Seahenge is an extraordinary early Bronze Age timber monument which was found on a beach in North Norfolk. Formed of a giant up-turned tree trunk surrounded by wooden posts, it's believed to have been a place where the dead were laid out. It was originally built on land on the edge of saltmarsh, but shifting sea levels meant that it became swamped by the marsh and was then preserved in a layer of peat. Four thousand years later, with further changes to the coastline around The Wash, it emerged once more - as the waves eroded the peat away, revealing the ancient timbers beneath.
In this programme, Rose Ferraby traces the story of the monument. She meets the man who originally alerted archaeologists to its presence in the sand at Holme-next-the-Sea, and talks to some of the team who worked on the project to excavate it almost a quarter of a century ago. She goes to see the preserved timbers in the museum at King's Lynn, and reflects on what Seahenge reveals about people's relationships with their landscape in prehistory, and how they have adapted to life on this ever-changing coast.
Produced by Emma Campbell
East Neuk of Fife
Ruth Sanderson visits the East Neuk of Fife on the east coast of Scotland. "Neuk" is the Scots word for a nook or corner, and Ruth finds plenty of interesting corners to explore as she braves the wind and the cold to meander up the coastline from Elie to Crail. She finds out about the Fife coastal path, discovers some of its many beaches and learns about its seabirds. She also meets a geologist-turned-restaurateur with a professional interest in the area's sealife, who tells her about the importance of fish to the region's trading history. Some of the old fishing villages are now havens for artists: in Crail Ruth visits a family-run pottery which was set up in the 1960s, and discovers how the landscape has inspired three generations of creativity.
Produced and presented by Ruth Sanderson
Winter Wonder in East Lothian
For this week’s Open Country, Helen Mark is in East Lothian in Scotland to revel in the beauty of the winter landscape. On the outskirts of Haddington, wildlife artist Darren Woodhead is ensconced in a hedgerow at dawn. Winter is his favourite time of year to paint; all his painting is done outside, sitting on the ground. He relishes the way in which the elements alter the way water-colours behave on the paper, creating patterns as the paint starts to freeze.
Further east on the coast, Helen walks down onto one of the Dunbar beaches known locally as ‘Eye Cave Beach’. Land artist, James Craig, is engaged in the meditative art of stone stacking, at one with his surroundings, racing the rising tide. James organises the annual European Stone Stacking Championships here and tells Helen that his family has had a connection with the stones and the coastline for generations.
On her final stop, Helen travels north-west to the sweeping sands of Gullane beach. Emily Hogarth takes inspiration from her daily walks across the wide open bay for her papercut art designs. Her work seeks to make the everyday magical, and she tells Helen there’s nothing like winter in this part of Scotland to heighten her senses.
Produced by Beatrice Fenton
Folk on the Hills
Folk musician Johnny Campbell is recording an album of songs from the summits and industrial hotspots of northern England. Jez Lowe joins him at Kinder Scout in Derbyshire to celebrate ninety years since the ‘Right to Roam’ movement began and explore the traditional songs of the Peak District. Jez meets local singer Bella Hardy to hear how her home in Edale has inspired and influenced her work, and writer Roly Smith who can explain the history of Kinder and the 1932 mass trespass. It may be ninety years ago, but for young global folk stars Kate Griffin and Ford Collier of Mishra, the call for a right to roam is still relevant. They have recorded a version of Ewan MacColl’s ‘Manchester Rambler’, a song inspired by the Kinder trespass. Jez meets Kate, Ford, Johnny and Bella to hear how a new generation of musicians are continuing MacColl’s legacy of folk singers fighting for our rights in the countryside.
Produced by Helen Lennard
Ulster Canal: the missing link?
The Ulster canal was built in in the mid 19th century across the north of Ireland, linking Lough Neagh in the east with Lough Erne in the west. Like most canals, it fell into decline with the arrival of the railways. Partition in 1922 was the final nail in its coffin, and all 46 miles closed completely in the 1930s. Now there are plans to re-open a cross-border section of the canal between County Armagh and County Monaghan - an idea which was mentioned specifically in the Good Friday Agreement.
In this programme Helen Mark retraces the ghost of the route of the old canal - easy to see in some places, hidden beneath decades of ivy and tangled undergrowth in others. In the village of Benburb, she meets author and enthusiast Brian Cassells, who tells her about the history of the canal and paints a picture of what restoring it could mean. On the other side of the border, she visits the Ulster Canal Stores at Clones, where canal restoration work has already started. Stores manager Hugh Tunney describes re-opening the canal as a "game changer". He's hoping it will bring much-needed infrastructure for boaters and paddleboarders, attracting tourists and generating more income for the area.
At Lough Neagh, Helen meets up with a group of canoeists, who tell her that reviving the Ulster canal would open up whole new possibilities of routes for them to use - linking this area of the island with other existing waterways. At the other end of the canal, she tries her hand at rowing a traditional Irish currach on Lough Erne, under the guidance of skipper Olivia Cosgrove. Could the Ulster canal be the missing link in the extensive network of waterways which criss-cross the island of Ireland?
Presented by Helen Mark and produced by Emma Campbell