Tales From Northumberland (2013) s01e04 Episode Script

Episode 4

Northumberland is a land of contrasts.
A place of outstanding natural beauty, its moorland and coastline are a haven for wildlife.
But it's also a landscape shaped by Roman occupation, Viking raids and violent battles with the Scots.
I'm Robson Green and in this series, I'm on a journey to discover how my home county shaped the Britain we know today.
You're standing where history happened.
That is one bonnie-looking lass.
500 charging horses.
How dramatic is that! It's one of the biggest days of my life.
These are my tales from Northumberland.
Northumberland is known as the Border county.
Today, I'm heading to the most northern part of the region, to look into the unique identity of the people who live close to the border between England and Scotland.
It's a journey that will take me back to a time when the region was a place of conflict and war and where people lived in constant fear.
This landscape has more battle sites and castles than any other part of England.
Everywhere you go, there are reminders of a turbulent past.
My journey starts by train, en-route to a Northumberland town whose entire history has been defined by its location on the border between England and Scotland - Berwick-upon-Tweed.
There really are some wonderful journeys across Northumberland, but the train ride up to the Scots border is hard to beat.
We've got the Cheviot Hills over there, and we've got Bamburgh Castle, and Holy Island in the distance.
And if you want the best view of Berwick-upon-Tweed, this really is the only way to travel.
And it's all thanks to a wonderful piece of Northumbrian engineering.
In the 19th century, Northumbrian inventors Robert Stephenson and his dad George were pioneers of the railways, kick-starting the Industrial Revolution and the building of hundreds of bridges and viaducts.
Among them, Robert Stephenson's masterpiece, The Royal Border Bridge.
Opened in 1850, its 28 arches completed the first direct rail link between London and Edinburgh.
Will you look at that? "Welcome to Berwick, Robson.
" Home to 12,000 people, Berwick is an architectural gem.
Within its Elizabethan walls are 250 listed buildings.
Perhaps that's what made it a favourite holiday destination of LS Lowry.
His paintings of Berwick in the '30s and '40s shed a new light on his work.
Coastal landscapes like this are a world away from his famous paintings of industrial Lancashire.
Lowry obviously loved this place.
I guess it was his escape from busy, noisy city life.
His paintings give us a sense of how little Berwick has changed over the past 80 years.
But Berwick wasn't always such a peaceful town.
The battles between the English and the Scots in the Middle Ages saw it change allegiance 13 times.
Many locals will still tell you this Northumberland town is more Scottish than it is English.
Berwick has its very own Scottish pipe band its very own Scottish post code So the question has be asked: Do the people of Berwick really want to be part of England? - How's it going? All right? Lovely day.
- Lovely day.
Nothing sums up Berwick's dual identity more than its football team.
Berwick Rangers are the only team in England playing in the Scottish League.
So, I put on my boots and joined a training session to find out more about the team they call The Borderers.
They won't know what's hit them.
I could have played for Newcastle, you know.
Howay the lads.
Oh, what are you saving it for, man! Oh! Come on! Yes! Yes! Yes! Come on, who is going to kiss me? I mean, come on So, do Berwickers feel English or Scottish? In 2008, 80% said, if given the choice, they would prefer to switch allegiance north of the border.
Vice Chairman John Bell was born and bred in the town.
Berwick, English club in a Scottish League.
Do you think Berwick would or has the desire to be part of Scotland? I think there are individuals within Berwick that would love to see that.
I would describe the town as being made up of three components.
People that are passionately English and will always affiliate themselves with the south side of the border.
Those who are passionately Scottish and, yes, a move for them would be desirable.
Then you've got the other third, which I would say are Berwickers and most strongly identify with the town of Berwick regardless of where it happens to be.
And, yes, there's various arguments of we might be better off in Scotland.
But that's the here and now.
We've been English now for more than 500 years and probably will continue to be so.
As the story of Berwick Rangers proves, today, communities on both sides of the border can live and work together side by side.
But the next stop on my journey takes me back to a very different time.
On September 9th, 1513, a battle took place on these fields in Northumberland that changed the course of British history.
England, under the rule of Henry VIII was at war with France.
The Scots were French allies, so its king, James IV sent his army across the River Tweed to mount Scotland's biggest ever invasion of England.
The two sides came face to face on Flodden Field just outside the village of Branxton.
Over the course of two and a half hours, almost 14,000 men lost their lives.
Among them, the Scottish King, James IV.
The last British monarch to die in battle.
And it's said that every titled family in Scotland lost at least one man at Flodden.
The Scots were in turmoil and the crowns of England and Scotland were united 90 years later by James VI, forming a link between the two countries that remains to this day.
For all its historical significance, Flodden is known as the forgotten battle.
But as its 500th anniversary approaches, the local community are working hard to preserve its memory.
Among them, historian Clive Hallam-Baker.
Have you always been fascinated by Flodden? Have you lived here all your life? No, I moved here 30 years ago, and then ten years ago, we thought something needed to be done.
People would stop us on the road whilst we were walking the dogs and say, "Where's Flodden Field?" And we'd say, "Well, actually, you're on it.
" Now, we have a battlefield trail.
We've got a group, a small charity in the village that's called Remembering Flodden, which is doing its bit to promote the history and heritage of this part of the Borderlands.
So just paint a picture for me here.
The Scots were here at this point, flanking along here? Yes.
About a mile and a quarter along here, in three divisions.
- And the English are on - On the ridge in front of us there.
Just the other side of that valley.
That low ridge.
And were the English outnumbered? Yes.
About 28,000 to 22,000.
How did the English win? The valley at the bottom was knee-deep in mud.
But from here, there was no indication of that.
As the Scots tramped across it, it turned into quicksand.
- So the Scots got stuck? - The Scots were stuck.
So, was the marshy, boggy conditions their undoing? Absolutely.
You're standing where history happened.
To give an idea of how bloody a battle this was, Clive's created replicas of the weapons used that day.
This is where they came to grief, because this was boggy ground.
- And they were holding these? - Marching with these.
As you got here, you're struggling to keep your footing and then you find yourself, you're knee-deep in mud, so you slow down.
But the ranks behind you are pushing on.
You drop the pike.
You trip up over it.
So many would be suffocated in the mud.
And behind us here is the Howard Ridge.
And 500 years ago, that was topped by a lot of very angry-looking Englishmen armed - Oh, dear.
with the bill hook.
Then you've got stabbing.
You've got armour piercing.
Oh, dear.
And you've got hamstringing or up and under.
Ooh! I tell you what, Clive, if anybody hurtled towards me with that thing, I'd be off.
I don't care about the consequences.
A good runner beats a good fighter.
And an ego heals much quicker than a bill hook up your jacksy.
It's not just Clive who's keeping the memory of Flodden alive.
Every year, on the anniversary of the battle, hundreds of residents of the Scottish town of Coldstream ride across the border to Flodden Field.
Known as the Flodden Ride Out, it follows the local practice of marking border history through Common Ridings - a tradition that dates back to the 13th century.
Each year, one young Coldstreamer is chosen to lead the ride.
For a Borderer, it's like captaining your local team in the FA Cup Final.
Which means it's going to be a nerve-wracking day for 21-year-old student Grant Campbell.
- Grant, how are you? - Robson, how are you getting on? I joined Grant in his final preparations for the big day.
- So, you are the main man? - I am the Coldstreamer.
- So it's something you've always wanted to do? - Always.
Always been my dream.
I asked one of my mates at school what we wanted to be when we were older - one of my mates wanted to be a journalist, and I always said I wanted to be a Coldstreamer.
I'm not entirely at home in the saddle, but I'll try anything once.
Walk on.
Walk on.
That's it.
Walk on.
Walk on.
How do you put this thing in first gear? Come here.
Come here.
Where's he going? I love it! He's just coming over for something to eat.
He's having his five-a-day.
Having attended the Ride Out from an early age, Grant was handed the prestigious role of principal rider by a committee of past Coldstreamers.
- How are preparations going? - They're going fine.
Any hiccups, Grant? You can be honest with me, come on.
Well, I might have came off on Saturday, but apart from that, it's been going grand.
- Are you nervous about it? - No, I'm OK at the minute.
I'm not too bad.
But once the flags come up and the crowds start appearing That's going to be some sight, eh? Aye.
500 riders, maybe.
That's what they are aiming for.
Why do you think it's important that everyone remembers the Battle of Flodden? Well, I think it was one of the biggest battles in Britain.
If we don't ride to Flodden and commemorate that then it will be lost lost in history and never known.
I get the feeling the Flodden Ride Out is going to be a day Grant will remember forever.
In the Middle Ages, the area of Northumberland along the Scottish border was a dangerous, lawless land.
Britain's answer to the Wild West.
It was the age of the Border Reivers, groups of robbers who terrorised the local community, stealing cattle and burning down houses.
The fact it was the Reivers who introduced words like bereaved and blackmail into the English language tells you all you need to know.
The hundreds of fortified buildings that survive on the landscape are reminders of these troubled times.
Farmers protected their families and livestock in fortified farm buildings called bastles, taken from the French word for fortress - "bastille".
Once upon a time, there were hundreds of bastles like these dotted all the way along the Scots border.
Obviously, most of them now are ruins but, to me, this one looks in good condition.
That hasn't been opened in a while.
How the bastle worked was the cattle lived in the lower section and the family lived up above.
And just to give you an idea of how fortified these places were, look at this wall.
That is about a metre and a half thick.
It's kind of eerie, isn't it? Yeah.
Must have been a pretty scary place to live.
But these primitive barns were nothing compared to the grand fortresses which protected the landed gentry.
There are believed to be 800 medieval castles in Britain.
Northumberland is home to 70 of them.
Some are ruins others are every bit as imposing now as they were in their prime.
Few are as packed to the brim with medieval history as the Grade 1 listed Chillingham Castle, owned by Sir Humphry Wakefield.
Chillingham Castle was built to keep the Scots out of England.
Have a base from which to assault the Scots and keep them in their place.
Everywhere you go, there are signs of battles over the years.
We're looking at the shot marks of bullets which allegedly executed people.
Maybe the ones you see are the ones that missed.
And every now and then, you can dig out these great lead musket balls from ancient days.
It's been constantly in border strife and on the tower there, you see the constant rebuilding from slightly different coloured stones, because that side was absolutely wrecked by cannon fire.
Originally built as a 12th century monastery, Chillingham was used as the base for Edward I's defeat of the Scottish Army led by William Wallace in 1298.
Despite its illustrious past, the castle was abandoned in the 1930s, deemed too expensive to maintain.
Over the next 50 years, this once-magnificent fortress became a dilapidated ruin, until the 1980s when Chillingham found a new knight in shining armour in the form of this English baronet.
She was a sleeping beauty.
Mighty damaged.
And I've cleared away the weeds, and now she's a living beauty and I simply love her.
Sir Humphry has filled the castle with antiques he's collected from all over the world.
He's also restored some of the castle's most historic features including the chilling torture chamber.
In the Middle Ages, many Scots met a terrible end here at the hands of Chillingham's brutal torture master, John Sage, who is said to haunt the castle to this day.
This is a rack, and if people were condemned to the rack, which was all too often, they were pulled apart until they told their secrets.
This chair has got these terrifying spikes on the seat, and if you were sat on it, with your arms manacled there, you would hold yourself above the spikes for just so long.
But as your strength wore out, you gave up and then you were spiked through to your veins.
You would have bled to death.
And this is literally an execution block.
And you knelt down on this kneeler here and you put your head on the block like that, and you can see where people's hands have been rather desperate.
And I think you stretched out your fingers when you were ready to be chopped.
It's enough to give you nightmares! Today, the restoration of Chillingham continues.
A once war-torn castle now given a new lease of life as the Wakefield family home.
But still a reminder of the darkest days in history between England and Scotland.
I love every single aspect of this place.
I feel hugely proud to be part of the jigsaw puzzle of Chillingham Castle.
Coldstream, Scotland, 8th August.
The day of the Flodden Ride Out.
500 men, women and children on horseback are about to set off on the 26-mile ride over the border into England, before charging to the top of the hill on Flodden Field to mark 500 years since a battle took place that changed history.
It's a day principal rider Grant Campbell has been dreaming of since he was a boy.
The big day's finally arrived.
Well, er I'm starting to get nervous.
I just can't wait to get to Branxton Hill and gallop up that hill.
It's an equally proud day for Mum and Dad.
I knew how much my son wanted to do this.
For him to have the opportunity is phenomenal.
- Mind and hold on.
- I will.
I will.
- Don't you worry.
- Love you.
And I'll stand at the top of the hill and I'll cry.
Right, son.
I will see you on the hill.
I'm just bursting with pride.
To see him come up that hill with the flag.
I've watched other people do it for all my life.
- Hip, hip.
- Hooray! To see my son get his turn is just going to be fantastic.
But the Ride Out isn't just about honouring the dead.
Today, it's an event where English and Scots, young and old, come together to commemorate Border history.
Back on the Northumberland side of the border at Branxton Hill, I've joined the thousands who have turned out to witness the biggest Ride Out ever seen.
How dramatic is that! 500 charging horses to commemorate 500 years since the Battle of Flodden.
A battle, after today, that will never be forgotten.
After all the years of hard work and training, it's Grant's big moment leading the charge up Branxton Hill.
- Oh, God - She's had a very stressful morning.
You got a "Hi, Mum" as he went past.
Oh I tell you what.
Of all the sights I've seen on this Northumbrian journey, that is up there with the best of them.
- Congratulations.
- Thank you very much.
Is this going to be one of those days when you wake up tomorrow and go, - "Did that really happen?" - You nailed it in one.
To be honest with you, Robson, I don't know if I've taken it in.
I'm not grasping what I've just done.
It's all right, mate.
It's all right.
It's who you are.
Now it's sunk in.
- How are you going to top that, matey? - I don't think I can.
It's one of the biggest days of my life.
I started my journey into this most northern part of Northumberland by thinking the people who lived along this famous border must have a confused sense of identity.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
One morning in August, they left their homes to go to war.
Men, some not much more than boys, from all kinds of backgrounds.
Few would return.
Our ballads and our verses tell the stories of those years passed on through the generations, so we never forget.
?? The Last Post People round here don't consider themselves English or Scottish.
Most of them consider themselves as Borderers.
I think it's a very special place.
I feel privileged to have become a Borderer.
Rarely have I come across a community that has such a strong sense of identity.
A sense of who they are and where they've come from.
And who have a passion to preserve their past.

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