In the 18th Century Charles Hamilton created Painshill, an early example of the English Landscape Garden. He redeveloped land in Cobham in Surrey to create a circuit garden with buildings inspired by his grand tours and he introduced plants being brought to Britain by traders. He aimed to create a living work of art with changes in mood and creating a 'hide and reveal' of the features. It was hugely influential with visitors from the USA and across Europe coming to view and recreate his new style of garden - seen as a work of art in itself. Yet the land was sold and passed through different hands and became overgrown, the buildings crumbled and Painshill forgotten about. In the 1960s a teenage local history enthusiast, David Taylor, read about the place and rediscovered it one dramatic night. He wrote an article for the local paper urging an effort to chart what was there before it was lost entirely. His words inspired a stronger momentum and the land was bought by the council and work began to research the original vision and recreate Hamilton's Painshill Park. The work has lasted decades and while featured like the Gothic Temple, crystal grotto and Turkish Tent have been done, the Temple of Bacchus interior is the new challenge for 2020. Helen Mark finds out more about how Hamilton's influential vision was almost lost and how those involved just can't give up working to restore it. Produced by Anne-Marie Bullock, BBC Radio and Music Production Bristol
The Secret Life of Pigeons
“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