here.