Ian Marchant visits the Sussex Weald, once the epicentre of the international arms trade, owing to its ironstone reserves and subsequent iron-making expertise. It's a personal story too: 'Marchant' is one of the Sussex names associated with metal-working migrants from Belgium in the late 15th century.
Hammer and furnace ponds and former forges are now dotted about the landscape, rich habitat for wildlife, according to naturalist Richard Jones. A walk on the Weald is a treasure hunt for history-of-iron enthusiasts (of whom there are an unusual number in Sussex). They frequently come across previously undiscovered remains, some dating back to medieval times.
Ian takes a walk at Newbridge with Jeremy Hodgkinson and Roger Prus, who can interpret the bumps in the woodland that most people would pass without noticing. They might be old furnace sites or even remains of buildings used by iron workers.
He meets Emma O'Connor to explore the Anne of Cleves House collection of iron artefacts in Lewes. These range from items with military uses to all kinds of domestic and industrial products, most of which are beautifully preserved and attest to our ancestors' habits of recycling, repairing and preserving the things they owned.
Ian visits Glynde Forge, where blacksmith Ricky Delaney demonstrates the living craft of working with metal in Sussex. Will Ian discover that forging metal is in his blood?
Stonehenge and its community
Helen Mark finds out how Stonehenge continues to influence and shape the next generation of makers and trades people in Amesbury and the villages around it. Helen meets a thatcher, the cob wall maker and a frame maker who are all in their own way keeping a traditional craft going. But their skills have also ended up inspiring artist Linda Brothwell who has captured their stories and their lives in her latest work. The makers have no idea what Linda has made and are going to have to wait to see the exhibits when Stonehenge hosts this very first contemporary art exhibition.
The producer is Perminder Khatkar.
George Eliot Country
‘She was a woman ahead of her time, she pushed every boundary.’
For this week’s Open County, Helen Mark heads to the Warwickshire landscape of Nuneaton where she walks in the footsteps of one of Britain’s greatest authors and through the locals who are celebrating her legacy today, Helen comes face to face with the woman herself – 200 years after her birth.
Mary Anne Evans (22 November 1819 – 22 December 1880) is best known by her pen name George Eliot. An English novelist, poet, journalist, translator, and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era, her novels reflected the landscape and the lives of those she lived amongst. 200 years on from her birth we meet the community that continue to celebrate her life today and the shifting landscape that still holds traces of Mary Anne’s rural beginnings.
Presented by Helen Mark
Readings by Eleanor Charman from Sudden Impulse Theatre
Produced by Nicola Humphries
Changing Tides at Morecambe Bay
The Eden Project plans to bring its distinctive building design and appreciation for biodiversity to Morecambe. It's hoped that this Eden Project of the North would not only bring many visitors to the wider Morecambe Bay area but that it would also help us to understand the incredible ecosystem within the bay.
Until now the Bay has often been feared after tragedies such as when 23 cockle pickers were drowned in 2004. It is the UK's largest expanse of intertidal mudflats and sands and this ecosystem creates a feeding ground and habitat for many species as well as supporting a unique method of fishing on foot and tractor. Many of those fishermen know how to work and cross the bay safely but Cedric Robinson is the man intrusted as 'The Queen's Guide to the Sands'. In this role he has been helping people cross the bay for 55 years and he has seen the bay changing.
Helen Mark meets Cedric and hears how the Eden Project and the Morecambe Bay Partnership hope to transform the bay into a place of fascination for all with landscape art, iconic buildings such as The Midland Hotel and proposed Eden Project and the stories of those who know the bay best.
Surfing on Scotland’s North Coast
The reef break at Thurso on the rugged North Coast of Scotland is one of the best waves in Europe. Helen Mark meets Thurso's surfing community, from the pioneers who began surfing in the 1970s on empty waves, to the up-and-coming young surfers hoping to make Scotland's national squad this year.
Presenter: Helen Mark
Producer: Sophie Anton