Episode 8: Taking the Water

Richard Vobes is the Bald Explorer and in this episode he is in search of the spring water of a Spa town in Kent.The Chalybeate of Tunbridge Wells – that’s pronounced ‘kal-eeb-ee-ot’ by the way, means iron water. In the programme to be aired on the Community Channel early next year, Richard will tell how the original orange coloured waters were discovered, by whom and how a fashionable resort arose from nothing at the beginning of the 17th century.

This is the 8th full length in the series of programmes, funding by Richard and some of his followers. You can help fund the next episode by making a donation on the right of the website.

Enhancing the Image

Work is nearly complete on the next Bald Explorer episode, Taking the Waters; a documentary about the discovery of the spring water at Tunbridge Wells, in Kent. However, there are still a few things to make it complete and hopefully assist the telling of the story.

When filming, particularly on a limited budget, it isn’t always possible to match the same production values as the big boys. The BBC love to take their presenters into museum archives and have them presenting pieces to camera while at the same time handling original texts, books and scrolls. It is as if they need to demonstrate visually that what they are telling the audience is factually true. To be honest, I do wonder how many people would know whether the so-called 17th century manuscript written on vellum and scrawled in ink by a quill pen is genuine, or that it is the book in question or even if it proclaims the things we are being told. We have to take all this on face value – but they do love to show you this type of thing, so you can ‘believe’ it is authentic.

I am afraid, I do have to cheat a little here. Whilst I try to give an as honest account as possible, I cannot pretend to be a leading authority on any subject, nor do I have the money to access the genuine original materials – but I am not really sure that I need to in order to tell the same story convincingly.pantiles-1650

However, cheating is really only there to help the message be understood. For example, in the first picture, (above) you will see me sitting in my kitchen with a few samples of what looks like chalybeate water. Chalybeate is actually crystal clear if taken from source, but it does contain quite a large amount of iron, which leaves an orange tinge in the glass. I filmed watered down Ironbru to colour the water slightly. I wanted to distinguish it from tap water and I am hopeful that using this commercial product it would even contain an element of iron!

Secondly, my kitchen is old fashioned, and no science lab – so to give it the feel of authenticity and help paint the picture of an old Victorian chemist’s lab, I added in post production a couple of period medical posters. Yes, they were not there when we filmed, but adding them afterwards gives the impression of a laboratory without me actually saying I am in one. Dramatic licence at work here, I think.

I also used a little computer graphics to create imagery of the original Pantiles and source of the spring water. We know from historical text it was surrounded by a shed and small fence and we are told a number of timber framed properties were built in close proximity before the current constructions were erected. I haven’t found any reference material for these early buildings so I have made an educated guess and the short animation is merely there to illustrate the descriptions.

The main aim of all this deceit, if one wants to call it that, is really to engage with the viewer, encourage people to either read further about the subject or visit the spring waters for themselves and make up their own minds.

The programme will be broadcast in the new year on the Community Channel. I make these programmes for free and as yet I do not gain an income from them. If you would like to help get these episodes produced and get to view the finished documentary before its first transmission, then please visit the website and make a small donation. You can find the Payal button on the right hand side. Thank you very much.

Episode 7: Crumbling Churches

The parish church is one of the oldest buildings in the British landscape. Most of them have been here for over 900 years and some date from the Saxon period. They are ubiquitous; their steeples point above the rooftops, the bell towers chime on a Sunday, pews of some age are lined up towards the altar and their churchyards are packed with ancient headstones of once prominent members of the the locality.

The importance and role of the village, or town church, is hard to over state; and yet, these very buildings, where men, women and children have been baptized, married and sent off to life beyond (if there is such a thing) are in trouble. The parish churches are crumbling away and there is not enough people supporting the faith, attending the congregation or concerned about it’s up keep.

Richard Vobes, the Bald Explorer, is on a mission to find out if we should continue to try and preserve these icons of our history or whether it is better to allow them to crumble away gracefully.

Episode Five: A Rural Town

Richard Vobes is the Bald Explorer, dashing about Britain discovering the history of its towns and villages. In this episode he is off to Petworth in the heart of West Sussex, close to Chichester and not too far from London. It is a very rural town renown for the beautiful mansion-house, upon land that once belonged to the Roger de Montgomery and later the de Percy family.

It was the third Earl of Egremont who had a vested interested in the town of Petworth. He supplied the money to build the boys school, which was later destroyed by a stray German bomber during the second World War. It was the Earl who brought water from the near by Rover Rother into the town centre and whose land it was the grim House of Correction was built on for convicted offenders from all over Sussex.

One of the prettiest streets in Sussex can be found in Petworth, complete with old shop fronts and cobbles on the ground and the Bald Explorer reveals that he once lived there.

Back in the 19th century, many of the poor were assisted out of poverty and given the chance of a new life in Canada thanks to the local rector. Also, many do not realise that a special kind of stone, Petworth Marble was mined from this area and made into all sorts of wonderful objects.

Of course, most visitors , if not travelling to see Petworth House, go to hunt around the abundance of antique shops that flank the roads or take refreshment inside the independent tea rooms. And lets not forget the beautifully restored old railway station that is now a fabulous bed and breakfast establishment with genuine Pullman Carriages to stay the night in.

In the TV listings

The Daily Mail 'Weekend' magazine TV Listings
The Daily Mail ‘Weekend’ magazine TV Listings
It is a strange feeling when you catch yourself looking back at yourself, especially when it is from a national newspaper’s Saturday magazine. On 9th February, the Daily Mail’s ‘Weekend’ magazine published its TV guide along with several pick of the channel programmes and awarded them a number of stars according to their opinion of the programme. I was thrilled to see that not only was the Bald Explorer highlighted for Sunday night, but it was also given three out of four stars.

I am not sure how much this will persuade people to watch the programme, but the added description of the episode was pretty complimentary. I was excited to notice that they deemed the episode ‘a jolly pleasure’.

The programme in question is the visit to the East Sussex town of Lewes which is broadcast on the Community Channel. The recently completed new adventures will commence on the same channel towards the middle of March and with luck further ones are to follow on after that.

It is certainly a boost to the morale and, without doubt, encouragement to make further forays into Britain’s traditions and historic past. Watch this space.

The Community Channel can be found at www.CommunityChannel.org