The Chronicles Of Armagh
Begins on Monday 19 February on BBC One Northern Ireland, 8pm (the entire series will be available on BBC iPlayer).
Filmed over 12 months and narrated by Armagh-born actor Colin Morgan, The Chronicles Of Armagh follows a year in the less urban parts of an ancient city and its surrounding villages, where people’s lives are rooted in nature and the seasons that shape it. Each episode looks at one season, starting with spring.
Veronica Cunningham, Series Producer and Director, Waddell Media who made the series for BBC Northern Ireland, adds: “Revealing hidden gems and incredible untold human tales in an area of natural beauty is a key theme of the Chronicles series. The fantastic and diverse characters that we chose to follow in the series do this, and we hope their passion for the landscape around them will once again delight local audiences. The Chronicles Of Armagh tells the stories of modern-day Armagh but with a continuous nod to its rich backdrop of antiquity, clearly visible through its iconic buildings and beautiful open spaces.’’
The first programme begins with Estates Officer Shane Kelly at Armagh’s Observatory collecting data from the climate recorders. A sure sign that spring has officially arrived, is when astronomer Dr Rok Nezic observes the Spring Equinox.
At Forthill Farm near Tandragee, Kenny Gracey and animal trainer Karen Christie start the tricky process of training Cooley the rare breed bull for a movie role.
On the outskirts of the city, where Ian and Paula Conroy’s flower farm and forest are springing to life, we learn the emotional inspiration behind their garden venture.
At Jane and John Nicholson’s Crannagael House, the birthplace of the Bramley apple in Orchard County, spring means a sea of pink apple blossom. Jane’s homegrown vegetables are in demand by local chefs.
Nearby, Gosford Forest Park is also awakening. Wildlife ranger Donald Whiteside and deer manager Neville Black are keeping an eye on stags shedding their antlers – nature’s sign that the females are close to calving.
Spring sees the start of 20-year-old Emer Rafferty’s community garden in the heart of Ballymacnab. She’s hoping she can help sustain nature in her area for generations to come.
After a harsh winter, Andrea Cowan’s Loughgall hedgehog rescue centre is packed. Andrea dedicates hours to each hedgehog’s individual needs, with the hope of releasing them again when they reach their target weight.
Taking advantage of the spring sunshine, Alia Bondar and her young sons find a quiet haven by the city’s river for a birthday picnic, having been forced to flee from the war back home in Ukraine.
In the second programme, focusing on summer, viewers will see wildlife ranger Donald and deer manager Neville on Summer ‘fawn’ patrol as they search the fields for new deer calves ahead of The Armagh Agricultural Show descending on Gosford Forest Park.
Up on the hill at the Armagh Observatory Estates officer Shane records the warmest June at Armagh since records began in 1795. The heat brings growth as Emer’s community garden in Ballymacnab village starts to bear fruit.
Across at Navan Fort, a team of archaeologists start a two week dig in search of more clues from an ancient Kingdom.
The rivers, woodlands, and Mall burst with flowers, fauna and people enjoying the sunshine in shared spaces, and the normally peaceful Loughgall Country Park becomes the venue for petrol-heads like Armagh local David Gibson, as he navigates his way round the course at the annual Loughgall Car rally.
Crannagel House is also a hive of activity, with the Nicholson’s visiting grandchildren helping to gather in the bumper garden crops.
On the outskirts of Gilford, pigeon fancier Cyril Beattie and his grandson Nathaniel are patiently waiting for their pigeons to clock in back to their loft after a Summer race.
With clearer skies up above, it’s time for Rok and colleague Matthew McMahon to carry out essential maintenance to The Observatory’s historic star gazing equipment.
Away from the summer crowds, the archeologists quietly unearth hidden treasures at Navan Fort, and ranger Donald goes on a personal and poignant search in Gosford Forest to locate the tree that he planted with his family in the 1970s.
On the edge of Armagh City, Paula and Ian Conroy’s flower farm is a blaze of late Summer colour.
In programme three – autumn – there is a kaleidoscope of colour and at Gosford Forest Park as the rutting season has begun. Ranger Donald keeps a watchful eye as nature takes its course.
At Crannagael House, Jane Nicholson gathers in the garden’s autumn harvest and the orchard trees are heavy with fruit.
Back in Tandragee, Kenny Gracey’s Forthill Farm has a new addition to its cast list, a tortoise called Ernie, who is destined for fame on the big screen.
In South Armagh, mum of five Rosie Tennyson from Forkhill takes the plunge at an open water swim in Camlough lake. Rosie is training for a triathlon, something which she is determined to compete in, despite having had her leg amputated a few years ago.
At the Conroy’s flower farm on the outskirts of the city, Ian and Paula are marking a poignant anniversary for their son who passed away, by gathering friends and family together for an autumnal dried flower workshop.
Halloween celebrations take place, including the fiery spectacle at the Celtic Festival of Samhain at Navan Fort.
As the astronomers at The Observatory open the domes in the early morning to witness the occultation of Venus, Estates Officer Shane takes his daily weather recordings. October becomes the wettest month ever experienced in the county since records began in 1838.
As the rain brings unprecedented flooding to Armagh, farmer Kenny is on a rescue mission as livestock become submerged in water. Keeping warm indoors in the heart of Richhill, Sasha Stewart uses the centuries old Japanese technique of Shou Sugi Ban, charring wood for sustainable wall cladding.
As the storms settle, the skies clear allowing the astronomers at The Observatory to marvel at more celestial wonders up above.
In the last programme in the series, winter has come to the Orchard County and despite the challenges of the cold weather, the snow and ice bring a new focus to the Conroy’s garden on the outskirts of Armagh City: their wild water pond is cold enough to welcome competitive ice swimmers.
Just like every day of the year, Estates Officer Shane collects the data at the weather recording station at The Observatory, as well as ensuring the resident rooks are well fed.
At Gosford Forest Park, Ranger Donald surveys wildlife sites in order to mark them safe ahead of dead tree harvesting.
Despite the rain, Ballymacnab villagers gather in the community garden as Emer encourages locals of all ages to enjoy music and sample the spuds that were grown from seed.
Just outside Gilford, it’s quiet season for racing pigeons, which allows Cyril time in his loft to select his birds for winter breeding.
In South Armagh, the spectacular sunrise over Camlough’s crooked lake draws Rosie and her swim group in. Immersing themselves in the freezing water is another challenge that Rosie overcomes, as she adapts to life without her leg.
Donald and deer manager Neville help the deer at Gosford Forest with food supplies. Also ensuring the local wildlife are cared for is Andrea Cowan at Loughgall Hedgehog Rescue. Late Autumn new-borns means the centre has been inundated with tiny hoglets.
Christmas begins at Crannagael House with the Nicholsons decorating their tree. Over at the Conroy’s forest it’s an annual tradition for Ian and Paula to cut down their own tree.
As the year ends, the people of Armagh stay close to home and reflect, while the cycle of the seasons begins again.
The Chronicles Of Armagh begins on BBC One Northern Ireland, Monday 19 February at 8pm. The entire series will also be available on BBC iPlayer.