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.

To 2013 and beyond…

The Devil's Den - the remains of a prehistoric burial chamber or long barrow on the Marlborough hills in Wiltshire.
The Devil’s Den – the remains of a prehistoric burial chamber or long barrow on the Marlborough hills in Wiltshire.
During the Christmas holidays I have been away from the Bald Explorer office, but as soon as January is upon us there is much to do. The next three progranmmes for the Community Channel need to be made ready, including a re-edit of the video ‘History You Can Touch’. This was my first foray into long format history videos. I was down in Wiltshire investigating the ancient monuments of our prehistoric forefathers, the burial chambers, long barrows and tombs. These were plundered in the 17th and 18th century by the first of the gentlemen antiquarians and pioneering archaeologists. I have decided include this as a Bald Explorer production as part of the final three episodes to deliver to the Community Channel along with some additional footage, yet to be shot, to show what inspired the series format. It will also be nice to see this footage get an airing on British TV.

Early CGI of the Shrewsbury canal basin. Much more work to do.
Early CGI of the Shrewsbury canal basin. Much more work to do.
The canal episode is nearly computer. What is taking so long is the computer graphics element. It is a skill that I enjoy but am least proficient at and takes much long therefore to complete. I want to be able to convey an artists impression of how the complete length of the now abandoned canal might have once looked and highlight some of the original and historically important iconic landmarks along the way.

2013 is looking like a promising year for the Bald Explorer. I aim to produce more episodes and a number of series ideas have been planned. Keep checking back to the website where all the information will be updated regularly. In the meantime, I would like to wish all my viewers and blog post readers a very Happy New Year.

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.



History You Can Touch

History You Can Touch is a study of the first monuments on the landscape of Great Britain, including the West Kennet Long Barrow in Wiltshire and the Belas Knapp Long Barrow in the Cotswolds.

England is littered with the remains of man from the early history. Richard Vobes is off to discover the first of the monuments left on this land by them and who were the early plunderers of their tombs and burial mounds.

With stunning photography and inventive computer graphics this short documentary proves to be the start of series of films looking at English history and culture.