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Inside Out: Surprising Stories, Familiar Places

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    Inside Out - South: Monday September 18, 2006

Filly Loo

Great English eccentrics
Green man
Tell us about your favourite English eccentrics

England does eccentricity like no one else...

This week Inside Out revels in it in the village of Ashmore in Dorset.

No one really knows what the 'Filly Loo' is apart from a festival to celebrate the summer solstice.

Shappi Khorsandi goes to hang out the bunting by day and be freaked out by the ancient horn dance by night.

Read our exclusive behind the scenes web coverage.

Ancient fertility dance

Filly Loo boasts the de rigeur Green Man - what village worth its salt doesn't have one?

Ashmore's Green Man is Cliff Skey, a 24 hour plumber from Shaftesbury, under a tassled duvet cover holding a couple of sticks.

Cliff can also turn his hand to a spot of Morris dancing and, being the town cryer in Shaftesbury, he opens proceedings at the Filly Loo with a bit of 'Oh yay, oh yay'.

Cue 'The Steps In Time' dance troupe to gambol round the Green Man, beating him with a stick in what's billed as an ancient fertility dance.

The Horn Dance

Horn dancers
Take your partners for the Horn Dance!

Then as the sun sets on the longest day, the Morris Dancers don antlers collected from the fields of the Springhead Estate and perform a haunting Horn Dance.

The 300 or so crowd falls silent, with Nick Crump playing a small flute the only sound.

The Horn Dance is 700 years old and features six Deer-men, a Fool, Hobby Horse, a bowman and a man dressed as Maid Marion.

The evening then ends with everyone holding hands round the village dew pond for a traditional circassion dance.

It's all very Thomas Hardy and it's the perfect English eccentric event.

We want to hear from you if you know of any unusual little known English festivals or other goings on across the South of England.


Are you one of the region's great English eccentrics?

Do you know of some very English goings on which we might be able to feature in the programme?

Perhaps it's an event which has been going on where you live for years or something new which you're organising now.

We want to hear from all you English eccentrics out and about the bizarre goings on across the South of England in town or country.

Tell us your eccentric stories...

Email us at and we'll publish the best ones or even pop along with a film crew.

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Flying boats

Flying boat
A sense of adventure - the flying boat in its heyday. Image c/o Jarman.

Inside Out tells the story of flying boats - and the last regular passenger service out of Southampton.

We look back through the eyes of those who worked and travelled on the last flying boat, including the young daughter of the owner.

Over 90 years ago, a flying boat touched down on Southampton Water, the first in a succession of amazing aircraft.

Southampton Harbour was home to the best liners - but also for some of the first flying boats.

The very first passenger flights by flying boat were short hops across the Channel.

But when the air berth was built in Southampton Harbour, flying boats started travelling much further.

Flying in style

Barry Aikman set up Aquila Airlines to provide a new style of tourism to resorts where no airfields existed.

Each flight was an adventure.

The flying boats were unpressurised and flew at just 8,000 feet.

It could get very bumpy - and very cold!

Flying boat
Choppy waters - the boat wasn't at its best in bad weather. Image c/o Jarman.

A return ticket to Madeira cost £50 - about a third of the average salary to escape from dreary Britain.

But flying to Madeira took eight hours, twice the time it does today.

One of the problems with flying boats was that they were prone to bad weather conditions at sea.

If the water got too rough, flying boats were stranded.

The planes couldn't take off when it was choppy - sometimes they had to stay put for two or three days.

But it was concrete being poured into airfields across the world that heralded the end for scheduled flying boat traffic.

The last huge flying boats - built on the Isle of Wight - could carry over 200 passengers - but never went into service.

And after two major accidents, Aquila's flying boats left Southampton forever - but their memories still live on.

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Chinese herbalists

Chinese medicine examination
Herbalism - Inside Out goes undercover

Inside Out investigates how some Chinese herbalists are prescribing potentially dangerous remedies without a proper consultation.

We sent an undercover reporter to branches of the Herbmedic chain in Southampton, Basingstoke and Portsmouth.

On each occasion, the reporter claimed to be suffering from tiredness and was prescribed herbal remedies after a consultation lasting less than five minutes.

The herbalists, who describe themselves as "doctors", didn't ask any questions about the patient's medical history or take any notes.

Inside Out secretly filmed the consultations and showed the footage to Andrew Fowler, a past President of the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine.

He said, "It makes me very angry. It's a disservice to Chinese medicine because it has a long and noble tradition that is being undermined by what is essentially malpractice."

Boom in Chinese medicine

In recent years there has been a big increase in the number of Traditional Chinese Medicine outlets in shopping centres around the country.

Michael McIntyre, Chairman of the European Herbal Practitioners' Association, says that many of these shops are failing customers:

"Unfortunately your experience with your three consultations exactly mirrors the information I have had from countless patients who are dissatisfied with what has happened to them in high street stores."

Herbmedic has been investigated by the authorities in the past.

In 2002, trading standards officers prosecuted the branch in Southampton for selling herbal remedies with 26 times the permitted legal limit of lead.

And in October 2003, the Advertising Standards Authority banned Herbmedic from describing its practitioners as "doctors".

Despite the ban, all three of the stores visited by Inside Out referred to the herbalist as the doctor.

Fully qualified

Herbmedic says that all of its branches have practitioners that are fully qualified with at least five years clinical experience in state-run Chinese hospitals, and that they use their skills and experience to determine the proper length of each consultation.

The company said that the consultation and the remedies prescribed were all totally appropriate because the patient only complained of feeling a bit tired.

More questions would have been asked, they said, if the patient had continued with treatment or presented with a more serious health problem.

But Mazin Al-Khafaji, one of the country's leading practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine, tells the programme that it is impossible to reach a proper diagnosis so quickly:

"A five minute consultation can't possibly give sufficient information to proceed, so any medication that is prescribed in that time has to be incorrect."

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