Secret Britain

Sunday 15th August, the BBC broadcast the first in their new series, called Secret Britain.

Here is the clip. If you’d like to hear more about the filming, and the things left out, please press READ MORE.

The songs sung were: My Son John, Harvest Song, and Sorrows Away.The first 2 are available on the CD album, and the second may be on our next album (more said soon).

The show seemed to be not so much concerned with secrets, so much as ‘interesting’ things and places in Britain, pointing to and glancing at some fascinating layers of landscape and history.

The first episode was called ‘Crowded South’, and they asked us to come make a ‘postcard’ film on the South Downs. They didn’t mind Holly puppy being on stage too. We thought it a grand opportunity to talk more widely.

The day was very tiring, as every shot had to be taken from various angles, so that we appeared to have multiple cameras, when there was really just one.

The crew of 2, the cameraman and director, were very good at bringing information out of us. The director was ever so encouraging, in nodding and smiling, waiting for our answers. She reminded us of a really good primary-school teacher, always positive and encouraging, and we felt a sort-of early-school compulsion to volunteer the right answers, and win approval, which helped probably.

They were kind, it was the cameraman’s birthday, and they bought us lunch, and of course it was educational to find out the processes of making such a thing. They are hard-working people, and stayed out for hours longer than they get paid for.

Unfortunately, much of the good stuff was cut. We really feel the need to fill in the detail as to what did not make the final cut, as there is much more to this landscape than we edited to say. This is some of the info that didn’t make it in:

Stick-fighting at an ancient 5-way footpath junction, a hundred yards past Hampshire’ hollow-lanes;

Nature Plasters (greater plantain leaves chewed and applied to wounds, covered with intact leaves, and tied around with grasses – also exciting for children);

Silverweed sock stuffing sessions, to keep hot feet cool and blister-free;

Ghost-stories – we had stayed late in East Meon village on our last walk, talking with the manager of the pub. At about 1:30 am, having seen the church get locked at 8pm, we tried the main door anyway, on a whim. It swung open, and we were immedaitely struck by unseen presences, the certainty that something big, and powerful, was there in the dark. The font was all lit up in the moonlight, and was far more visilbe than it had been in murky daylight. We knew the font was a thousand years old, made of Tournai marble, a gift from William the Conqueror’s grandson. It showed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and their expulsion for being naughty. We saw the iron clasp on one side of the top, once a way of shutting the font, which was kept full of holy water, preserved with salt and maybe herbs (horsetail?). This water was apparently often stolen, by ‘black-magicians’, so a thick wooden board was attached to the iron clasp, and locked tight. When Puritans came to rule Britain, they deemed that there was no such thing as Balck Magic, so the covers were denounced as superstitious and ungodly nonsense, and removed. Anyway…we were inside the church, which should not have been possible, as we saw it getting locked. And the hackles on our necks were rising horribly, and we both felt the growth of panic, a fight or flight, screaming fear approaching fast…so we sang a song, called the Leaves of Life, the day being round Easter time, and the song surely suitable. Instantly calming, like butter to a burn, we crept off 5 minutes later, with a sense of peace won, and slept on the hill above the church. In the morning, the caretaker told us he had the only key, and it was locked when he got there in the morning, so he had no idea how it could have gotten unlocked between 8 pm and 8 am. So that was a story we told the tv people. But it did not make it onto the show;

There was also an obscure disused military complex (HMS Mercury), a building that’s technically a boat, at one point a top-secret communications centre, and now strangely desolate and tumbledown. We reckon there’s tunnels in them there hills…;

And East Meon itself, we told the camera, was once a hugely busy place, a thriving centre of trade. It was built in the middle ages in an early grid shape, indicating plans to expand it. A large population, good farming, an accessible river, and 6 water mills, made it a likely bet for growth. But it never happened, and a village it remained. Perhaps this is because of the Church, who owned the village for a long time, under the Bishopric of Winchester. It was once King Alfred’s village too. And it was also once the land of whoever lived on Old Winchester Hill, an iron age hillfort on the South Downs above. It was also once the land of the Bronze Age burial mound diggers, whose barrows are found within the hillfort, and even for the people of Neolithic times, whose oval barrow is the earliest sign of inhabitation in this area;

There was even the Sustainability Centre, arguably the most important living event in the area, with woodland burials, loads of courses and books and yurts and ecological work galore. There was a new Ben Law classroom just built, which we itched to go and see. But time, we were told, goes fast when filming…

None of this cool information could get put in. 2.5 minutes is not long, and the show was more about lovely images and quick hints, rather than the sharing of intense detail we had naiively anticipated. They had only an hour to cover a third of England. And we were just guests, it was not our party. So we were really grateful they let us on at all, and didn’t make us look too silly (as any editor could do). They even sent us a little card afterwards.

We were also pleased that the programme starred Simon Carley Smith, the canoeist at the start, who’s an old school friend of ours. So that was a good thing.

And although we realize we forgot to mention the CD album, or the website, it seems that people can find things all on their own. So thank-you too.

12 Responses to “Secret Britain”

  1. Sam Wilson says:

    “””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””

    Wonderful, inspiring, lifting, enchanting, mesmerizing, cheering,

    poignant, traditional, timeless and an unending joy to behold!

    “””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””

  2. Jim Whitehead says:

    I have just ordered your CD because you guys are simply terrific..thank you for preserving old English customs and ways of life..i had tears in my eyes upon listening to your lyrics and watching you harmonise over old English folk songs..simply amazing and i can’t wait to meet you someday at one of your village appearances..keep it going guys you are inspirational and thank you once again…WES OU HAEL.

  3. Saw you guys for the first time on the secret britain on iPlayer. Feature of the episode for me. Love the sound. I look forward to discovering more.

  4. As with some of the other respondents here I saw your piece on Secret Britain and made a point of writing your names down. Had an all-too-rare ‘quiet’ moment at work today and found your website. Loved the section from the book and will definitely get that when it comes out (any ideas when that might be??) I shall also be buying the CD, wonderful to hear songs sung the way our forefather’s would have listened to them (although I shall obviously be doing so on my ipod on the train into work!) I’ll be dropping by from time to time to check up on your travels across Albion…..

  5. Georgia Witt says:

    I have followed you on your journey since I came back from my tour of Great Britain in July. A blogger friend introduced me to your site. I would like to purchase a CD from you since I absolutely love your song and harmony. My e-mail is [email protected] cox.net and my blog is http://www.healingwoman.blogspot.com Hope to hear from you one of these days. Thanks so much for the lovely tour and song Best, Cheryl Dolby USA

  6. Cheryl Dolby says:

    I have followed you on your journey since I came back from my tour of Great Britain in July. A blogger friend introduced me to your site. I would like to purchase a CD from you since I absolutely love your song and harmony. My e-mail is [email protected] cox.net and my blog is http://www.healingwoman.blogspot.com Hope to hear from you one of these days.

    Thanks so much for the lovely tour and song

    Best,
    Cheryl Dolby
    USA

  7. Andy Moore says:

    We ordered your CD on line a couple of days after your appearance on the BBC. Every time I listen to the CD I get goosebumps.
    I would love to hear you at the Fleetwood Folk Festival.

    Thanks for adding to our lives

    Andy and Mary

  8. Dom says:

    As with some of the other respondents here I saw your piece on Secret Britain and made a point of writing your names down. Had an all-too-rare ‘quiet’ moment at work today and found your website. Loved the section from the book and will definitely get that when it comes out (any ideas when that might be??) I shall also be buying the CD, wonderful to hear songs sung the way our forefather’s would have listened to them (although I shall obviously be doing so on my ipod on the train into work!) I’ll be dropping by from time to time to check up on your travels across Albion…..

  9. Jakki says:

    On my way back to England after a long journey across Canada, and was delighted to find this clip of you two in fine voice and spirit!I’m really looking forward to seeing England’s green and pleasant land again after parched brown grassland and forest fires! Every blessing upon you on your travels. J.

  10. sonia says:

    Hi, I have been following your blog for a while and just about caught that bit of the programme. I was going really crazy trying to explain to my boyfriend how I knew of you and I think I just about managed a few meaningless syllables whilst pointing the finger at the TV lol
    You looked really good,well done!

    xx

  11. Brad says:

    Saw you guys for the first time on the secret britain on iPlayer. Feature of the episode for me. Love the sound. I look forward to discovering more.

  12. James says:

    You guys were the best thing on that show!

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