Funding More Episodes

cliffrailwayThis is the Bridgnorth funicular, or as they describe it on their website, the cliff railway. It is said to be the steepest in the country and, although there are others, it is something of a rarity. It is one of the reasons I love visiting towns across the UK – they all have something different and unusual. Until recently, there was a fear that all high streets were going to look the same. The corporate owned chain stores with their large plastic hoardings and massive plate-glass frontage rendered many shopping centres identical. This reduced the pleasure of exploring towns and seeking out the individual shops and independent businesses. I, for one, do not regret that many of the larger familiar chains have closed or gone out-of-town and new, smaller businesses can flourish in their place.

A Market town is traditionally where people met, traded and discussed the matters that concerned them. Live stock, produce and crafts were exhibited, bartered and sold. The architecture reflected the success of this in the layout of their streets. The way we interact when we buy and sell may have changed nowadays, but the history is still, thankfully, all around. Relics of the past that tell the story of who are, how we got here and what is important to us, lie scattered around for all to see. In my new episodes of the Bald Explorer, I want to take you around the country and show you this wonderful way of life, visit fascinating market towns and point out the hidden heritage that is right under our noses. It is all too often taken for granted.

This is where the Kickstarter funding comes in. Because I have, so far, been unable to tempt the major TV stations to take my programme on, I need to find other ways to raise the capital to produce these programmes. In the past, as you know, I have asked favours of friends and even borrowed my children to help me to make the episodes. In order to make more of them, I really do need to start paying my camera crew, contributors as well as myself (we all have rent or mortgages to pay). Sadly, because the Community Channel, who have broadcast the episodes, are a not for profit organisation, they are unable to fund the programme directly. In every other way, they are extremely supportive, I hasten to add.k-logo

The Kickstarter project is designed to see if it is possible to fund just one programme initially. It it works well, then perhaps, we can fund more episodes. I think it is a good thing to ask the public to get behind this project; if they like the idea, then we can make it happen. So, if you have enjoyed the series of programming I have produced and would like to see more, I urge you to support the Kickstarter project in any way you can.

Kickstarter project – nearly LIVE!

kickstarter-projectIts nearly ready! Hopefully, Monday 1st July is the day we aim to set off our Kickstarter project to raise funds for the next episode of the Bald Explorer programme. This new series is looking at Britain’s hidden heritage. As you now I aim to visit a number of towns in the UK and find the interesting stories and historic places of interest and wrap them into a series an interesting TV programmes.

My son, Billy and I, drove to Yapton in West Sussex to film the pitch video for the Kickstarter project. Sitting there is the Tack Lee Bridge, one of the last remnants of the Portsmouth to Arundel Canal; it stands now in a modern housing estate. The canal no longer flows underneath the bridge as it was abandoned and filled in many years ago, although you can still follow the path of it on the ground for quite some stretch; it is no more than a dry ditch filled with stinging nettles, but much is accessible and it sure makes for a good countryside walk.

The canal originally was built as a means for goods to be transported from the Portsmouth docks to London. Barges would travel along the south coast to via this navigation to the River Arun in Sussex, then through the Arun and Wey canal, along the River Wey and until they finally joined the Thames, and hence to London. Gold bullion was famously transported along this route so as to avoid shipping it through the English Channel, where it was prone to pirates, or worse, the French! It was a doomed canal, however, as the railways were only thirty years away. It was finally opened in 1823 and consequently, it never made a profit. Sadly, it is far too long gone nowadays to save it or return it to water.

Tack Lee Bridge, Yapton in West Sussex.
Tack Lee Bridge, Yapton in West Sussex.

For me there is great pleasure is stumbling across these ancient relics of the past and then finding out their stories and sharing my discover and enthusiasm with others. The bridge reminds us of the existence of the canal, which without it I fear the owners of the houses built around would have been ignorant. I am sure that it also increases the value of their properties.

I do hope you will support the Kickastarter project when it goes live and help me make more episodes that explore this wonderful nation’s past.

Hopton Castle, Shropshire.

Hopton Castle in south Shropshire is a medieval tower house which thanks to the funding from the National Lottery the old ruins have greatly been preserved for future generations. The remains, a subject of the Channel Four TV programme Time Team is looked after by the Hopton Castle Preservation Trust.

Richard Vobes, aka The Bald Explorer meets up with local historian Tom Baker to learn about the story of the castle from his construction by Walter De Hopton to the dreadful and bloody siege during the English Civil War in 1644.

‘I have always been fascinated by medieval castles in England and Wales. We tend to think of these buildings always as being made from stone, but some of the early fortifications were in fact simply earth works and then later timber forts. After the motte and bailey castles were deemed to be easily destroyed with fire, bigger and more stronger defences were required. This is where the stone castle came into its own, although these were often attacked successfully by mining underneath the thick seemingly impenetrable walls.

Hopton Castle, although called as such is not really a castle in the true sense of the word. It is a tower house of square design. It wasn’t designed to withstand much of an assault, although put up a pretty good defence against the Parliamentarians during the English Civil War. However, the siege that took place in 1644 ended up in tragedy with many deaths.

To find out more about Hopton Castle why visit the website at

Exploring Exeter in Devon

Back in 2010, when full of steroids, after an important eye operation, I travelled to the beautiful city of Exeter, in Devon. I took my camera and I made a short film about it. It was a bit simplistic and not really what I would call a Bald Explorer programme. However, that aside, it has proved quite popular on Youtube and I thought I would post it here on the BE website.

I am fascinated by towns, particularly market towns – hence my films about Lewes in East Sussex and Petworth in West Sussex, and hopefully many more to come, if I can find funding to make them.

Anyway, if you have never been and thinking of visiting this lovely west country city, then have a look at my short effort and enjoy the fabulous scenery and architecture. (And please excuse the puffed up fat face as the drugs cushion the important work of the eye surgeons.)

Talks and Speakers

vobesI recently gave a talk about the making of the canal episode of the Bald Explorer to the Shrewsbury and Newport Canal Trust and their members at their annual AGM. Apparently it went down very well and was enjoyed by all present. This was fabulous news and I have decided that I would like to give more talks about my work as a film maker and my enthusiasm for heritage and history.

I am not sure if there are exciting circuits, agents or managers that deal with booking speakers, but I would like to make it known that I am available for groups and societies to give an hours talk. For the moment, I am not charging, but something towards the travel expenses would be appreciated.

The Making of the Bald Explorer talk ranges from how I approach each film, the research undertaken, the location visits, the process of shooting, choice of music and editing. I also cover my background, how I became a film maker and my influences; my experience in children’s television, the various pilots programmes I have made to sell ideas to the broadcast industry and my fun as a mime artist, fire eater and circus performer as well as a walk on and extra in some of Britain’s best loved TV shows.

If you are interested in having an entertaining, enthusiastic speaker for an event you are having, then please do not hesitate to get in touch.

A Victorian’s Diary

fletcherAs you know, I am in pre-production of the next episode of the Bald Explorer. The idea is to visit six towns across the UK, however, we are starting with one, Bridgnorth.

As part of the research for this project, (which we are soon to launch a Kickstarter fund raising campaign), I stumbled across this charming and poignant book. It is the diary of William Fletcher, a resident of Bridgnorth, in Shropshire in the mid 19th century. He is only nineteen when he starts his journal and it lasts but a couple of years. Sadly, by the time he reaches 23 he is dead. The diary records his desire to find love with a young lady called Marianne, the slow decline and final death of his father, the coming of the Severn Valley Railway and his deeply religious beliefs. As he weakens in his own health, we later learn from Tuberculosis – for which there is no cure or inoculations for back then, we read of his visits to various doctors, some obviously quacks, who recommend a whole host of ineffective remedies. His optimism as he tries things like Rotton’s (from Birmingham) Cod’s Liver Oil is heart warming and sad at the same time.

From the short volume I have learned much about the Victorian Bridgnorth and the antics of the educated youth, the life style of the young banker (he worked as a cashier in the High Street) and the complete faith of one who believes in God. For me the biggest surprise was the amount of letter writing that went on between William and his parents and his friends, and how marvelous the postal service was back then. We think nothing of sending a text message or an email these days, but it is remarkable to note, that almost the same frequency of correspondence was carried out by pen and ink 150 years ago.

The book is available from Amazon, of course, and worth a read if you are interested in something a little different.