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24 September 2014

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Thursday 2 November: Holyhead to Liverpool


Holyhead to Liverpool

Map showing Holyhead to Liverpool
The rugged and beautiful coastline along this stretch has many magical and mysterious places to discover, some have intrigued people for centuries. But this coastline has also seen many tragedies which have led to remarkable inventions and innovations that affect our lives today.

A shipwrecked child & the Thomas Splint
A vicious storm, a foreign shipwreck and two small boys washed up on shore in 1745. How did this tragic event change medical history?

Rugged coastline along this stretch of coastAlice Roberts meets up with Dyfrig Roberts, the great, great, great, great, great grandson of one of these boys, the only one who survived, Evan Thomas.

Evan was taken in by a local family, and was to become the first of the Anglesey 'Bonesetters' - people who would use their fingers to feel or sense where bones were broken. This skill and the traditions of the bonesetters and patient care were passed down, generation after generation, to Hugh Owen Thomas, who designed the Thomas Splint, a simple device that saved many thousands of lives in the First World War. In fact it can be fairly claimed that the techniques employed and developed by this family led to the birth of modern orthopaedic surgery.

Wylfa Nuclear Power Station
Wylfa Nuclear Power StationFfion Thomas, a third generation worker at the power station, provides a glimpse into her work and the importance of the Power Station and this area has on her life. Recently it was announced that the Wylfa Nuclear Power Station was to be decommissioned and is set to close in 2010 with the loss of around 600 jobs, but it is hoped that many of the staff will be retrained to help with the decommissioning process which could take about 25 years.

Holyhead to Liverpool Optical Telegraph
The Holyhead Sea Cadets demonstrate how the optical telegraph works Long before telephones and cables, shipping companies sent complex messages from Holyhead to Liverpool with the aid of an Optical Telegraph. Whilst most messages took three or four minutes to arrive, it is claimed that they once managed to send a message the entire 100 miles in as little as 27 seconds.

It was called an 'Optical' telegraph because the signal on the telegraph pole could be seen from one station to the next. The different positions of the arms on the telegraph represented different numbers which could be translated into a message using the telegraph code book - which could have been anything from 'sunk during the night' to 'have you many sick on board?'.

Comparing the Optical Telegraph's record of 27 seconds with today's technologyWith the help of Frank Large, the Holyhead Sea Cadets and a smaller scale model, Neil Oliver looks at how the Optical Telegraph worked and carries out an experiment to compare it to the modern technology of today - text messaging. Can texting and nimble thumbs beat the record of 27 seconds?

The Royal Charter
Aerial picture of the coast at MoelfreOn 25th October 1859 a hurricane caused havoc along the coast of the UK and resulted in 200 shipwrecks and the loss of 800 lives. Off the Anglesey coast at Moelfre, the Royal Charter foundered on the rocks; on board were 490 passengers and crew. Only 40 survived and many of these owed their lives to a lifesaving technique that is still practised by the RNLI today - the 'breeches buoy', a device that hauls people from a ship to the safety of shore.

Neil Oliver looks at how this hurricane and shipwreck had an impact on not only the lives of people back then, but also today.

CGI of the Royal Charter in the hurricaneFounding father of the Met office, Captain Robert Fitzroy, was so appalled by the number of deaths and the inability to warn ships of bad weather that he too developed a line-of-sight communications system. This system consisted of 15 stations around the country which would raise a 3ft cone to warn ships of imminent storms.

But this wasn't his only innovation; he was also the founder of a scientific system to predict weather conditions - the weather forecast.

Shell fish - old and new
The mussel - one of the tastiest shell fish aroundMiranda Krestovnikoff joins the Prince Madog, a scientific research vessel from The University of Wales, Bangor, which is trawling the seabed in search of an ancient clam, Arctica Islandica. From looking at the annual growth lines in their shell you can tell how long ago the animal lived in the sea bed which could be anything up to 300 years. When the clams die, their shells lie uncorrupted in the mud and by comparing these shells scientists are now beginning to piece together a picture of life in our seas stretching back over thousands of years.

It's hardly surprising that these clams are being called the 'trees of the sea' because, like oak trees, they are beginning to enable us to read an ancient diary of the sea itself!

Not only does Miranda look at one of the worlds most ancient living creatures, but also one of its shortest lived and tastiest shell fish - the mussel.

On the Lafan Sands is the biggest mussel fishery in the UK, here Miranda discovers that there is more to this than just simply fishing.

The fishery moves the mussels to environments where they are protected and nurtured. This area is one of the best in Europe for growing mussels as it provides protection for the muscles to grow and develop rather than being washed away or eaten. The area also provides good food resources brought by tidal currents through the Menai Straits.

Ogof Llech - Mostyn's Heir
Aerial picture of the cave, Ogof LlechNeil Oliver investigates the extraordinary story of a mysterious cave called 'Ogof Llech' or 'The Hiding Cave' situated high on the cliffs of the Great Orme. With the help of local cave and mine expert Nick Jowett he ventures into the cave. Neil finds that, quite strangely, the cave has been 'dressed' with precisely cut stone, stone specially brought into the cave. Where did the stone come from and why is it there? Intrigued by what he has seen Neil investigates further to find out who built it, when and why.

The dressed interior of Ogof LlechWith the help of The British Geological Survey he finds out that a stone sample from the cave's interior is a very special type of sandstone and that it comes from the Talacre quarry in Flintshire. This quarry belonged to the Mostyn family estate, who also owned the Great Orme. And a poem to the cave by Siôn Dafydd Las dated 1683 indicates exactly what the cave was for and that it had something to do with "Mostyn's heir".

So Neil finds a date for the building of the cave's interior, he also finds out who probably had this strange church-like interior built. But has he really solved the riddle of Ogof Llech?

The Dee Estuary
Some of the wildlife on the Dee EstuaryTwice a year at the Spring and Autumn equinox, the salt marsh vanishes as extra-high tides sweep over it and the salt marsh becomes a sea, causing chaos and confusion for the abundance of wildlife here. It also provides an opportunity for many wildlife enthusiasts to observe the many varieties of wildlife that live and feed here.

But wildlife enthusiasts aren't the only ones observing the wildlife, as many birds of prey can be found keeping a watchful eye, on the look out for their next target.

How are pebbles made?
Nicholas Crane meets up with Twm Elias from Snowdonia National Park and Professor Cynthia Burek of Chester University to find out exactly how pebbles are made.

A selection of many of the pebbles found along this coastline At Thurstaston on the Wirral, Nicholas comes across what he describes as a gigantic mud pie, which is actually a glacial 'till' formed about 17,000 years ago in the last ice age.

He discovers that a glacial sheet moved from the north of the country southwards and brought with it pebbles as it moved, picking up more material as it went along. The pebbles would be on, in and under the ice, and they would grind up against each other and bits would fall off and be compressed together.

With strong waves pounding against the bottom of these cliffs, this mud (which is essentially glacial debris) erodes to reveal pebbles which are basically a mixture of the whole geology of Britain to the north of this area.

For more information contact Cynthia Burek or Twm Elias.

'Another Place' at Crosby Beach
One of the many statues that make up 'Another Place'With 200 simple figures spread across two miles on Crosby beach this piece of public art is the work of Antony Gormley. The figures were due to be taken away in November but the artwork is currently going though planning permission to extend its stay.

For the latest information about the extension of the planning permission look here and for directions look here.

Would you like to find out what music was used in this programme?

Holyhead to Liverpool: Thursday 2 Nov, 8pm on BBC TWO


Coast Series 2

Dover to Isle of Wight

Holyhead to Liverpool

Arran to Gretna

Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly

Dublin to Derry

Newcastle to Hull

The Outer Hebrides

Felixstowe to Margate

See Also

Meet your Coast experts:

Neil Oliver
Alice Roberts
Mark Horton
Miranda Krestovnikoff
Nicholas Crane
Hermione Cockburn
Dick Strawbridge

Wildlife of the Dee Estuary

On the rest of the web

Welsh Orthopaedic Society
Wylfa Nuclear Power Station

Ocean Sciences

Dee Estuary

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Tel: 0870 900 7788

for a free Open University “Discover Your Coast” pack - or visit

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Programme 3 West Scotland - Arran to Gretna

Why did Alfred Nobel, founder of the famous prizes, pick the South West of Scotland as the ideal site for the world's biggest explosives factory? Nicholas Crane discovers the remarkable use for the island of Ailsa Craig's beautiful granite.

  Map showing Arran to Gretna

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