Tales From Northumberland (2013) s01e08 Episode Script

Episode 8

In the northeast corner of England is a county that's played a key role in British history.
In this series, I'm discovering a whole new side to a place I'm still very proud to call home.
There ain't too many things around that leave such a big mark on the landscape.
Wilfrid's Anglo Saxon crypt.
One of Britain's great lost treasures.
I come here to see the salmon leap.
Did you see that? These are my Tales from Northumberland.
From Viking invasion and Roman occupation to the early days of English Christianity.
Some of the best clues to how Britain has evolved can be found here in Northumberland.
Today, I'm travelling across the southwest of the county, visiting three very different landmarks.
I want to find out how each one has had a profound affect on the Northumberland landscape and on British history.
My journey begins at an ancient ruin that's listed along with the Great Barrier Reef and the Grand Canyon as a designated world heritage site.
People come from all over the world to discover Northumberland's historical treasures.
And nowhere brings history more to life as vividly as Hadrian's Wall.
Almost 2,000 years ago, the Roman Emperor Hadrian ordered the construction of a wall to protect the most northern part of the empire from invading Scottish tribes.
Hadrian's Wall would stretch 73 miles from Bowness-on-Solway on the West Coast to the appropriately named Wallsend on the East.
In its day, the wall stood 15 feet tall and, in places, up to ten feet deep.
Watched over by heavily-garrisoned forts like Housesteads and Vindolanda, this was the most guarded border in the Roman Empire.
It's left Northumberland with more Roman remains than any other part of Britain.
The sheer scale of the wall is epic.
They reckon in today's terms, it would cost about £400 million to build.
But the wall wasn't just built to keep the marauding barbarians out.
No, no, this was Hadrian's way of demonstrating the might and power of the Roman Empire.
Kind of his way of saying, "Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough.
" I've been coming here since I was a child.
But there's so much I still want to know about this fascinating structure.
To answer some of my questions, I've arranged to meet a local man who's so fascinated by the wall, he's dedicated his life to teaching people about it.
I've been told I'll recognise him by his distinctive choice of headwear.
- Morning, Gary.
- How, Robson.
How's it going? Lovely day for a wander, eh? I think yep, another good day to be out the house.
Are you seriously gonna wear that? Everybody dresses like this.
My goodness.
Is it just something you threw on? You looked in the mirror and thought it worked.
The last time I watched the telly, everybody was wearing these.
Former Marine Gary Reid has lived near the wall his whole life and now leads treks along it.
And whilst he clearly hasn't watched TV in a while, what he doesn't know about Northumberland's most famous landmark isn't worth knowing.
So how was the wall constructed? Did they start at the west and end at Wallsend or did they get to a point here and a point there and then they met in the middle? We're talking roughly 15,000 men.
You ain't gonna have 15,000 men all working on one little bit of real estate here.
What you're gonna do is break the whole thing up.
Gary, this might seem a silly question, but I know there is still quite a bit of the wall left but where's the rest of it? I know erosion will have played a part in its deconstruction.
It didn't just disappear, though, did it? Well, Robson, you are absolutely right.
It was a silly question.
It did disappear, did it? Yeah, it did disappear.
It was just the early phase of people getting into recycling.
After the Norman Conquest, they started taking stones to build the likes of the castle at Newcastle and the castle over at Carlisle.
Well, I never.
The old town walls are all made of stone from the wall.
People then went, "Well, hang on a minute, I could build a farmhouse.
I could build a cottage and whatever else.
" So then you start to see it disappearing.
So it's still very much the fabric of Northumberland.
It hasn't really disappeared.
It's just moved elsewhere.
Even the dry stone walls we see going through the fields, this is stone that's come from the wall.
And your house? Dare I say, yes, I'm afraid if they decide to rebuild the wall, it would be very draughty when I'm watching telly.
Taking 15 years to complete, Hadrian's wall was a groundbreaking fete of engineering.
Among the 15,000 men who built it were hundreds of architects, carpenters, surveyors and stone masons, many of whom camped out in the Northumbrian wilderness, with no protection from the elements except their tent.
To give me a sense of what life was like for those Roman history makers, Gary has brought me to Winshields Crag, where we're going to set up camp beside the wall.
Usually Gary, I have people to do this.
I feel like I'm part of the Roman Empire here.
I feel like a slave, Gary.
Well, you see, slaves weren't used to build the wall.
- Were they not? - No, no slaves building the wall.
It was just purely the legionaries themselves that did it.
I reckon this is good.
OK, I know.
So the Romans might not have slept in tents quite like this, but any chance to sleep under the stars in Northumberland sounds good to me.
Unfortunately, Gary seems to be turning into a right modern-day Julius Caesar.
Nothing changes, does it? Look at him standing there like some Roman general.
We've got all night.
Many historians believe the Roman invasion was the most important event in British history.
They changed our language, our culture, our architecture and even the food we eat.
Speaking of which, I'm famished.
Luckily Gary has invited along local chef, John Crouch, to show me what those Roman builders had for their dinner.
- Evening, John.
How are you? - Evening, Robson.
I have to say, strangest looking restaurant I've ever seen in Northumberland.
But you couldn't get a better spot.
One of the things the Romans did do for us, apart from the roads, was bring us good food.
- Did they kind of revolutionise our diet? - They did.
We have some of the foods here.
But not the good varieties that they had.
- What's on the menu tonight? - This is going to be a soup.
It's going to be basic soup with your barley.
Romans did like barley.
Gladiators were known as barley men.
Cabbage, they loved their cabbage.
They thought it was a wonder food.
Some beets.
No orange carrots.
They never came in until the 13th century.
- Carrots were white.
- Wow.
Everything that I usually cook Roman is either green, brown or sludge-coloured.
We need to put in some leek.
This soup would have been cooked on a portable stove much like this one.
Now let's get onto the more exotics, lentils.
- The Romans brought us lentils? - Yes.
Imported lentils.
It adds a bit of colour and a bit of protein.
Having conquered places as far flung as Africa and the Middle East, the Romans brought to Britain a whole range of new tastes and flavours including many herbs and spices we'd never used before.
I will put in some aniseed, some fennel.
That's really gonna give it a certain je ne sais quoi.
Just a little bit of olive oil.
Again, they brought olive oil.
Otherwise it was lard.
- Is that enough? - That's it.
And we'll put in some salt.
We just let it cook until the peas and the lentils go soft.
And that is our Roman soup.
You could tell the rank of a Roman soldier by the food they ate.
While generals would be feasting on venison and rabbit, the lower ranks would make do with what I'm being served up - a pot of green slop.
Well, I can't put this off any longer.
Wish me luck.
That is bloody lovely, John.
- Bloody lovely.
- It is.
Tell you what.
You can build a wall after eating this.
For the Romans, a soup like this would have been a vital source of vitamins after a hard day's graft.
I just hope it goes down well with Emperor Gary.
What did you think? John helped a bit.
He got a few leaves.
- But this is my own secret recipe.
- Mm.
Are they nail clippings? - It's quite nice, isn't it? - It's quite nice, aye.
For a change, it's not out of a tin.
So tell me, what do you think Hadrian's Wall has given Northumberland? There ain't too many things around that leave such a big mark on the landscape as this does.
For me, every time I come along it, I can take myself back and imagine what it would be like in those times.
Stop me if I'm telling too many stories here.
You're gonna sleep well tonight, I tell you.
It was light when we started, now it's getting dark.
But do you know what? I love you more for it.
OK, I will tell you just this little bit more.
There was one time The age-old landmarks which can be found all over Northumberland offer a vital insight into British history.
But it's not just historic monuments that tell us about our past.
The region's landscape has also been transformed in more recent times to service the needs of our changing lives.
Situated on the border with Scotland is Kielder Water and Forest Park.
Recently voted the most tranquil spot in England, it's home to 250 square miles of forest and a lake with enough water to give everyone on the planet a bath a pretty cold bath, mind you.
But all is not what it seems.
This landscape is almost entirely man-made and until recently didn't even exist.
And for the residents of one local village, it came at a cost.
The construction of Kielder Water was an ambitious and expensive project, transforming a sleepy backwater of the Tyne Valley into the largest man-made reservoir in Northern Europe.
Kielder Water was built in the '70s to safeguard the Northeast water supply for the next 100 years.
So far so good.
But it wasn't without controversy.
As the bulldozers and underground drills moved in to transform the landscape, 100 men, women and children had to be moved from their homes, most from the village of Plashet, a community which due to this enormous reservoir has been wiped off the map.
Plashet was once a thriving village.
And what's left of it resides right underneath where we're sailing now.
In the early 1900s, Plashet was a mining village.
But as the local coal industry declined, it became an increasingly remote and isolated community.
By the 1950s, this valley was home to just a few hundred people, among them, Tom Grimwood.
Oh, it was a lovely place to live.
My favourite memories was probably playing as kids in the valley and riding your bikes for miles and miles.
I think in the summer holidays, you played out all the time and came home for your meals and that was about it.
Nice close-knit community.
People looked out for one another.
If somebody needed something, there was always somebody there to help.
It still gets mentioned, Plashet.
People start asking questions about where the people have gone and what's happened to the communities.
We had some cracking times when we were young 'uns.
Remnants of this lost village are dotted around the valley.
If you look carefully, you can still see the foundations of once-loved homes.
The old railway viaduct, once a vital lifeline to this rural community, is now just a footpath.
It's like the land that time forgot.
You can still see where the tracks used to run that would take the wagons full of coal from the colliery to the old railway station.
Now, that old railway station lies underneath the water.
Life in this once proud mining valley would never be the same.
But for a younger generation, the building of the reservoir meant a new era and, more importantly, much-needed jobs.
Jonty Hall has had a major role to play in Kielder's history.
He's lived in the area all his life and works for Northumbrian Water in charge of the day-to-day running of the reservoir.
He's got a special reason to remember the day everything changed around here.
In 1979, Jonty was chosen to press the button which would flood the valley.
Which schoolboy in his right mind would say no to that offer? So, on 11th December, 1979, this was where it all happened, was it? This was where it happened, yes.
I was nine years old at the time.
I was chosen as I was the oldest kid at Kielder school at the time.
So this is the actual button you pressed? Yep, this is the actual button on the day, yes.
Take me through it.
Paint that picture for me.
Just came in and then That was it.
That started all that water.
It took two years for Kielder reservoir to fill.
Job well done, Jonty me lad.
Are you proud of what you've been part of and created? I am.
Because I've seen so many changes.
For my dad, this is quite unnatural for him because he remembers how it was.
I can't.
For my daughter, she knows nothing else than this.
To her, this is natural.
I think Kielder Water was worth the sacrifice.
It's brought a lot of jobs into the valley and a lot of prosperity.
Today, this reservoir can provide four out of five homes in the Northeast with water.
It's also home to rare wildlife, like ospreys, otters and half of England's red squirrel population.
See, it isn't just the Romans who've built a few things to remember in these parts.
The region's rivers and waterways have played a vital role in shaping the history of Northumberland.
None more so than the mighty River Tyne.
From its source at Kielder, the North Tyne flows south through miles of forest and moorland before joining the South Tyne at the market town of Hexham.
It's the final leg of my Northumberland journey and fittingly it's a journey that takes me home.
So we're just passing through Hexham, the place where I was born.
I wasn't born Robson Green, I was born Gary Green.
That's the name my mam wanted.
But my dad wasn't at the birth.
Two days later, he comes in from t' back shift at the pit and says, "You've called him what? Gary? Over my dead body! We're calling him Robson, after me.
" For two days, I was Gary Green.
I like Robson.
It has a ring to it.
I've spent much of the last few decades living in other parts of the country, but there's something about this part of the world that keeps drawing me back.
So much so, I've recently moved back to Northumberland.
If you've been watching this series, you've probably worked out why.
For me, there is nowhere else in Britain quite like it.
You know, Northumberland, like the River Tyne itself, it runs through my veins.
Some people walk the Northumbrian coastline to clear their minds.
Others hike the Cheviot Hills.
I come here and it's to see the salmon leap.
Did you see that? Wow! From its place of birth, the salmon will migrate hundreds or thousands of miles into the ocean, and then after an epic journey, will detect its home water and then come back to the very spot it was born.
I kind of know how it feels.
A bit like me, really.
Hexham is home to 11,000 people.
But it was monks who were the first to settle here in the 7th century.
Soon their prosperity attracted a lay community who built the town around their religious neighbours.
Even today, the marketplace and winding streets all stand in the shadow of its famous abbey.
Northumberland has had a turbulent past and this place has seen it all.
Built from Roman ruins, destroyed by the Vikings, ransacked by the Scots.
But thankfully, Hexham Abbey is still around to tell the tale.
Most of the abbey that can be seen today was built in Norman times.
The original abbey was the vision of Anglo-Saxon monk, St Wilfrid.
In the 7th century, he persuaded Queen Etheldreda of Northumbria to grant him this land to create a magnificent church and monastery.
Building it was a huge undertaking, so it was lucky those clever Romans had left plenty of bricks behind just up the road at Hadrian's Wall.
Reverend Phil Mellor Smith is the abbey's assistant curate.
You go back all those years and people would just not have had any idea that something like this could exist.
How could humans build such a big giant building with big stones? Coming in for the first time, I'm sure their breath would be taken away and they would experience often a mystical religious experience of the grandeur and size of God.
It was probably the intention of Wilfrid and those who helped him build this church to communicate something of God and the spiritual life.
In 875 AD, Wilfrid's masterpiece suffered the same fate as many Christian buildings in Northumbria - destroyed in a Viking raid.
A vital piece of history was seemingly lost forever.
But in the 18th century, when workers were renovating the foundations beneath the abbey, they came across this - Wilfrid's original Anglo-Saxon crypt.
One of Britain's great lost treasures.
The crypt was one of the earliest places of Christian worship in England, built to showcase religious relics St Wilfrid brought back from Rome to inspire faith in the people of Northumbria.
It's amazing.
It really is an extraordinary place.
For some reason, it makes you whisper.
I don't know why.
Pilgrims would come from far and wide to pray at this sacred place.
It really is extraordinary.
It's amazing to think that every one of these stones came from a Roman fort or Hadrian's Wall.
If you look close enough, you can see the Latin inscriptions on the stonework here.
So, kind of Northumbrian history hasn't disappeared.
It's just evolved, it's been recycled and just come in a different form.
Looking to our past helps us discover who we are.
There are signs of our ancestors, their lives and ambitions all around us.
As I've learned on my travels through this region, Northumberland has so many tales to tell.
Tales of castles historic battles.
Tales of fishermen its lords and ladies and those helping to preserve its rare wildlife.
This series has been a journey into parts of Northumberland I barely knew existed.
I've met some incredible people and experienced things I honestly will never forget.
Wow! Look at that sight! Northumberland still remains intriguing, fascinating always wondrous and magical.
You are beautiful, you really are.
But my own personal journey through Northumberland doesn't end here.
I know I'll be exploring this magical land for the rest of my life.

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