The third episode in the Pagans & Pilgrims TV series currently running on BBC 4 was broadcast last night and I watched with some trepidation because I was asked to take part in this one and was interviewed by the presenter Ifor ap Glyn one windy day this January – but had never seen the result.
We drove through awful weather to get to Knowlton, and after a briefing over a pub lunch we set off for the site, which I’d never visited. I learned something new that day: you know those wonderful aerial shots you get in films like this? I thought they were taken from a helicopter, but most times (and in this series) they use a drone: essentially a model aeroplane with a camera in it that is operated from the ground. How clever!
The interview you see was done in virtually one take. The sun was setting, the rain had stopped, and we were all freezing and wanted to go home. After we had walked to the two magnificent gateway yews which from a distance looked quite young, and had been filmed as we looked at them, I remembered the Ancient Yew Group (started by an OBOD member and friends). Nick, the author of Britain’s Holiest Places, looked the trees up on the website via his phone and we discovered that they are truly old, dating back to the 7th century, or perhaps even earlier since their girths (reaching 23 ft) suggest an even greater age. Both are female, and there used to be a third that was damaged by fire and removed.
At the close of this episode Ifor sums up the theme of the programme well: “Nature belongs to no-one – it is nondenominational. Trees and mountains are beyond dogma. They inspire within us feelings that are mystical, difficult to explain, but maybe then that’s the point, because nature is so much greater than we are, and it’s in places like this that many of us feel that we come closest to the Divine.”
The episode is up on the BBC iplayer here for the next month and there are 3 more episiodes to go.