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Episode two – Essex and Suffolk border
The second episode of the series sees Christine Bleakley being chased by a pack of bloodhounds, try her hand at re-creating a famous sketch and learn the haunting truth about witch hunting in England.
Christine’s first stop is the Dedham Vale, an area of outstanding natural beauty. Admiring the beautiful landscape, Christine decides to try a novel way of exploring it. She heads to Roger and Fiona Clarke’s farm where they keep a pack of bloodhounds which chase and hunt people for fun.
Roger tells Christine: “There’s this mystery about them, why do they hunt people with no reward at the end for them? I have no answers.”
The bloodhound’s sense of smell is 1000 times better than a human’s and they can smell someone’s perfume 12 hours after they have left them. Christine goes to visit the dogs in the kennel so they can get her scent before she sets off running across the fields. Using a handheld camera, Christine records her journey and explains the moment she hears the dogs barking behind her as they track her down.
Christine’s next stop is Flatford where the artist John Constable painted his famous landscapes around the site of a watermill owned by his father. Christine speaks to Simon Peachy, from the National Trust, who explains that these landscapes are now preserved so that they stay exactly the same as they were when they were painted 200 years ago.
Constable’s most famous work is The Haywain, which shows a Haywain being pulled across the river by horses, with a cottage in the background. Simon explains that the scene now has a dedicated team preserving the way it looks.
Worker Dave Piper shows Christine the reeds which need to be pulled out so that they don’t take over the scene and the presenter straps on a pair of waders and joins him in pulling out the reeds.
Next Christine heads into Suffolk on the hunt for an original Constable. She visits Grade-one listed Helmingham Hall where Constable sketched the ancient oak trees and meets the current owner of the hall who shows her one of the original sketches drawn in 1800. Christine then meets an artist who shows her how she can sketch the same tree.
The next part of Christine’s trip takes her to the Essex town of Manningtree has a dark history that dates back to 1647 when local man Matthew Hopkins wrote a book on witch-hunting. Christine explains how Hopkins’ book was referenced in the Salem witch hunt in the US which saw 19 people executed, however, Hopkins hung 300 women in Manningtree in just two years, a history that’s remained largely hidden.
Janine Collier’s family have lived in village for seven generations and she takes Christine to the spot where the people were hung.
Janine says: “Salem, in America, Manningtree is actually in their museum on their timeline, and, the point being, is that the whole backbone of their history, when it comes to the witches, how to find them, how to identify them, what to look for and what to do with them, comes from this little tiny place here that nobody knows about.”
Christine and Janine meet up with the town mayor, Kerry King, who tells Christine about the tell-tale signs that were looked for on suspected witches, including being left-handed or having moles on your skin. Christine visits rehearsals for a witch-hunting tour and gets a role playing a witch accuser.
Christine: “These sort of stories are part of our hidden history and it’s really important to hear it, even though it’s uncomfortable sometimes. We all need to know about it and, in fact, it’s right on our doorsteps.”
For her final stop on the Essex and Suffolk border, Christine visits an agricultural show and sees the animals including the bloodhounds from Roger’s farm. She also speaks to one of areas 40 potato farmers who explains the difficulties of living in such a dry county and how he keeps his business going.
Christine: “The attractions around the Essex and Suffolk borders certainly put Essex’s celebrity image firmly in the shade. Incredible views, hidden histories…one thing’s for certain, taking the back roads has given me a fresh and fascinating perspective on this part of the world.”