The coast of North West England covers some classic industrial landscapes and playgrounds, and a dangerous world of shifting sands.
what began as a small fishing hamlet on the River Mersey in 1207, Liverpool soon
flourished as more and more British ships set sail to explore the oceans of the
world. Well placed geographically for Atlantic trading, it played a pivotal role
in the slave trade from 1730 onwards where many Liverpool-based businessmen prospered.
Textiles and ammunition would be exchanged in West Africa for humans who would
then be taken to the Caribbean to work as slaves, with cotton coming back in to
Liverpool - known as the triangular trade.
In the latter part of the eighteenth
century, three quarters of all European slave ships left Liverpool. Liverpool
traders, alone, shipped a total of one and half million black Africans across
the Atlantic to the Caribbean. So, its not surprising that many of Liverpool's
buildings were built with profits from the slave trade - the evidence of which
is still visible, if you look close enough. For over 30 years, Eric Lynch has
been doing just that and takes Nick Crane on a tour of some of the faces, cotton-plants
and whips embedded in Liverpool's oldest buildings.
The arrival of people
to Britain via the docks has had a profound impact on the diverse social fabric
we see today in the city. Liverpool has been named the European Capital of Culture 2008.
Sefton Sands - Prehistoric
In 1987 Gordon Roberts discovered an unusual trail of footprints
on an exposed patch of silt on the Sefton coast. His curiosity aroused, he began
to take notes, then pictures, then plaster casts and careful measurements. Soon
he found that the prints were thousands of years old and were of tracks of deer,
extinct wild cattle, large birds and people - in particular children.
meets Gordon to investigate what these footprints tell us about the people and
communities that inhabited our coastline. Along with a team of experts, they uncover
life 5,000 years ago to help paint a picture of the people and the local environment
to reveal more about the life of our ancestors.
Lytham St. Anne's - Lifeboat
The Ribble Estuary on the North West coast has tides
that wash in at breakneck speeds. With a seven mile wide maze of sand banks and
shallow channels, it can catch out even the saltiest of sea dogs. That's why it
has a dedicated RNLI lifeboat station at Lytham St Anne's - trained to deal with
boats and people who get caught out by the racing tide. Unlike other emergency
services, they're all volunteers paid for by donations. This unique relationship
with the public began at Lytham after a night that was to become the worst disaster
in RNLI history.
On the night of 9th December 1886, a terrible storm raged
and three lifeboat crews from Lytham, St Anne's and Southport launched to the
assistance of Hamburg trading barque the 'Mexico' in distress off the Southport
coast. But only one lifeboat returned. Most of the Southport and all of the St
Anne's crew drowned when their boats capsized in horrendous seas. Lytham lifeboat
crew managed to rescue the Captain and his crew from the Mexico, only to launch
again later in search of the missing St Anne's lifeboat.
lost their lives rescuing twelve aboard the Mexico. It was to leave sixteen widows
and fifty orphans. Touching the nation's heart, donations poured in to those families
who had lost loved ones. It led to the first charity street collection, donations
of which went to fund the Royal National Lifeboat Institution - a legacy which
idea of the typical English seaside holiday is inseparable from the reality of
Blackpool. It's one of the first Victorian seaside resorts famous for its tower,
pleasure beach, seafront amusement arcades and Blackpool rock. Around ten million
visitors still come here each year drawn by the bright lights of what's been described
as the Las Vegas of the North. It's always had a 'boisterous' nature. Blackpool's
carnival atmosphere has made way for the hen and stag weekends. For sand grown
Dave Hulme, who replaces some 10,000 light bulbs on the tower, there's no better
place to be.
Morecambe Bay's 120 square miles of swirling currents and
constantly shifting sands includes some of the most treacherous quick sands in
Britain. There's been a long history of people who have perished on the sands
of Morecambe Bay. Most recently, it was the deaths of a band of Chinese cockle
pickers - caught by fast rising tides and quick sands as they try to cash in on
the abundance of cockles in the bay. But they're not the only ones caught by the
tides. Before the arrival of the railway, it was the main route to and from Furness.
Since early times, the bay has had an appointed guide to take people across
the bay safely. For the past 42 years, it's been Cedric Robinson - the 25th appointed
Guide. Cedric has lived and breathed Morecambe Bay since he was a child. In fact,
he can read the sands like we would read a newspaper.
Estuary & Blackcombe - Wordsworth
Duddon Estuary is said
to be one of the few genuinely wild, romantic places. It was also one of Wordsworth's
favourite rivers. He wrote a sequence of 34 Duddon Sonnets, in which he traced
the river from source to sea, from birth to death. For him, Duddon Estuary was
the 'only place to approach the Lakes'. Up on top of Black Combe - the Lake District
National Park first meets the sea. Standing at 600 metres, it has serves as a
mariner's landmark through history. On a clear day, it's visible from Sefton sands
and as far as Scotland and the Isle of Man.
Sellafield has become very much part of the landscape on the North West coast and employs 12,000 local people; equating to one in five jobs. The mile by a mile and half site was the world's first commercial nuclear power reactor. Today it's the site of Britain's nuclear reprocessing facility but it has undoubtedly had a controversial past due to its radioactive discharges into the atmosphere and the Irish Sea. However, plants like Sellafield remind us that we have an environmental responsibility to protect our seas.
As Sellafield goes through a process of decommissioning, Miranda Krestovnikoff meet John Clarke, Director of Production at Sellafield to see what the future holds while the Cefas team go about their daily testing of our marine environment.
Whitehaven - Screen Lasses
Although traditionally associated with men, it was often women who formed the backbone of the coal mining towns. It's nearly thirty years since women were last employed to do manual work in the British mining industry. Underground work by women was banned in 1842, but thousands of them continued to be employed on the surface. Isabella McCracken and Hannah McCarron were 'screen lasses' hauling and sifting through the material sent up on a conveyor belt by the miners working below. It was backbreaking work in harsh conditions in an industry most remembered for the men that worked below pit.
Maryport - Roman Forts
Maryport is quaint now, but in the ancient past this coastal site was a vital outpost at the edge of a mighty Empire. The Romans established a formidable garrison as a defensive line along the Solway coast some 2,000 years ago. A geophysical survey has revealed the details of a 'vicus' - the settlement of houses, workshop and granaries for up to 1000 soldiers. The fort became part of one of the most ambitious defensive frontiers of the ancient world - one link in a chain of fortifications that stretched around twenty-five miles along the shore from Maryport all the way up to the Solway Firth where they finally connected with Hadrian's Wall. Mark Horton investigates the last military outpost of Hadrian's Wall which marks the frontier of Roman Britain.