In Production… Chalybeate

In the next Bald Explorer programme, hopefully aired on the Community Channel in 2014, I am in search of the spring water of a Spa town in Kent. I am referring to Chalybeate of Tunbridge Wells – that’s pronounced ‘kal-eeb-ee-ot’ by the way, meaning iron water. I want to 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. Jason Reeve, my son Billy and myself have been stalking around the Kentish weald with camera and tripod, boom pole and microphone getting the facts (as far as they are known) onto digital media. I will be editing the footage and shaping it up into a TV programme fairly soon. There is still much, however, to do.

toad2Today, for example, I was over at an actor friend of mine’s abode shooting a short sequence depicting the eminent physician and Spa enthusiast, Augustus Granville, who wrote an entertaining book The Spas of England, published in 1841.  He wasn’t terribly impressed with the spring water or the resort when he visited at the beginning of the Victorian period, although to be fair to the town of Tunbridge Wells, it was a few years after its most fashionable period, the 18th Century. He bemoaned that few used the cold bath and that there was little mineral quality to the famous water. Nick Scahill, who collects all things Victorian, agreed very kindly to play the part of Granville.

The wells, named after the local medieval town of Tunbridge (now spelt Tonbridge and four miles to the north) are located in an area known as the Pantiles. It has nothing to do with the architectural titles you find on roof tops. These were small square clay fired titles baked in special pans and laid on a walkway in front of the spring head. Unfortunately, they have now gone, but the name lingers on, much to the confusion of visitors and no doubt some residents of the town.

granville

I am hoping to film in the privately owned Pantiles area very soon and obtain an interview a Dipper (a lady in traditional dress who dishes out the water for tourists to taste) and record a conversation with the curator of the Tunbridge Wells museum about the fine Tunbridge Ware that became all the rage in 1700s.

Don’t forget, you can help make the Bald Explorer programmes happen by making a small donation via the special button on the right hand side of the website. The shows are completely self-funded for transmission on the Community Channel which is a not-for-profit TV station. If you do make a contribution, I will make sure you get to see a copy of the finished episode before it is broadcast. Thank you very much.

 

 

Taking the Waters: Preview

The Bald Explorer is back and the next production is under way (Autumn 2013). In this episode, ‘Taking the Waters’, Richard Vobes, aka the Bald Explorer is investigating the story of the spring water discovered at a spot near the medieval town of Tonbridge in Kent – later it was to become Royal Tunbridge Wells.

Richard wants to find out what makes the water so good, how it became popular and why is there today for visitors who are keen to make the excursions today.

This is a teaser video, partly filmed on the common near Royal Tunbridge Wells (www.twcommons.org) and at High Rocks, a popular tourist resort and wedding venue (www.highrocks.com). The full production will be available in early 2014 on the Community Channel (www.communitychannel.org).

Follow him on Twitter: @BaldExplorer or Richard Vobes @Vobes.

Crew: Producer/Presenter – Richard Vobes. Photography – Jason Reeve. Sound – Billy Lindsey.

Taking the Waters

Working has started on the next Bald Explorer episode. I shall be off to the Sussex and Kent border to taste the waters at the Georgian Spa town of Royal Tunbridge Wells. I am working with my new cameraman, Jason Reeve, who as it happens, conveniently lives in the same town.

Like my town visits programmes I want to get to the bottom of some of the quirky and unusual historic aspects of the town, as well as trying the Chalybeate spring water with its iron health-giving properties. The programme is to be broadcast on the Community Channel, probably in the new year (2014) along with other that I have planned.

One of the lesser known facts about Royal Tunbridge Wells is the deposits of sandstone all around the area. The Kentish Weald and Sussex Downland hills are more known for their clay and chalk, but there are some very unusual rocks to explore in the area.

If you would like to support the Bald Explorer in this non-profit venture and help fund the programmes, may I direct you to the Donate Button on the right of this website. If you donate, I will make sure you get a copy of the finished programme before it is transmitted on the TV. Anything you can spare would be most welcome. Thanks very much.

New Series – Hidden Heritage

be-sixtowns In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Alec Clifton-Taylor made a series of programmes with the BBC entitled Six English Towns, Six More English Towns and Another Six English Towns. He was principally interested with showing off the wonderful survivors of beautiful architecture that was available to discover in our towns across England. Although a simple premise of looking at buildings, he did it with such charm and authority, it became a landmark series. That was thirty years ago. Much of what he showed us still remains, fortunately, but in that time towns have expanded enormously and a lot of our heritage has been swallowed up and tucked away behind the commercial hoardings, large plate-glass windows and new utilitarian constructions; what survives nowadays is often ignored or taken for granted.
I am planning to go in search of my own six towns to explore the hidden gems that are under our noses and often overlooked. To fund this, with the help of the Community Channel, a Kickstarter fund-raising project will start towards the end of June this year. (More information on that will announced soon.) This will mean, with a small TV crew, I shall be making a jaunt in the autumn and spending one week at each of the following towns:

Lyme Regis – Dorset
Lyme Regis is a coastal town in West Dorset, England, situated 25 miles west of Dorchester and 25 miles (40 km) east of Exeter. The town lies in Lyme Bay, on the English Channel coast at the Dorset–Devon border. It is nicknamed “The Pearl of Dorset.” The town is noted for the fossils found in the cliffs and beaches, which are part of the Heritage Coast—known commercially as the Jurassic Coast.

Barnstaple – Devon
Barnstaple or is a former river-port, large town, civil parish and the capital of the local government district of North Devon in the county of Devon, England. Since 1974, it has been a civil parish governed by town council.

Monmouth – Monmouthshire, Wales
Monmouth is a traditional county town in Monmouthshire, Wales. It is situated where the River Monnow meets the River Wye, within 2 miles of the border with England. The town is 36 miles north-east of Cardiff, and 127 miles west of London

Bridgenorth – Shropshire
Bridgnorth is a town in Shropshire, England, situated on the Severn Valley. It is split into High Town and Low Town, named on account of their elevations relative to the River Severn.

Newark-on-Trent – Nottinghamshire
Newark-on-Trent is a market town in Nottinghamshire in the East Midlands region of England. It stands on the River Trent, the A1, and the East Coast Main Line railway.

Sandwich – Kent
Sandwich is a historic town and civil parish on the River Stour in the Non-metropolitan district of Dover, within the ceremonial county of Kent, south-east England. It has a population of 6,800.

I do hope you will support our fund-raising efforts, tell your friends and family about the project and following the progress here on the website and on Twitter (@BaldExplorer #BaldExplorer) and of course Facebook too.

Episode 3: Smugglers of the Romney Marshes

Richard Vobes is the Bald Explorer and in this episode he is searching for the free traders on the south east of Britain. The Romney Marshes were notorious for ancient tradition of smuggler because of its close proximity with Europe.

The invasion coast, as it was known, was the home to daring men and women who became involved in clandestine activities in the dead of the night. Boats would come and go and illegal goods would be unloaded and sent ashore, hidden in secret locations on the old marsh land. These luxury items should have a duty paid on them, but the smugglers wanted to avoid all that because it was deemed unfair.

The Cinque Ports played their part in the smuggling story too and the Bald Explorer is on the path to discover the story of how these nefarious activities took place and just how they got away with it.

Useful Links

http://www.mermaidinn.com/ The Mermaid Inn, Rye

http://www.ryemuseum.co.uk  The Rye Museum

http://www.holidaylettings.co.uk/advertdisplay.aspx?home_id=170417&force=true    March View Holiday Cottage

http://www.theoakandivy.co.uk/ The Oak and Ivy, Hawkhurst, Kent