Tales From Northumberland (2013) s01e07 Episode Script

Episode 7

This is a land full of castles and ruins, offering a window into our ancient past.
In my humble opinion, all that is great about Britain can be found right here in Northumberland.
But I guess I would say that - I was born here and it's somewhere I'm still very proud to call home.
Never in my career did I think I'd be doing something like this.
It's all right, isn't it? Will you look at that! Keeping the spirit of Northumberland alive.
These are my tales from Northumberland.
From its coastline to its castles, Northumberland is a county with a rich history.
Even the distinctive taste and smells of the region speak of times past in this corner of England.
From the gardens of its country houses to the salmon and lobster brought in from the North Sea by generations of fishermen.
Today I'm working up an appetite by hiking along the stretch of the coast from Howick to Low Newton-by-the-Sea, via Craster, to visit the Lords, ladies, pub owners and fishermen who are keeping Northumberland's culinary heritage alive.
My journey starts at the home of an aristocratic family who've left an indelible mark on British history.
A sprawling 2,500-acre estate that stretches from the sea for three miles inland, Howick has been the ancestral seat of the Grey family since the 1530s.
Howick's most famous resident was the former Prime Minister, the second Earl Grey.
In the mid-1800s, Grey was responsible for some of the biggest changes in our society.
Abolishing slavery in the British Empire and passing key parliamentary reforms that allowed more people than ever to vote.
This is a man who played a pivotal role in our modern democracy.
But he's probably best known to most for a cup of tea that is quintessentially English.
And I don't know about you, but I'm parched.
I fancy a brew.
To find out more about Howick's history, I've come to meet its current custodians, Earl Grey's great-great-great-grandson, Lord Howick and his wife, Lady Howick.
Well, hello, Lord and Lady Howick.
- Robson Green.
- Nice to meet you.
- Nice to meet you.
May I call you Clare? - You may.
- And Charles? - Charlie.
- Charlie.
- Charlie.
- Sorry.
- That's all right.
Shall we have a cup of tea before we go for a wander? - Let's go and do that.
- Smashing.
In 2004, Charles and Clare turned Howick's 200-year-old ballroom into the Earl Grey tea rooms, serving one of the most famous brews in the world under the watchful gaze of the great Earl himself.
I must admit I never knew that my favourite brew was invented here.
- Did you not? - I didn't.
I didn't know Earl Grey tea came from Northumberland.
- How did that come about? - It was all to do with the second Earl Grey.
His political life down in London and entertaining tea parties.
And he bumped into, I don't know how, some Chinese ambassador or whatever and got him to blend a tea that suited the water here, which comes straight out of limestone.
So there's a very strong lime flavour in it.
And he blended this tea in order to mitigate the effects of the lime, and that's what created Earl Grey tea.
- Goodness gracious.
- It was so popular with Lady Grey's friends that the grocer who was making it up asked if they could sell it to other people, and they said yes.
So one thing led to another and then just spread.
- Did they patent the idea? - Certainly not.
- They didn't? - No.
Oh, my goodness.
Are you kidding me? - No.
Not one penny.
- Not one penny for Earl Grey tea.
Really, really sad.
Earl Grey tea is now drunk across the planet.
But that isn't the only lasting legacy of Howick's unique coastal gardens, which were created in the 1930s by the Fifth Earl Grey.
Unlike the traditional manicured country gardens of the time, the Fifth Earl went for a more informal woodland-style garden that in its day was revolutionary.
It's a legacy that Charles and Clare have nurtured over the past 30 years with the creation of this vast arboretum.
It's the largest private collection of wild trees in Britain.
I have to ask.
Why create something like this? Why not have a lovely little cosy greenhouse, plant a few shrubs and just enjoy that? - Cos it's fun.
- It's fun? Absolutely.
I've been I spent 21 years or something, every September, October, in different parts of the world.
- Different parts of the world doing what? - Collecting seed.
The whole thing has been It's wild collected, and very often I can remember exactly where they came from.
At the moment, we are walking this particular bit is mainly in China.
We've got about 1800 different species and about 12,000 actual plants.
It might seem strange to see plants and trees from far away places like the Himalayas and the Andes growing here in Northumberland.
But it's all thanks to the sheltered micro climate of this stretch of coast that they can thrive.
How do you tend to a place like this? - Not just you.
I'm sure others are involved.
- I do it all by myself.
- I know you do.
No, you don't.
- No.
- You're making that up.
- I am.
While Howick's vast estate allows Charles to develop his tree collection, Clare is kept busy with her garden, which she opens to the public for special events.
How do you feel about strangers trespassing on your your baby? - I rather like it as long as they're appreciative.
- Yeah? The other day I was gardening away in here and a couple came up to me and they said, "I hope you realise how lucky you are.
" So I sort of did this a bit and before I could say, "Yes, aren't I lucky! It's such a lovely garden," she said, "To work in a place like this, I hope you realise how lucky.
" So I said, "Yes, I do.
" I thought, "I'm not going down that road, explaining anything more.
" It's been fascinating to see how Clare and Charles are adding a brand-new chapter to Howick's story.
But before I leave there's one more thing I had to see for myself.
It's strange to think that this Northumbrian babbling brook was the inspiration for the great British cup of Earl Grey tea.
Yeah, you must be joking.
Well, after my morning cuppa, I'm ready for a bite to eat.
Just two miles along the coast from Howick is the fishing village of Craster.
For the past 150 years its been synonymous with one of Northumberland's most famous delicacies - the kipper.
Kippers are produced from herring, which has been fished in the North Sea since Anglo-Saxon times.
By the late-1800s, the community of Craster depended upon it.
Much of the herring caught locally would be smoked in large buildings called Smoke Houses to produce the now-legendary Craster kippers.
Now what you get from television cameras are lovely visuals and wonderful sounds.
But what you don't get are the smells.
There's a certain hint of a certain something in the air and it's a smell that I adore, and it's coming from this place - Robson's smokehouse.
It has quality written all over it.
There were once four smokehouses in Craster, but after the Second World War, the herring industry declined as stocks dwindled.
Robson's smokehouse is now the only one left in the village.
Neil Robson is the fourth generation of his family to smoke kippers.
Neil Robson, I'm Robson.
- Hiya, Robson.
- How are you? - Very well.
- Love the surname.
More than a million Craster kippers are produced here every year and can be found on the menu in restaurants all over Britain.
I've tasted kippers.
I've tasted them in Ullapool, in the Isle of Man, all round the world.
Why are Northumbrian kippers the best? What's the secret recipe? Go on.
Can you tell me? Craster kippers.
If I was to tell you, I would have to smoke you afterwards.
No, I think the secret is like everything else, you've got to have the right raw material.
You've got to have the right type of herring with the right oil content and then you've got to lovingly smoke them afterwards.
You've got to have a bit of care and attention into it.
It has got that That's absolutely beautiful.
There is no smell like that.
Really, really unique.
So how do you turn the humble herring into a tasty kipper? To learn first hand, I'm helping Neil and his team with today's delivery.
Once, local fishwives would split 2,000 fish a day by hand.
Now it's done by machine.
Next, it's the messy part - gutting.
I'm starting to smell like a kipper.
I am.
Finally, it's placed on tenterhooks and hung in the 150-year-old smokehouse.
- So this is your office is it, Neil? - Dear me! It just caught me there.
It's like being on the set of Alien, isn't it? I feel like I'm in some surreal kipper Ridley Scott movie.
Dear me.
This stuff on the wall, is this the residue from the smoke? That's just the tar out of the smoke out of fires and also a bit of the oil that's condensed into it.
- Does that add to the flavour? - Oh, it all helps, yes.
Next, it's time to add the special ingredient of the smoking process - One more? - A bit more.
oak sawdust.
Strange to think, isn't it that this gives the herring its unique flavour? This is the stuff that turns it into a kipper.
What do you know? Never in my career did I think I'd get the chance to create the perfect kipper.
Oh, you can smell it already.
I'm not sure I could do this every day of my life.
Just getting a bit warm.
The herring is smoked for up to 16 hours, producing a kipper with a distinctive flavour that can only be found in Northumberland.
Craster is no longer a community that revolves around the fishing industry, but Robson's smokehouse is keeping a vital part of Northumberland's coastal heritage alive.
That is perfection personified.
There is no taste like it anywhere in the world.
And I've been to a lot of places and eaten a lot of kippers.
But nothing compares to the Craster kipper.
The coastline from Howick to Low Newton-by-the-Sea is an area steeped in culinary tradition and home to some of Northumberland's distinctive tastes and smells.
But, this being Northumberland, you're also never more than a stone's throw from a castle.
As I make the one-mile walk along the headland from Craster, I reach Dunstanburgh Castle.
When it was built in the 14th century, it was the largest castle in Northern England and surrounded by a vast moat.
They say the guy who built it, the Earl of Lancaster, did so because basically he wanted to show off.
He was displaying his wealth, and his might, and historians believe that he was trying to recreate the legend of King Arthur by building his very own Camelot.
I tell you, the things people do for attention.
In the 15th century, Dunstanburgh became a Lancastrian stronghold and after being badly damaged in the War of the Roses, it fell into decay.
Its ruinous grandeur has since made it a source of inspiration to many great poets and painters like William Turner.
The walk from Dunstanburgh along Embleton Bay brings me to my final destination today - Low Newton-by-the-Sea.
This was once a thriving fishing community, but these days it's a very different place, with its shops and pubs depending on visits from walkers and holiday-makers.
Nowhere illustrates the changing face of the Northumberland fishing village like its pubs.
The village local was once the beating heart of every seaside community.
But with coastal properties increasingly used as second homes, hundreds of pubs have been forced to close.
But the Ship Inn is bucking the trend.
Ironically, it's two Southern incomers who are keeping this most Northumbrian of pubs thriving.
Mother and daughter, Christine and Hannah Forsyth, originally from Hertfordshire, took over running of the Ship in 1999 when Christine's husband sadly died.
I was obviously sad, but also needing to go on with my life.
I felt very strongly that my husband wasn't there but I needed to continue with my life.
Come on, come on, come on! So I was looking around for things to do and I just saw the ad for this pub and came up and had a look at it and that was it.
It was a crazy decision.
In many ways it was absolutely crazy.
I'd never run a pub before.
I phoned up Hannah on the way home and said, "I'm buying this pub.
" She was just finishing university and I said, "Do you fancy coming for a year?" And 14 years later, here I am, still.
Time has been called on 26 pubs in England every week, with sparsely-populated regions like Northumberland the worst hit.
So Christine and Hannah faced an uphill task.
The Ship Inn had been a real fisherman's pub in the past and when we arrived it was very much changing because all the local fishermen had actually died off.
The first year, Hannah and I worked I think we probably worked 18-hour days.
We were doing everything, so just the daily running of the pub - Hannah was the cellar queen.
we were up early doing the cellar.
People would come in and say, "Who's your cellarman?" I'd say, "You're looking at her.
" After my long hike along the coast, I was ready for a break and I was keen to find out about the role this mother and daughter team had played in reviving this coastal community.
- Well, good evening.
- Hello.
- Hello.
- Hello.
- Hi.
I'm Christine.
- Nice to meet you.
- Very nice to meet you too.
- Hannah, I presume.
Very nice to meet you.
Christine and Hannah's business plan was to keep things local - You have a supermarket on your doorstep.
- That's it.
serving traditional Northumbrian seafood from sea trout and wild salmon to crab and lobster.
- That's the best way to get your produce.
- It is.
- Fresh.
- Look at that.
Christine and Hannah serve 40 lobsters a week.
- How are we doing them? - Extraordinarily simply.
Yes? - We split them - Lovely.
Yes? and then we grill them, butter and lemon juice and a bit of parsley.
Bob's your uncle.
What do you think? - It is, isn't it? - It's all right, isn't it? Like a growing number of rural pubs, the Ship brews its own beer on site.
- Right down to the bottom.
- Down to the bottom.
A nice, slow pull all the way, all the way, all the way.
- That's not bad.
- No, it's a Sorry.
You would actually you would not serve that.
You just can't get the staff these days.
- That's a bit better.
- Yeah.
- All the way.
- There you go, sir.
Marvellous choice.
Don't give up the day job, Robson.
So what do you think the role of a pub has in a community like this? I think it is a very important part of the community, in the sort of coastal little village where it is all second homes and holiday lets.
If you don't have some kind of central point, it's very easy for people not to talk to each other and not to see each other.
And were the locals wary of you at the start, do you think? Yeah, I think so.
I think there was a bit of a thought that this I think they were doubtful of us.
I don't know they were wary, but I think there was a bit of this, you know, rich widow, bought the pub, never stick it.
Never stick the winters.
Then people respected us, because they saw how incredibly hard we worked.
We absolutely worked our socks off.
I think what you've done is very brave and impressive.
- I think this place is better for it.
- Slightly crazy as well.
But what do the locals think? There's only three left in the village, including Earldene, who's lived next door to the pub for 40 years.
She's also a bit of a Robson and Jerome fan.
Yes, there's still a few left, you know.
- Did you buy my record? - Yes, I did.
- I just bought the one with - Thank you very much.
the one song on.
- Just the one song? There was many more.
- Yeah, but they weren't that good.
- Thanks very much.
Have you met my agent? Obviously, like the area and the community, has the pub changed as well? Tremendous.
It's never been as busy until Christine and Hannah took it over.
It took some nerve to come and do that, but they've done it.
- Good on them for doing it.
- Excellent.
- It's lovely to meet you.
- Thank you so much.
- It's really nice.
I've really enjoyed it.
- Excellent.
I'll never sleep tonight.
You can clap now, I'm finished.
Now, live music's always had an important role to play in the traditional Northumberland pub.
So I thought it was time to make a bit of a comeback.
If there is one thing we love in the Northeast, it's a pub sing-along.
Good evening, Low Newton.
It's good to be back.
Firstly, a big round of applause for Christine and Hannah, for their hospitality.
What a place they have here.
And keeping the spirit of Northumberland alive.
For one night only, we are Robson and the Northumbrians.
I thought I'd treat them to a classic from one of the Northeast's finest - The Animals.
My culinary journey along this stretch of the Northumberland coast is coming to an end.
Like coastlines all over Britain, it's had to adapt and evolve with the times.
The days when its pubs and villages were filled with local fishermen are clearly long gone.
But the distinctive tastes of this hidden corner of Northumberland continue to give it a unique place in British history.
It's got number one written all over it, Jim.
Take it from me, I know.

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