Tales From Northumberland (2013) s01e03 Episode Script

Episode 3

From its ancient moorland to its dramatic coastline, a magical land of castles and ruins, each with its own story to tell.
I'm Robson Green.
Join me as I discover a whole new side to a place I'm still very proud to call home.
You cannot believe such an extraordinary world is on your doorstep.
It was a huge Anglo-Saxon kingdom and Bamburgh was its capital.
There is something definitely spiritual about this place.
These are my tales from Northumberland.
Britain has 11,000 miles of coastline.
But I believe none's so steeped in history as the stretch I'm on today.
I'm travelling from Bamburgh to Holy Island, two places that played a vital part in shaping the Britain we know today.
It's a journey that takes me to the stronghold of ancient kings and the cradle of English Christianity.
And en route, I'll stop off for a close encounter with Northumberland's enchanting sea life.
This is one of my favourite journeys in Northumberland.
And it's one that evokes so many childhood memories.
And I tell you, it makes my heart sing.
And that is the drive into Bamburgh.
And as you approach the town, you are met with this incredible sight of the castle.
And there it is.
Look at that.
Perched on a rock 150 feet above the North Sea, Bamburgh Castle has captured my imagination since I was a boy.
It was once the ancient seat of the kings of Northumbria, a powerful Anglo-Saxon kingdom.
It's had a turbulent past, a stronghold of warlords, raided by the Vikings from the east and the Scots from the north.
Now that is epic.
Today the only invaders are the 150,000 visitors who descend on the castle every year.
Enjoy your visit now.
See you later.
And where once it was the seat of Northumbrian royalty, it's now home to the Calvert family.
Having previously managed castles in Scotland, Chris Calvert got the job of Bamburgh director in 2007.
With the position came this three-bedroom apartment within the castle, a home he shares with his Italian wife Grazia and their sons Wallace and Otello.
They'll never forget the day they moved here.
Coming over the hill from the A1, you come round a corner and you drop down a hill, and it's just there in front of you and it's just like, "We're going to live in that!" "Really? You're kidding!"' It was quite amazing.
I couldn't get away from the view and the beauty of it.
We are very lucky and I still feel like this after six years.
It's just lovely.
With its medieval hall, armoury and more than 3,000 historical artefacts, it's an extraordinary place to call home.
But living here does have its downsides.
It's damp, it's draughty.
It leaks.
There's bits crumble off the walls.
But it doesn't matter.
If it's raining, we just grab the buckets.
For the Calverts, castle life is never dull.
Budding musicians Otello and Wallace earn their keep busking in the opulent Kings Hall.
Grazia is an Italian language and cookery teacher.
- And Chris? - Hello.
Well, Chris does everything else.
My technical title is the director.
- Is it coming down fast? - Yeah.
- All right, good stuff.
- See you later.
That involves everything from recruitment, staff training, organising events, ticket sales.
As and when needed, I'm down cleaning toilets.
I'm probably too fastidious and I like things done in a certain way.
A constant problem is the litter.
Every now and again you get lucky and you find a tenner or a £20 note.
Having hundreds of visitors noseying round your home might not appeal to everyone.
But it's all part of living in a piece of Northumberland history.
As the tourists left for the day, I paid the Calverts a visit to find out just how they turned a medieval castle into a family home.
- Chris, how are you? - Very well.
- Good to meet you.
- Nice to meet you too.
Do come in.
They say a man's home is his castle, Chris.
I'm afraid this one is, yes.
It is.
- It really is, isn't it? - I love it.
I'm just trying to get a sense of what it must have been like for the warlords of Northumbria.
Was it a well-defended fortification? I would imagine so, yes.
It was the capital of Northumbria.
Northumbria extended from the Humber, as the name suggests, all the way up to the Forth in Scotland, and more or less the whole width of the country.
It was a huge Anglo-Saxon kingdom and Bamburgh was its capital.
It became a real powerhouse.
In fact, it's believed to have been the capital of England over a short period of time.
It was that important.
Bamburgh's most important former resident was the Anglo-Saxon king Oswald.
In the seventh century, Oswald restored peace to the region, unifying the feuding warlords of Northumbria under one kingdom and helping introduce Celtic Christianity to England.
When the tourists do descend on this place do you ever get a sense that they're trespassing on your land? No, no.
Yeah, I can see what you mean.
- Having all these people in your front garden.
- Yeah.
No, to be honest, I've always worked in this kind of environment, so to me it's not that different.
Every now and again people venture up the stairs.
Despite the barrier, they'll venture up and you'll find them standing outside the kitchen door and "Hello.
All right? I think you're lost, sunshine.
" I don't suppose King Oswald had his dinner up on the roof.
It seems to work for the Calverts, though.
I love it! Fantastic.
- This is some restaurant.
- Ciao, Robson.
Ciao, Grazia.
From up here, you can imagine the rulers of Northumbria surveying their kingdom.
Holy Island.
The Cheviot Hills.
The Farne Islands.
It's not a bad view, is it? Be honest with me.
You know when you're at school and your friends ask you, "Where do you live?" - Do you honestly say Bamburgh Castle? - Sometimes.
You tell girls where you live, you are guaranteed a girlfriend! Do you know how lucky you are? It's great inviting friends over, though.
We do do that sometimes and it's great.
We've got plenty of room for them to stay and it's great walking them up the stairs.
It's just like, "This is really your house?" Loads of people are actually impressed by the fact that there's people still living in it.
They say, "Who's living in it?" I say, "I do.
" What's it like raising a family in a castle? Is it difficult? I think once you are within your own doors, your own wall, it doesn't matter on the outside what there is.
It's what is inside that makes the difference.
This castle is still alive, very much alive.
- May I come again? - Of course.
Because we're now friends.
But before I leave, there's one thing I have always wanted to do - raise the Northumbrian flag over what I think is one of Britain's greatest historical treasures.
This castle has had a turbulent past.
But with Chris and his family looking after it, it's in safe hands.
The next step on my journey takes me three miles across the bay from Bamburgh to Longstone Island on the outer stretch of the Farne Islands.
The Farnes are home to a colony of 4,000 Atlantic grey seals, making it one of the best places in Britain to observe these mammals in the wild.
I'm on my way to meet a man who's taken seal watching to a whole new level.
A GP by trade, Ben Burville grew up on the south coast and moved to Northumberland nine years ago.
It's proved the perfect place for Ben to indulge in his passion for marine life.
It really is a special place.
I've dived all over the world from the Arctic to the Caribbean to the Red Sea.
If you said I could only dive in one place ever again, it would be the Farne Islands.
Over the years, Ben has got to know the seals of the Farnes as well as anyone.
Today he's invited me to share in the experience.
I've absolutely no idea what it's going to be like swimming with grey seals, underwater.
So I'm slightly apprehensive, nervous.
As we approach the island, I get my first glimpse of a seal.
Not sure they're too excited to see me, though.
- Ben.
- Hello, Robson.
Come on in.
Good to see you, man.
- Is it a good day to swim with grey seals? - It's a lovely day.
We'll see if they turn up! I've seen a few on the way in.
It's a bit of a stupid question, but why would a grey seal want to come here? If I was a seal, I'd want to come here.
I just love this place.
It's nice and quiet.
It's shallow, this particular area.
You could say, "Why do they want to come to the Farnes?" Cos it's the Galapagos of the North, that's why, they reckon.
Like the Galapagos, the Farnes are made up of volcanic rock.
Its steep cliffs and sheltered coves provide a safe haven for the seals to breed.
All the year round you've got between 3,500 and 4,000 seals here.
And grey seals are a really important species.
There are more African elephants than there are grey seals in the world.
- So it's quite an endangered species.
- Wow.
The grey seal is Britain's largest carnivore.
It can crunch its way through lobster and dive to depths of up to 300 metres.
If I look nervous, it's because I am.
We'll see what happens when you get in the water.
You'll be fine.
Ben has a few special techniques for attracting the seals'attention.
Grey seals are very vocal animals on the land and also underwater.
I've noticed that if you make certain noises they're attracted, both above the land and underwater.
Give me a crash course in seal calling.
If you're on the land and you go, "Whooo!", - they tend to take interest in that.
- Whooo! Very good.
Underwater, you have to go I have to go what? And what does that mean? They turn round and come towards you.
You are fluent in Sealanese! That is incredible! I'm always up for learning a new language.
Whooo! Whooo! Must have got lost in translation.
Let's hope I have more luck when I get in the water.
This is much more than a hobby for Ben.
His observations provide valuable insight into seal behaviour.
I enjoy studying them scientifically and observing their behaviour underwater to see if I can see things not seen before.
When you interact with a wild animal that's an intelligent wild animal, that's a very privileged position, really.
Here we go.
A journey into the unknown.
Whooo! It's a warm day on the surface, but this is still the North Sea.
Even in July, the water is a chilly seven degrees.
As Ben leads me towards the colony, I get my first sighting of the seals in their natural habitat.
I was struck by the seal's gracefulness as it glided through the water.
I try to attract them closer, but they seem wary and keep their distance.
But just as I'm about to head back to the boat, a young pup seems to take a liking to me.
It's a moment I'll remember for a very long time.
It's incredible.
And they're the most beautiful creatures I've come across.
They've got the most curious eyes, and they're so elegant.
And they just come up like this and go You have no idea until you're under there how magical it is.
And you cannot believe such an extraordinary world is on your doorstep.
Today I'm exploring one of the most mystical and historic stretches of coastline in Britain.
My final destination is the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, one mile off the Northumberland coast.
This tiny island is cut off from the mainland twice a day by the fast-moving tides, giving it a sense of peace and isolation that's been drawing people to its shores for centuries.
One such visitor was Irish monk St Aidan.
In 635AD, Aidan was called here by Oswald, the young king of Northumbria, to restore peace to his pagan subjects.
It was from here that Aidan spread the word of the Gospel and Lindisfarne was established as the cradle of English Christianity.
Ever since, Holy Island has remained a place of pilgrimage.
For centuries, people have travelled from all over the world to make the traditional barefoot walk at low tide along the Pilgrim's Way, an ancient route marked in wooden sticks along the mud flats.
Today I'm following in their footsteps.
Thousands of visitors make the pilgrimage to Holy Island every year.
But what I want to know is what's it like for the people who live on the island? What does this place mean to them? And how does this tiny island cope with hordes of tourists who visit here in their droves? Me included.
As well as the route across the sands, there's this two-mile causeway that provides road access from the mainland at low tide.
Lindisfarne was once a quiet community whose main industry was fishing and farming.
But the building of the causeway in 1954 allowed visitors to come here in greater numbers than ever before.
Now this tiny community of just 160 people copes with 500,000 tourists a year.
That's no easy task, not least due to the problem some visitors have in following the tide timetables.
Ever since the causeway was built, drivers have been caught out by the rising tides.
It remains a major problem for the island's 20-year-old coastguard Ryan Douglas.
- Ryan.
- Hello there.
- Robson.
- Good afternoon.
How old are you, Ryan? Isn't it past your bedtime? - You would think so, yes.
- Shouldn't you be at school? I'm the youngest station officer-coastguard in the country.
I was just going to ask.
In Great Britain? In Great Britain, yes.
I joined the Coastguard at 16.
At 17, I was station officer.
So I'm in charge of a team of eight.
That was unheard of in the country at the time.
- Why a coastguard? - It's because I live near the sea, born and bred.
My father was a coastguard and my grandfather was a coastguard.
He retired two years ago.
Before that all my family were lifeboatmen.
So the sea is definitely in our blood.
You work every day with the causeway and see people stranded once a month.
I wanted to help these kind of people.
- Are you kept busy? - Yeah, we are quite busy.
We're out about once a week for call-outs.
We were out this morning for people in distress on the Pilgrim's Way, in water up to their necks there this morning.
- Up to their necks? - Yeah.
On the Pilgrim's Way.
- They'd made their way from the mainland - Sorry for laughing.
They were making their way from the mainland and kept walking until the water was quite high on them.
So we were called out just to make sure they were OK.
Our busiest year was 25 cars stuck - that's 25 cars wrote off, because their engines are ruined once salt water gets into them.
You rescue a lot of people that are stranded.
- Have you ever felt stranded - Er, no, I've not.
living here? - You have to work round the tides.
If you're not born here and you move here, I think it's hard.
If you're brought up here, it's OK.
I think being part of a close community is quite nice as well.
You don't often get that any more.
The visitors who do safely negotiate the crossing are greeted by this imposing building - Lindisfarne Castle, built in 1550 to protect against Scottish invaders.
In 1902, the castle was renovated into an Edwardian-style residence by architect Edward Lutyens.
Lutyens also used upturned herring boats as sheds as a reminder of Lindisfarne's fishing heritage.
One man who knows the island's seafaring tradition better than anyone is harbour master Tommy Douglas, coastguard Ryan's grandfather.
- Hey, Tommy.
How are you? - Hello, Robson.
Not bad.
Pleasure to meet you.
You were born and bred here, Tommy? Born and bred here.
Lived here all my life.
And how did the Douglas family end up on Holy Island? They're supposed to have arrived on a shipwreck from Scotland.
One that was saved, he wouldn't leave here.
He was a Douglas.
They say that's how we came here.
What's so special about this place? What is it about it that keeps you here? Freedom and just do what you want.
It's a lot quieter when the tourists leave.
- Are you glad to see the back of them, Tommy? - They never bother me.
Coming up and down the street when you want to get up and down the street, but they never bother me.
It's one of the best places you could live.
That's what I think, anyway.
On a busy summer's day like today, Holy Island receives up to 3,000 visitors.
But, very soon, it returns to being a much quieter place.
It's about six o'clock in the evening.
The tide's coming in and, as you can see, the tourists are leaving.
Soon this place will be cut off from the mainland.
But I think I'll be hanging around, get myself stranded for the night.
As the tide comes in, Lindisfarne is once again cut off from the mainland and that sense of peace and isolation that brought St Aidan here all those centuries ago returns.
Coming to this stretch of the Northumberland coastline never fails to fire my imagination.
It's like stepping back through history to a time when ancient kings ruled over the most powerful kingdom in Britain.
I'm not a religious man, but there is something definitely spiritual about this place.
Look at the light coming through the clouds.
It's like the Second Coming.
There is nowhere on earth like Holy Island.

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