Saving our Waterways

Part of Shrewsbury Canal as it once looked.

I am thrilled to be able to report that the recent exposure on the Community Channel television has resulted in more episodes of the Bald Explorer requested. This is excellent news and all the encouragement I need to take my camera out and shoot some more of the fabulous history of Great Britain. There are another three full length episodes planned which will look at different aspects of British life.

In one programme I have teamed up with the Canals and River Trust, formerly British Waterways to explore the winter stoppage work that goes on to repair and maintain the existing canal systems up and down the country. I am also exploring the highly ambitious work of the Shrewsbury and Newport Canal Trust who having been proposing the complete restoration of their navigation since 2000. The Shrewsbury Canal once had a basin and wharf behind the Buttermarket in the county town of Shropshire, near the Railway Station. Roughly 200 hundred years ago narrow boats and in particular tub boats would transport coal, corn, wool and luxury goods by water as it was far easier than by road. Now the canal system has all but disappeared with only the occasional watery reed ditch to show where it might have been.

A view at Wappenshall Wharf and how the canal might look once restoration is complete.

I am very excited about this particularly episode as I will be filming people that remember the working canals and made a living from them. Also I shall be delving into the archive of photographs to see the real story of the working canals. These days we think of them as pleasure destinations. Walkers, canoeists, cyclists, narrow boat enthusiasts and a host of holiday makers take to the British waterways for fun and relaxation. I am sure it was very different back in its golden era.

There are relics of the canals all over the UK and thousands of people dedicated to bring these wonderful waterways back to life. I hope the Bald Explorer episode can tell something of the story of the canals and reach a wide audience to inspire more to get involved and help preserve this important part of our industrial past for the future generation to enjoy.

Some useful links:

Shrewsbury and Newport Canal Trust

Canal and River Trust

The Bald Explorer on TV

I am very pleased to announce that from next week – Monday 22nd to Wednesday 24th October 2012, the Bald explorer will be having its first television transmission in the UK on the Community Channel. The first three episodes will be screened consecutively over these three days with my visit to Lewes on Monday, my look at historic journeys on Tuesday and the examination of old English Smuggles on the Romney Marshes on Wednesday. Who would have thought that 18 months ago when the Lewes episode was being filmed that the programme would get to a television screen near you? I am very thrilled.

The Community Channel is a digital network available on Sky, Freeview, Virgin and BT Vision so it has the potential to be seen by loads of viewers in the UK. It will also no doubt feature on their website as well, so of course that means anyone anywhere can watch the exploits of the bald man who loves towns and history in England.

If this goes well, I hope to increase the series with more episodes on the Community Channel in the coming months. There are more scripts being developed for further adventures and also DVD sales with additional extras scenes to be made available soon.

If anyone based in the UK would like to help make this series, get involved or has some suggestions of subject matters for the Bald Explorer to investigate, then please do get in touch – I would love to hear from you. Oh yes, and do let me know if you liked the TV series.

Podcast: The Bluebell Railway


Richard Vobes, the Bald Explorer and his occasional partner in crime, Jimmy Hastell, popped to the Bluebell Railway in East Sussex, to find out some of its history and experience travelling on old steam streams. Having recently shot an episode of the Bald Explorer around Petworth that featured Pullman Carriages, it was nice to revisit the audio podcast they had recorded a couple of years ago.

The Bluebell railway was the very first heritage railway to be established back in 1959. It opened to the public in 1960 which put it in a very good position to obtain quite a few unique and usual rolling stock as there were still many still running on the mainline railways up and down the country. Steam trains are operated between Sheffield Park and Kingscote, with an intermediate station at Horsted Keynes.

The line was always known at the Blue Bell line, even when it was running as part of British Railways, due to the fabulous wash of colour from the flowers of the same name that run through the countryside in this part of East Sussex.

Originally the railway was on the London route from the county town of Lewes and had closed as a result of the Beeching cuts. Have a listen to the various short podcasts produced of the trip to this wonderful heritage railway.






Download as Podcast.
Download as Podcast.
Download as Podcast.
Download as Podcast.
Download as Podcast.
Download as Podcast.

The Bald Explorer is now BBC trained!

Everyone has heard of the British Broadcasting Corporation. Many of us switch it on in one form or another and allow the organisation into our living rooms, kitchens, cars and private spaces on a daily basis. As well as churning out a fabulous range of diverse entertainment, they also take the likes of amateur historians with no hair and whip them into shape in the presentation department. I am thrilled to say that I am now the product of an intensive boot camp of such training.

Only last week I was sitting in the BBC Academy television studios with multitude of high-end cameras, top professionals and bright sparkling lights all focused on me. I was reading an autocue and introducing a dummy version of The One Show, a BBC flag-ship programme that airs daily on BBC 1 on early evenings. In my ear was not only the sound of the director giving me instructions, but a host of production people gabbling various technical speak to each other. As my side my co-presenter was ready to bring on the first guest and the floor manager was giving a 10 second visual signal before the first video clip was played in. It was brilliant.

Part of the training was to learn how to present certain pieces to camera when on location, something I have been doing quite a lot of with the Bald Explorer videos. To add to that we were give actors to play with. They help us understand the dynamics of interviewing people by pretending to be a variety of characters, some more awkward and harder to question than others.

Presenting is not as easy as you may think, even if you have been doing it for a while. I learned a load of new techniques and styles and I am sure as I make more Bald Explorer productions I will be incorporating some of this new skills into my work. Watch this space and see if you can notice the new BBC trained presenter in the videos.