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Robson Green explores the rich history and culture of his home county as he travels by land, sea and air, discovering the role Northumberland has played in shaping modern Britain.
|S01E01||Episode 1||28/10/2013||Robson begins his epic journey around Northumberland traveling the length and breadth of this magical landscape by land, sea and air. As England’s most sparsely populated county, Northumberland has become a haven for an incredible range of wildlife. In this episode, Robson returns to Seahouses where he has many cherished childhood holiday memories, and gets back to nature on the magical Farne Islands, situated one mile off the Northumberland coast. Robson meets William Shiel, whose family have run boat trips out to Farne island for nearly 100 years. William’s family have even taken royalty on board. Robson jumps aboard William’s boat to make the journey across to the Farnes. Made up of 30 tiny islands at low tide, the Farnes are uninhabited apart from a handful of National Trust rangers who look after one of Britain’s largest bird colonies. As they approach the island, Robson is greeted by 40,000 birds. Robson says “That is unbelievable, look at that site! You’ve got puffins, you’ve got Guillemots, cormorants… isn’t that just wonderful.” Robson spends the next day and night living with the rangers to experience a side of the islands only a privileged few get to see. With a cacophony of birds through the night, Robson doesn’t get much sleep. Despite the lack of rest, Robson spends the next morning learning about the Farne’s most famous resident – the puffin. Last spring, hundreds of dead puffins were washed up on the northeast shoreline, having struggled to cope with the stormy weather. Robson’s first task is to check burrows for chicks and their parents so the iconic birds can be tagged. The good news is that numbers are up around a thousand on five years ago. After just two days, Northumberland is already proving that there is plenty still to be discovered even in the most familiar places.|
|S01E02||Episode 2||04/11/2013||The second episode of the series takes Robson well off the beaten track, where he learns what it’s like to live in the most remote part of England. Stretching from the Scot’s border to Hadrian’s Wall, the Northumberland national park is the most sparsely populated area of England. Despite covering four hundred square miles, only two thousand people live here. That’s just five people per square mile. Robson hikes through miles of empty moorland to Wark Forest in search of a bed for the night. Robson sets up camp in a bothy, a ramshackle farmhouse used as refuge huts for walkers. With no power, running water or even a toilet, Robson says, “This really is back to basics.” When the camera crew go home, the prospect of spending a night in the wilderness starts to hit home for Robson. Whilst he didn’t get the best night’s sleep, Robson did experience the Northumberland night sky. Robson says, “Seeing stars like this… I won’t forget this in a hurry. Truly amazing.” The next day, a bleary-eyed Robson admits that he hasn’t slept a wink, saying: “What a nightmare, how do I get myself in these situations?!” To get a sense of what life is like for people who live in the area, Robson meets a young woman who has taken on the challenge of running one of the most remote farms in England. Emma Grey, the 23-year-old shepherdess, says: “Northumberland is remote enough as it is, but this farm is about as remote as you can find. Some people think it’s wonderful and it’s a fantastic way of life and it’s a great place to live. Other people think I’m stark raving bonkers.” Finally, Robson visits Kielder Observatory, which gives visitors the opportunity to witness incredible sights such as Saturn and the northern lights. The observatory is a labour of love for bricklayer turned astronomer Gary Fildes, who shows Robson exactly why he’s so passionate about the night sky. As they take a look at a globular cluster with approximately a million suns that are 25,000 light|
|S01E03||Episode 3||11/11/2013||In episode three, Robson travels along one of the most magical and historic stretches of coastline in the country, to learn how Northumberland's past shaped the Britain we know today. He meets the family who live at Bamburgh Castle and learns how it was once the stronghold of the ancient kings of Northumbria, a powerful Anglo-Saxon kingdom. Robson walks along the ancient 'Pilgrim's Way' to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, known as the 'cradle of English Christianity' and swims with grey seals at the Farne Islands. Perched 150 metres above the sea; Bamburgh castle has captured Robson’s imagination since he was a boy. Raided by the Vikings from the east, and the Scots from the north, the castle has a turbulent past. As he approaches the castle, Robson says: “Now that, is epic”. Robson meets Chris Calvert, who has been director of the castle since 2007 and lives there with his family. Chris will never forget the day they moved in, saying “Coming over the hill, and it’s just there in front of that and you’re like ‘we’re going to live in that, really, are you kidding?” With its medieval hall, armoury and over 3,000 historical artefacts, it’s an extraordinary place to call home. Robson enjoys a rooftop meal with arguably the best view in Northumberland at the top of the castle, and finishes his day by raising the castle’s Northumbrian flag. The next step of Robson’s journey takes him 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 animals in the wild. Robson meets GP Ben Burville, who has a passion for marine life, saying: “It really is a special place. I’ve dived all over the world, from the arctic to the Caribbean and the Red Sea. If you said I could only dive in one place ever again, it would be the Farne Islands.” The Farnes, made up of volcanic rock, provide a safe haven for the seals|
|S01E04||Episode 4||18/11/2013||Northumberland is known as The Border County and in this fourth instalment, Robson learns how the famous border with Scotland has shaped British history. He discovers how the bloody battles between the English and the Scots turned this region into a war zone in the Middle Ages. Plus, Robson heads to the most northern part of Northumberland to look into the unique identity of the people who live close to the border of England and Scotland, dropping in on a training session with Berwick Rangers, the only English football team to play in the Scottish league. Robson journeys to Berwick-upon-Tweed, an architectural gem that’s home to 250 listed buildings within its Elizabethan walls. The battles between the English and the Scots in the middle ages meant that Berwick changed allegiance thirteen times. Even today, many locals will say that Berwick is more Scottish than English. Robson next visits an area of Northumberland where a battle took place that changed the course of British history – Flodden field. Scotland, under the rule of James IV, made its biggest ever invasion of England in 1513. Over the course of two and a half hours, almost 14,000 men lost their lives, including James IV – the last British monarch to die in battle. Whilst historically significant, Flodden is known as the forgotten battle. As its 500th anniversary approaches, Robson meets some of the people trying to keep its memory alive. Every year, on the anniversary of the battle, hundreds of residents ride across the border on horseback. Robson meets Grant Campbell, the young man who this year has been given the honour of being principal rider and leading the 26 mile journey across the border from Scotland to England, charging to the top of the hill on Flodden field. Robson joins the thousands who’ve turned out to witness the biggest ride out ever seen, saying: “Of all the sights I’ve seen on this Northumberland journey, that is up there with the best of them.”|
|S01E05||Episode 5||25/11/2013||Episode five sees Robson explore Northumberland’s unique traditions including coble fishermen, Northumbrian folk music, and the history behind the county’s distinctive dialect. For a small band of Northumbrian fisherman, the traditional wooden coble is much more than just a boat; it’s a way of life with origins dating back to the 10th century. Said to be inspired by Viking longboats, the coble is unique to the north east. In the mid-twentieth century, hundreds of fishermen set out each morning to seek out salmon, sea trout and lobster. Whole towns were supported by the fishing industry. Part of this success was down to the boats the fishermen trusted with their lives. Robson learns how, over the past twenty years, changing fishing regulations and technology have seen more and more fishermen opt for modern boats. There are now less than twenty coble fishermen left in Northumberland. Robson visits the fishing port of Amble to meet one of them. Kevin Henderson’s family have been fishing out of Amble since the 1860s. Robson heads out on the coble to see what they can catch and, after a hard day at sea, Robson takes control of the boat saying: “There are many things in Northumberland that are good for the mind body and soul, and this type of fishing is one of them.” Next, Robson investigates the history behind the Northumbrian pipes, which are said to have been designed to resemble a lark singing over a buzzing bee. Passed down over the centuries by farmers and hill shepherds, it’s one of the most ancient forms of music in Britain. Keeping it alive today is its biggest star, Kathryn Tickell, who has taken it to concert halls all over the world. Robson says, “The sounds of the pipe, fiddle, and accordion remind Northumbrians like me where they come from.” Robson heads to Rothbury, the location of one of the most eagerly anticipated events in the Northumbrian calendar. Founded in 1977, the Rothbury Traditional Music Festival brings together performer|
|S01E06||Episode 6||02/12/2013||In episode six, Robson looks at how the appeal of Northumberland's history and heritage is being adapted for the modern age. Robson’s first stop is Alnwick Castle, a major medieval stronghold and the ancestral home of the Percy Family. Like many castles all over Britain, this ancient fortress has had to find a new role and identity to survive in the modern day. One of the largest inhabited castles in Europe; Alnwick castle has been home to the Dukes and Earls of Northumberland since the 14th century. These days it's equally well known for doubling as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movies, making it one of the regions most popular tourist attractions. It’s here that Robson also learns about a different Harry, Harry Hotspur, one of Robson’s favourite Northumbrian heroes. A skilled warrior, Harry Hotspur spent most of his short life defending England from the Scots. Robson meets Alnwick Castle’s head archivist to find out more about the man behind the legend. As well as being home to one of Britain’s most important castles, Alnwick once boasted one of the country’s finest railway stations. Built in 1887, the station’s size and grandeur was designed to impress visiting royalty. Over time, the small market town found the station difficult to sustain. After lying dormant for twenty years, the building has been given a new life as one of the largest second hand bookshops in Britain, run by husband and wife team Stuart and Mary Manley. Stuart says: “One of our earliest customers came in and said ‘I’ll give it a month’. Twenty-two years later, we’re still here.” The bookshop also saw a secret bit of history unearthed in 2001, after fifty years. The ‘Keep Calm And Carry On’ poster was commissioned by the Ministry of Information as part of a set of propaganda posters in 1939. Found in a box bought at auction, the message from the poster has swept across the globe. Stuart says: “At the time of discovery, we had no idea it would become a world|