In this week’s Open Country, Helen Mark journeys to 'The Centre of the Earth', an urban nature reserve in Birmingham, next to Winston Green Prison.
The Centre of the Earth is Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust’s purpose built environmental centre in Winston Green - just 1.5 km from Birmingham City Centre. Situated in what has historically been one of the country’s most deprived, urban areas, this little pocket of green is a special place for the community and a thriving home to all kinds of wildlife. Through tender love and care from the dedicated volunteers, there are otters, smooth newts and a wild flower nursery that helps populate other urban sites across the city, including the visitor’s garden at the prison next door. It's also inspired a local school, which has students who between them speak over 40 different languages, to develop their own nature space. And then, last but by no means least, there’s the Golden Sparkles community group…
Presented by Helen Mark
Produced by Nicola Humphries
Helen Mark visits the last surviving workhouse, the minster and a very special apple tree to find out how these important landmarks in Southwell have impacted on the lives of those who live there.
Michael Perkins lived in the workhouse in 1948 with his mother and six siblings when they became homeless. Now aged 75 he goes back to the workhouse and revisits the room he lived in – he remembered “the pink brick walls and always feeling hungry“.
The workhouse was a place of last resort for the poorest and opened in 1824 and was built by Rev John Becher a resident and clergyman of Southwell Minster.
Robert Merryweather’s great grandfather was fortunate and didn’t need to turn to the workhouse as aged just seventeen it was him and his family who pioneered the 'Bramley apple' from the original 200 year old apple tree planted in Southwell .
But, Emma Rose a dancer, says she probably wouldn’t have escaped the workhouse had she been born a 100 years ago – last year the young single mum found herself homeless. After visiting the workhouse she choreographed a dance inspired by the stories of mums being separated from their children which was a common practice in the workhouse.
Today, the workhouse is owned by the National Trust and is one of the last remaining workhouses where visitors can get a glimpse of what life was like for those who lived there. This year for the first time the infirmary which was added onto the workhouse a few years later, has been restored and gives an insight into how the sick and dying were treated.
Presenter Helen Mark
Producer: Perminder Khatkar
Dance choreographed by Emma Rose.
Filmed by Artist & Filmmaker Benjamin Wigley from ARTDOCS with sound design by CJ Mirra.
The Isle of Eels
Earlier this year, Helen Mark visited the Isle of Eels in the heart of the Cambridgeshire Fens for its annual eel day festival. She joins the parade of eels through the streets and takes part in the World Eel Throwing Competition (which thankfully involves no real eels). She also learns about the life cycle of the eel and discovers how this extraordinary fish is intimately bound up with the history and culture of Ely. Producer Sarah Blunt.
Inspiration On The Island of Jura
The Island of Jura in the Inner Hebrides is one of the most sparsely populated places in Scotland. This dramatic and mountainous landscape is home to around 200 inhabitants but much more than it's fair share of artists, musicians, makers and writers. George Orwell chose the remote location of 'Barnhill' on the island to write his masterpiece '1984' near the end of his life. Although it is hard to detect the famous 'Paps' and seascapes in his dystopian vision it was Jura which allowed him the space to get his ideas on to paper.
Today Jura is home to a number of creative people who have found the inspiration and solitude they need to create and these musicians and makers have also found each other, forming a collective called FL:EDGE. Helen Mark meets Giles Perring, Amy Dunnachie, Kirsten Gow and Gini Dickinson to hear more about the history and future of Jura.
Music Journalist Laura Barton visits Rockfield Studios to hear how this farm based facility became the birthplace to some of the greatest albums of all time.
Rockfield Studios lies just outside just outside the village of Rockfield, near Monmouth in Wales. It began its commercial recording life in 1961 and in 1965 was acknowledged to be the first residential recording studio in the world. It’s played host to many of the world’s biggest artists including Iggy pop, Coldplay, Oasis and Black Sabbath and in 1975 it was the primary studio used by Queen for recording their legendary track ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ – but it began life as a family farm and still holds on to these rural routes.
Laura spends the day with members of the studio's founding family and hears the stories of how this rural landscape and local community found their way into the ground breaking albums that were produced there.
Presented by Laura Barton
Produced by Nicola Humphries