Archaeodeath hits the small screen again tomorrow – Thursday 15 April – at 7.30pm on ITV Wales.
Following on from Sean’s successful Wonders of the Coast Path, he follows the Offa’s Dyke Path from Sedbury Cliffs overlooking the River Severn, up the Wye valley and northwards. This programme airs whilst the Offa’s Dyke Path celebrates its 50th anniversary.
Filmed during last year’s pandemic lockdown, I helped the TV crew select a spot to film and met them just north of the Devil’s Pulpit where Offa’s Dyke overlooks the Wye Valley and Tintern Abbey. At this location, I attempted to synopsise some of the key points about Britain’s longest ancient monument, built in the late 8th century as an articulation of power and authority, and as a frontier work against the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia’s Welsh rivals. Less a border, it was constructed to curtail and control, dominate and intimidate, an aggressive installation rather than a defensive one, that came to define Wales and the Welsh in subsequent centuries and their relations with those to the monument’s east.
It’s important to add that this isn’t just any TV appearance, at any time. As someone who has never sought out appearing on archaeology TV shows, I seem to appear on anything but! In this travel series, I appear to support and sustain the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory to engage and educate the public regarding the story of Offa’s Dyke, other linear monuments, and the complex archaeology and history of the landscape of the Welsh Marches, as well as the significance of these landscapes and monuments today. Another aspect of this is work is my founding, designing and co-editing (with Liam Delaney) of the Offa’s Dyke Journal.
A second reason this isn’t just any programme at any time is the clear message Sean Fletcher himself wishes to articulate: that ‘your tourist industry needs you’ as businesses and communities struggle to come out of the global pandemic. The English and Welsh landscape is opening up for business again!
Third and finally, broader still, at a time of increasing divisions and conflict within the UK in which ancient borderlands feature in the popular imagination and political discourse, this is a time when ‘borders need you’. They require your critical attention, your voices and your concern, as our nations struggle in the face of Brexit, COVID-19 and a host of political and cultural tensions relating not only to Wales and England, but also the UK and its international context. For a fuller discussion of these issues, see my recent article ‘Collaboratory, coronavirus and the colonial countryside’.
For these reasons, Wonders of the Border is of crucial importance and perfectly timed to encourage greater understanding and appreciation the intertwined relationships between the archaeology, history and heritage, society, economy and politics of the Welsh/English border. So please watch and enjoy and let’s remember that the TV programme is just one step on a journey to greater knowledge and understanding about the history, landscape and people of the Anglo-Welsh borderlands and their relationships to the broader national and international stories of our history, our present, and our futures.