Tales From Northumberland (2013) s01e02 Episode Script

Episode 2

From its wild moorland to its rugged coastline.
A mystical landscape of castles and ruins remind us of bloody battles and Viking raids.
In this series, I'm going to discover the part Northumberland's played in shaping the Britain we know today.
Come by, come by.
- It's absolute chaos.
- They're all over.
I am literally starstruck.
I haven't slept a wink.
How do you get yourself in these situations? These are my tales from Northumberland.
In this series, I'm travelling the length and breadth of Northumberland to experience a new side of somewhere I'm still very proud to call home.
Today, my journey takes me well off the beaten track, as I find out what it's like to live in the most remote part of the country.
Stretching from the Scottish border to Hadrian's Wall, the Northumberland National Park is the most sparsely populated area of England.
Despite covering 400 square miles, only 2,000 people live here.
That's just five people per square mile.
Within this wilderness, you can find vast stretches of open moorland, some of England's purest rivers and darkest night skies.
I've worked in cities all around the world.
And I never really feel comfortable there.
I always pine to be back here and, I don't know, it's just the sense of space and freedom.
I live just six miles from the National Park so I've been here many times.
But today I'm going to experience it like never before.
I'm hiking through Wark Forest in search of my bed for the night.
England might not have the vast areas of wilderness like the Australian Outback and the Sahara Desert but in this country, this is as remote as it gets.
Haughton Green Bothy is going to be my home for the next 15 hours.
Bothies are ramshackle farmhouses used as refuge huts for walkers.
There's only nine left in this country, all situated in remote parts of Cumbria and Northumberland.
Hello? Wow.
(Laughs) This really is back to basics.
But you know what? Roof over the head There is no power or running water here.
Not even a toilet.
Just a few bare bunks and a wood-burning stove.
Oh, and this must be a former resident - nice.
People would pay a lot of money for a view like that.
Right, let's get a brew on.
The number of bothies has dwindled in recent years, with many falling to wrack and ruin.
Founded in 1965, the Mountain Bothies Association is run by a small group of volunteers who work hard to preserve this important part of our countryside heritage.
Among them is David Moorat Hello.
who's out here marking pathways through the forest.
- Hi.
- David Moorat, I presume.
- All right? Nice to see you.
- Robson Green.
- Lovely day.
So did you get the stove going? - I got the stove going.
Firstly, what is a bothy? Right.
This used to be a farmer's house.
A shepherd used to live here.
It was last occupied in about 1920.
And it became redundant and the roof was falling in and the Mountain Bothies Association, which is a charity, thought we could actually use that as an open shelter for walkers - people who love the outdoors.
So we spent a lot of time and quite a lot of money on putting a roof on and cleaning up the place and making sure it's watertight and basic.
Isn't it lovely that this building has got another life of looking after people like you? - Can anyone use them? - Absolutely anybody.
You don't have to be a member.
You can find out where they are and stay the night.
Open country.
Open shelters.
Anybody who loves the outdoors, this is the place for you to spend and just chill out.
Chill out? Get back to nature? What could be better? But with David and the camera crew gone, the reality of spending the night out here is starting to hit home.
There's nobody here except nature and the wildlife.
Everyone should do this once in a while.
I've got warmth, I've got food, shelter.
I've got a bed for the night.
I mean, what more does a man want? Well, a bit of company would be nice, you know.
Now, I'd love to be able to tell you that I slept like a log, but that would be a lie.
This is getting to be a habit.
Staying awake until the early hours of the morning did allow me to experience something special The Northumberland night sky.
Miles from the nearest town, out here you can gaze up at the stars just as the first inhabitants of this old bothy would have done over a century ago.
Wow, I am literally starstruck.
What an unbelievable sight.
I have never, ever seen stars like this.
I won't forget that sight in a hurry.
Truly amazing.
I'm tired, very hungry and very relieved to have the camera crew back.
I mean, don't get me wrong.
I like the remoteness.
I like the peace and quiet.
But there's one thing that does make Northumberland and that's people.
And I missed people last night.
I became acutely aware of one thing.
I don't like my own company sometimes.
(Laughs) I haven't slept a wink! What a nightmare! How do you get yourself in these situations? Just one thing left to do: Sign the visitors' book.
I saw Northumberland as our ancestors did.
I've seen some extraordinary sights in my time and the stars and the night sky were awesome.
If I found just one night in the bothy tough, imagine what it must have been like for the shepherd who once lived here at Haughton Green.
Sheep farming has been an integral part of this landscape for centuries.
But in the days before mobile phones and 4x4 vehicles, shepherding in this isolated part of Northumberland could be a treacherous task.
Many would perish on the long, cold winters.
Times may have changed, but the hill shepherds remain an important part of the Northumberland countryside.
Just to get a sense of what life's like for the people who live in this area, I'm off to meet a young woman who, a few years back, decided to take on the challenge of running one of the most remote farms in England.
Nestled in a hidden valley close to the Scottish Border is Fallowlees Farm.
To say it's off the beaten track is an understatement.
It's a 45-minute drive to the nearest shop.
(Whistles) Emma Gray took over the running of Fallowlees four years ago.
Aged just 23 at the time, she was one of Britain's youngest shepherdesses.
Come by.
Come by.
Northumberland's remote enough as it is.
But this farm has got to be one of the remotest you can find.
Some people think it's wonderful and a fantastic way of life and it's a great place to live, and other people think I'm stark-raving bonkers.
(Laughs) Having grown up on her parents' farm in Scotland, it was Emma's passion for breeding and training sheepdogs that brought her to Fallowlees.
After all, Northumberland is the home of the Border Collie.
It was in the village of Cambo just a few miles down the road that the dog known as the father of the Border Collie as born in 1893.
Almost every single Border Collie in the world can trace its ancestry back to this dog who was called Old Hemp.
And actually, people say that Roy looks very, very much like him.
It's fantastic to be farming and working in the area where you know, it originated.
The Border Collie is considered to be the most intelligent breed of dog and their formidable ability to control sheep has transformed farming across the world.
All dogs are descended from wolves, originally.
And you just have to control that sort of prey behaviour.
Come, Roy.
The sheep can't take their eyes off him.
They're scared to turn around in case he bites them, which is from the wolf days.
But living in this beautiful location does have its downsides.
With only her 12 dogs and 150 sheep for company, Emma has no mains electricity or gas supply, and gets all her power from a wind turbine.
When I first came onto the farm there was a lot of cynics who said that I was silly for going for it and it wouldn't last.
I would go bankrupt or I would end up leaving because I couldn't hack it.
Lie down.
Lie down.
But perhaps I've proved them wrong after nearly four years here now.
I think I'm very determined.
That's what most people will say about me.
I'm determined to make this a success.
That's a nice haircut for her.
This really is remote.
I've been driving for about ten minutes.
I've gone about four or five miles.
I've not seen another car or a house.
What possesses anyone to live a life on their own out here? I mean, this really is isolated.
- Emma.
- Hi.
- How are you? Robson.
- Hi.
- Nice to meet you.
Good to see you.
- And you.
- So I take it you're not a city person.
- I'm not, no.
I think I will always live in the country.
The first question I was going to ask you - what on earth possessed you to live a life like this? But on a day like this it doesn't take a clever person to work out why you want to be here.
Look at the valley, it looks incredible.
In the four years I've been here, days like this are rare.
For the most part it will be throwing it down with rain or in the winter, snow for weeks and weeks on end, which can make life really difficult.
The kind of social aspect of your life - just going to the shops or meeting up with people I mean, the sacrifices you have to make, do they outweigh the kind of positives of this kind of job that you love? I think definitely, definitely.
If you choose not to go off the farm then you cannot see a person for days.
But I think living in a place like this is just phenomenal.
I would put up with a lot to live here, to be honest.
Shepherds have been working this land for centuries.
Do you get a sense of, you're kind of part of that history and part of that tradition, and you want to carry it on? Yeah.
I mean, as well, not a lot's changed.
You know, 100-200 years ago, they'd be going out with their dog and their stick and their whistle.
Sheep suffer from the same diseases and ailments.
They are virtually the same sheep.
So, yeah, it's a really traditional job.
It's probably one of the oldest jobs.
- Who have we got here? - This is Roy.
Come on, Roy.
He's watching the job on hand.
Good lad.
This is my right-hand man.
So if I want Roy to go and get me some sheep or put the sheep in the pen, what's the first command? - Is it "come by"? - "Come by" means go that way.
- "Away" means go that way.
- So come by means go left? Yeah.
They work in circles, so it's like a clock.
So if you imagine the C for come by - clockwise, - and A for away - anticlockwise.
- I love it.
And then I use the whistle as well.
(Four short whistles) To go to his right And then if you watch, this is a good one.
(Several longer whistles) Go to his left.
(Four rapid whistles) That means walk on or run on.
(Five short whistles) - You really can talk to the animals.
- You can.
So it's time for me to try my hand at this great Northumbrian tradition.
- So one for stop, yeah? - Yeah.
Blow it really hard.
(Faint, squeaky whistling) Stop.
Stop, Roy.
(Mutters) Stop, Roy.
It's not as easy as it looks.
Have I got it the right way round? (Uneven whistling) Come by.
Come by.
It's absolute chaos.
It's absolute anarchy.
- They're all over.
- Stop, Roy.
- (Laughs) - Roy, stop.
- Roy's just having a break here.
- (Laughs) I think I'll stick to the fishing.
- Why doesn't he move, Emma? - I don't know.
- He's maybe having a bad day.
- Sarcasm's the lowest form of wit.
- Come by.
- I love it.
Ah, look at that.
Emma might be very different to the old farmers who worked these hills in centuries past, but one thing hasn't changed: That special bond between the Northumbrian shepherd and their ever-reliable partner, the Border Collie.
That's so cool.
On this stretch of my Northumberland journey, I'm seeing the region in a whole new light.
This is the most remote part of England's most sparsely populated county.
And last night, I looked up and saw the stars like I'd never seen them before.
Now I'm about to get an even closer look.
Over the past five years, eager stargazers have been drawn to this unusual building that appeared high on the hills above Kielder Reservoir in 2008.
Taking two years to build at a cost of £400,000, the astronomical observatory at Kielder gives visitors the chance to witness rare sights like Saturn and the Northern Lights.
It's been a labour of love for bricklayer turned astronomer, Gary Fildes.
Kielder Observatory, from a personal perspective, is everything to me.
It's been my life's work to try to get this place built.
We've had, in the five years, 45,000 visitors.
And the ones that are lucky enough to come on a really dark, clear night, you can hear the gasps and the "aahs" that they come out with.
Aah, that is so stunning.
You never forget it.
It's just incredible.
This telescope here is one of six instruments that we have at the observatory.
Now, this is the key.
The dark skies is everything.
So your telescope's ability to see things in the night-time sky is magnified massively by the fact that we've got true dark skies overhead.
On a typical night, most of the guests that come to the observatory will get to see objects of a distance of 200-300 million light years.
What makes Northumberland's sky so dark is the lack of artificial light given off by street lights, office blocks and houses.
As this image of Britain from space shows, the area around Kielder has the lowest light pollution in the whole of England.
But as light pollution increases year on year, Northumberland's precious dark skies are under threat.
So Gary and his team are now bidding to make the National Park and Kielder one of only 12 designated dark sky parks in the world, which would mean special restrictions on artificial light in the area.
With a new application to the International Dark Sky Association it's going make Northumberland National Park and Kielder Water and Forest Park the largest dark sky preserve in the whole of Europe.
So that these dark skies we have we can keep them.
And they will be a resource for the Northeast for many generations to come.
So, that's the challenge for me now.
I've been fascinated by the universe and space exploration ever since I was a child.
So I was keen to find out more about what Gary and his team have created here at the observatory.
- Gary, how are you? - I'm all right, mate.
Nice to see you.
Come on, then.
Talk cosmology to me.
- Cosmology? - Come on.
Where were you when Neil Armstrong took the giant leap for mankind? - 1969.
I was four years old.
- You won't remember it, then.
You know what, I can remember sort of grainy sort of imagery on the screen in some distant part of my brain.
I've got some sort of weird recollection.
That's what got me - the fact that we enabled ourselves to go up into the unknown.
What was the moment for you? For me? Well, that's easy.
So, when I was about six years old, my older brother Anthony got a telescope for Christmas.
It took me 90 minutes to find the full moon.
And when I found it, it was like the best thing ever.
Ever since then I've been hooked.
So why do you think it's important? I know you've got the dark skies bid coming up.
Why do you think it's important we keep something like this going and we increase our knowledge of it? You know, it's phenomenally important because astronomy is a humbling experience.
It's one we can all share.
We're all part of this universe.
It's where we come from.
It's what makes us who we are.
The observatory is somewhere where people can come along and spend the night with us, look out into the universe and we'll tell them about what they see.
It's time for me to boldly go where I have never been before, inside this building that looks like something out of a science fiction movie.
Come on then, Gary.
Take me into another dimension.
Well, that's pretty much where we're about to go.
What the telescope's looking at now is what's called a globular cluster.
It's called Messier 13 and it's in the constellation of Hercules.
It takes light 25,000 years to travel from this object that you are about to see to get to us.
So we're looking back in time.
What you're about to see now was the object as it was 25,000 years in the past.
And this is the sort of view I witnessed through that telescope.
It seems like there's millions and millions of stars in that cluster.
Yes, there's about a million suns inside that cluster.
Oh, my God.
Imagine trying to get a night's sleep in the middle of that thing.
You'd need eyelids about six inches thick and made of lead.
You know, I've been here most of my life in Northumberland and that is a first for me.
What's incredible is, it's happening here right on my doorstep in Northumberland.
Absolutely right.
Sad to think that, because of light pollution, 85% of the UK population will never see a truly dark sky like this.
Today's journey into the wilderness has been a real adventure.
Come by.
This is a place where you can escape modern life and experience the world of our ancestors.
Little by little, the world may change but if there's one place in Britain that's retained a timeless landscape it's here - Northumberland.

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