17th January 2012: BBC Filming - Naked Britain / Britain Beneath Our Feet

BBC Scotland invited me to take part in the filming of an episode of Britain Beneath Our Feet (working title) - a four-part series featuring the South Downs, Yorkshire, Cornwall & Devon and the Scottish Highlands, exploring how geology has affected British landscapes and the people who live there.

I was asked to do some flintknapping and archery with presenter Julia Bradbury at the Kingley Vale Nature Reserve, one of England's 224 National Nature Reserves (NNR), near Chichester. The day started at 9:45am in the reserve car park in West Stoke, where I met the crew, including director Spike and NNR staff. After a short drive to the site, we then started the filming: the basic script was that Julia would be talking about how flint changed the lives of prehistoric man and then I would fire an arrow into a target; Julia would then talk to me about the weapon and then have a go at flintknapping; finally she would shoot an arrow into the target.

The first filming of the day was of me shooting my holmegaard bow and hazel wood shaft/flint tipped arrows into a modern straw archery target. This had mixed success, as the larger striking profile of the flint arrowheads (compared to modern alloy arrows) did not easily penetrate the dense straw, however after some testing, I found one arrow that did stick into the target. After several times of filming me, it was Julia's turn. She had apparently never fired a bow before and using my holmegaard bow was probably not the easiest to learn with. After some tuition, Julia did manage to shot the arrow straight into the target.

Julia Bradbury tries archery

After lunch, we then started filming the flintknapping section. I made a number of small hand tools to demonstrate the techniques and then helped Julia to make a basic arrowhead. This took much of the afternoon and I eventually finished around 4:30pm. Everyone seemed pleased with the outcome of the day, so I hope my piece will appear in the completed 60 minute BBC1 show (co-hosted by Hugh Dennis, who has been filming on the chalk cliffs of Saltdean) that is due to be shown in February 2012. It will be interesting to see how the CGI reveals what the landscape would have looked like in times past.

The Kingley Vale Nature Reserve has 14 scheduled ancient monuments (SAM), including the remains of a Roman Temple, Iron Age settlement site known as Goosehill Camp, the Devil's Humps Bronze Age round barrows. There is a neolithic flint mine (designated SAM) at Bow Hill, Stoughton that was originally excavated in 1933 by B.C. Hamilton and again by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England between 1994 and 1997. Further possible flint mines are nearby, but these have not been confirmed SAM status. The reserve also contains one of the finest yew forests in western Europe, including a grove of ancient trees which are among the oldest living things in Britain.

I may be back at Kingley Vale Nature Reserve later in the year, as they are interested in some flintknapping sessions.

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