“They’re wonderful creatures, wonderful creatures with wings.” Says 11-year-old Callum Brooks, who has just recently started pigeon racing.
We join Callum and other pigeon fanciers from all over the UK as they give us an insight into the highs and lows of pigeon racing and find why a sport that was once a popular pastime of the working classes is now falling out of fashion and is in danger of disappearing altogether.
We discover the art of breeding a winning bird from Clive and Jill in Radstock. Head to the back of the Larkhall Inn as pigeons are marked up ready for a Saturday race. Then spend a morning with the Convoyors as they prepare for the liberation of 5000 birds. And finally join Trevor and his son Simon on race day as they anxiously wait to find out if they have won, or even if their pigeons will return home at all.
Produced by Nikki Ruck
Witham Navigable Drains
Some people dream of canoeing up the Zambezi, or exploring Venice by gondola, but Ian Marchant has always dreamed of the world's least romantic waterway: the Witham Navigable Drains, near Boston in Lincolnshire. And there is romance and beauty here. And grand sluices, mighty pumps and a box or two of maggots.
Arnos Vale Cemetery
For the first time, Open Country is entirely based at a cemetery. Helen Mark explores Arnos Vale in Bristol - forty-five acres of green space and woodland which provide a vital wildlife corridor in the city. First established 180 years ago as a 'garden cemetery' with architecture in the style of classical Greece, Arnos Vale quickly became the fashionable place for Victorian Bristolians to be buried. It was one of the first places in England to install a crematorium, a state-of-the-art development in its day. But during the latter part of the 20th century it fell into disrepair. Neglected and overgrown, it almost closed for good. A campaign to save it has resulted in a cemetery which today is much more than just a place to bury the dead. As Helen finds out, it has a whole life of its own. Wildlife thrives in the trees and undergrowth which almost swallowed the gravestones during the years of neglect. Now restored as a working cemetery, it also has a cafe and a shop, and is a venue for everything from yoga classes and craft fairs to film screenings and even weddings.
Producer: Emma Campbell
Community Resilience in Toppesfield
Across the country, rural communities are finding their local services under threat, but in the north Essex village of Toppesfield, residents are finding creative ways to keep their local amenities open and village life thriving.
From the volunteer run village shop to the community funded pub and locally founded microbrewery, the villagers of Toppesfield are working hard to keep this rural community fired up with community spirit and much needed local establishments. Helen Mark meets the locals who have generated and supported these projects and the organisations that are on hand to help, to find out what lessons could be shared with other rural villages.
Presented by Helen Mark
Produced by Anne-Marie Bullock
One Tree Hill
One Tree Hill: a famous landmark that connects us emotionally and confounds us archaeologically.
Otherwise known as Crookbarrow Hill or Whittington Tump it's instantly recognisable to anyone driving near junction 7 of the M5, the exit for Worcester. For generations this distinctive hill, with a solitary tree on top, has become a symbol of homecoming, an emotional way-marker. But ask around and nobody seems to know much about it. It's a Scheduled Monument, on private land inaccessible to the public, and it's never been excavated. However there are enough clues to warrant some educated speculation. So, for Open Country, Karen Gregor climbs the Tump with three local experts to pick their brains. She also speaks to Henry Berkeley who owns the Spetchley Estate on which the hill stands, and to locals who have personal stories to tell about it.
Scroll down to the Related Links section to click through to these interviewees' organisations.
Adam Mindykowski - Historic Environment Advisor for Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service.
Wendy Carter and Harry Green - Worcestershire Wildlife Trust
Henry Berkeley - Spetchley Park Gardens and Estate
The music in the programme:
Chris Flegg - A Hill So High
The Stands - I Will Journey Home
Oysterband - One Green Hill
Produced by Karen Gregor