This autumn, broadcast journalist Michael Buerk will rediscover some of Britain’s best loved landscapes, uncover hidden secrets and meet the people behind the scenes of the National Trust in a new 20 part series on ITV1.
The documentary series showcases six very diverse places, from the wildlife on the Farne Islands and the Lake District, to Georgian life at Wordsworth House and Garden, an insight into the Victorians at Cragside, life on a working estate at Wimpole and introduces the Strickland family who have lived at Sizergh in Cumbria for 700 years.
The series turns the viewer into a visitor. In each episode Michael will be trying his hand at a new skill including scything, lambing, Georgian cooking, life as a man-servant, and bird counting. He works alongside Trust staff and volunteers as they make sure that everything is cared for and welcoming for visitors.
Wimpole is still a working estate, with a traditional farm year, modern piggery and a mansion at its heart – not to mention the huge landscape park and gardens.
One of the stars of the series, Jess Marczewski, is Assistant House Steward at Wimpole Hall.
“I have been filming bits and pieces since we opened the house in February, like opening and closing the house and various cleaning tasks. I love the variety that each day brings. One minute I could be cleaning and checking over a book from the 17th century, the next I will be on the roof checking the gutters. You have to be prepared to take on everything that is thrown at you! I also adore the people I work with – staff and volunteers – I know people say it all the time but I couldn’t ask for more fun, friendly, hardworking and caring colleagues.”
Jess’s partner, Simon Damant, has been at Wimpole Estate for 18 years. Simon, who is one of the Trust’s Rangers, said of the filming:
“I cropped up in lots of different places. I had Michael doing some forestry work, hedge laying, taking part in a scything competition and making charcoal…all hands on work but he seemed to enjoy it. It was only supposed to last 6 months at Wimpole but 18 years later and I’m still here. I’ve travelled all the way around the world to find out that there is just as much to find out right under your nose. It was lovely to work with the film crew, very easy going and enjoyable.”
Viewers will also meet bug-catching Conservation Assistants Val Church and Lesley Manderson, who show Michael Buerk how they battle against creepy crawlies and other pests that can damage the historic hall.
The programme also takes in the estate’s formal and walled gardens, with Head Gardener Philip Whaites testing Michael Buerk’s topiary skills; and Wimpole Home Farm, where Michael helps out with the pigs, lambs, chickens and even driving a horse and cart.
Michael Buerk commented:
“I have always enjoyed visiting National Trust places and connecting with the grandeur of the past, but what made all this for me, was peeking behind the scenes to see how it all works, and meeting the people who make it happen. Just as the original builders and owners of these properties were characters, so too are those who look after them now and make them available to us. Wimpole is a house with a history and more modern connections with one of the country’s great literary figures. The farm is its USP, along with a rare set of characters behind the scenes.”
Inside the National Trust was made by RDF for ITV and airs on Sunday 6 October at 12.25pm.