The importance of our many varied communities - What makes Home Sweet Home for travel legend Joanna Lumley

By Beth Thomas

7th Jan 2021 | Local Features

Much-loved actress and national icon Joanna Lumley - like Nub News - shares a love of visiting and highlighting local communities across the country and has just launched her new TV series doing just that.

Nub News is delighted to help spread awareness of her series, 'Joanna Lumley's Home Sweet Home - Travels in my Own Land' which is on ITV.

Well-known for her exotic and far-flung travel adventures across India, Japan and China here Joanna tells Nub News about her latest journey of discovery...

"I seem to have spent a lifetime travelling the world, but as I get older, I realise there's so much of my own country I haven't seen. So, I decided that using my traveller's eyes…I'm going to turn that vision onto this country, the place that I now call home."

Over three episodes, the former Bond girl and star of Absolutely Fabulous travels from the Yorkshire Dales to St Michael's Mount, from the Highlands of Scotland to the cobbles of Coronation Street, retracing old steps, meeting inspiring people, and exploring the wonders of the country she calls home.

Joanna started her journey at Tilbury Docks in Essex. Joanna was born in Kashmir, and Tilbury was her first glimpse of England when she arrived aboard the RMS Franconia in 1947. The following year, Tilbury welcomed the Windrush from the West Indies.

Joanna explores some inspiring artwork along the footbridge at the terminal, that celebrates its arrival. Joanna then heads north to Buckinghamshire, to visit the factory of Aston Martin, supplier of sports cars to Britain's most famous secret agent.

She travels to Britain's first ever national park, the Peak District. She visits the village of Eyam which was forced into a 'lockdown' situation back in 1665, when the community was overcome with the plague after it arrived in the village on some tailor's cloth from London.

The next stop for Joanna is the city of Manchester, to make a nostalgic return to Coronation Street, where she played Ken Barlow's girlfriend for eight weeks in 1973.

Joanna says: "What I love about Manchester is the music, the energy, the people, the feistiness, the pride, the beauty, and above all, Coronation Street!"

Joanna boards a train to travel north to enjoy the stunning scenery of the Lake District and takes the Windermere ferry to visit the former home of Beatrix Potter. Then she is taken back in time as she reminisces about loving the author's work as a child: "So much of my life was centred around Beatrix Potter as a child because even though we were in the Far East, her books were familiar companions wherever we went. My sister and I read them and knew all the characters by name."

"Necessity being the mother of invention"

Joanna also visits Bradford, where she meets up with a group of Muslim women who have set up an allotment to combat loneliness in their community, before going into the Yorkshire Dales in search of a hidden waterfall.

Back on the road, Joanna visits Lumley Castle in Country Durham, the place from which she takes her family name. Finally, Joanna ends the episode in Whitby where she visits Whitby Abbey, the inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula, before heading to a gothic shop to buy a black wig and coat.

Joanna told Nub News about the inspiration for the series.

"It was really necessity being the mother of invention. Last year we were due to go on a huge trip following the spice route from right across the other side of the world all through Indonesia and Sri Lanka and Mauritius then the Red Sea and into Egypt, but of course that was put on the backburner because of the pandemic.

"And I'd always longed to do something about home. Home sweet home. Maybe it's because I wasn't born here, even though I'm British, I wasn't born here, and my father wasn't born here. We're British people but we didn't actually have a home here, but we've made it our home. I completely love this country.

"I just love these islands, and it was a perfect excuse to say shall we look around here? I've got to say, we were being chased, it was like surfing in the front of a wave because COVID was coming behind us all the time. We were so careful, we were tested, tested, tested and everywhere we went we followed all the regulations.

"You can have a lovely time in this country"

"But we were just in the nick of time, you couldn't do it now. I've travelled a bit in this country, but nothing really. And it was stunning. The shots of the Lake District are just world-beating. I felt so proud. I think our country is so varied, both geologically, because it looks so different everywhere you go, but also with regards to the people, who were so nice and interesting. Everywhere we went, I thought, 'I could spend a weekend here, in one place, looking at everything.' It was wonderful.

"Usually when you get a break you feel like you want a bit of sunlight, but, actually, if you can bear to put on a sou'wester, you can have a lovely time in this country. Like when we were in Bradford, we spent the whole time under umbrellas, and we thought, 'should we include it?' But I said, 'We need rain and we have rain in this country.' And the story was so touching, a story of self-help.

"There are many surprising things to find, for example Whitby.

"I was captivated by Whitby. There was something about the geography of it, that deep cleft and then this little town. Such a hard-working fishing town with the magnificent abbey. In 1664 there was the Synod of Whitby and it was the most important part of the country, London didn't count for a bean back then.

"They were building this vast abbey and clerics were coming from all over the place. I never knew that and it just gives you a more respectful look at the country. So that amazed me, I loved being there, all those steps and then you're suddenly in this tiny, crowded ancient port, and I thought, 'If I was an American or a Canadian, or somebody who had never been to Britain before and then I came to Whitby, I'd be thrilled and think this is exactly what I wanted it to look like.'

"Also, the Outer Hebrides. Going across the sands with the huge Highland cattle to their winter grazing ground, it was like something from a film. The drone shots were like nothing you have ever seen, the flat glassy sands with these animals longing to get to the little island where they stay all through the winter. They have their calves there, they graze there, they simply adore it, it's like summer holidays to them. It was such a privilege to see that.

"The thing about Britain is, you only have to sit still for ten minutes to see a mass of diversity. I loved being with the Lakelands shepherd and his dog and the Herdwick sheep. Seeing the tough time that farmers have, I mean I knew that anyway, but you suddenly realise that it is 24/7 for farmers, and although people are saying now during this awful pandemic, 'Gosh, we're getting tired of this.' Farmers are still doing it 24/7, there's no let up for people who look after livestock.

"I loved meeting the Druids down on the great Devon Moors.

"I'm interested in all kinds of religions. I love hearing what faiths are and how they overlap and what parts of them are stolen or used by other faiths. And to understand that Druidism is a kind of love of nature and a belief in the spirits and the after world coming back to visit you. It's terribly tied up with very early beliefs, which go all around the world, where all the Shamon's come from. That people that are interested in signs of birds flying in the sky and they have special rocks they consider to be sacred. So I loved all that.

"And I loved meeting the women in Bradford who had started an allotment.

"Everywhere we went seemed so massively different frm everywhere else. Yet it's all in these tiny islands."

"Some of them were finding some days a bit difficult because of their religion meaning they can't always do certain things and they don't want to offend their faith and so they came up with this this lovely little outdoor thing. And it isn't just a meeting up with people, but doing something good, growing stuff, which, as you know, heals you and makes you feel miles better.

"Being in the open air, seeing things happen, hearing birds and watching flowers come out. I loved their story. And the food they made was fabulous!

"I just loved the feeling that everywhere we went seemed so massively different from everywhere else. Yet it's all in these tiny islands, it's all pushed together. I love Wales. I've always loved Wales.

"It's an extraordinarily beautiful place and then to see the Red Kites in the sky above us. I love Northern Ireland. I love Ireland in general and we would have loved to go to the Republic but unfortunately, the restrictions at the time meant we couldn't.

"There were so many places we didn't go.

"You could go around these islands and nations and make 26 episodes. Everywhere has fascinating and beautiful things. The temptation was to visit every abbey and cathedral but usually people can do that themselves, so we wanted to see things people don't usually see."

Joanna Lumley's Home Sweet Home – Travels in My Own Land continues on Tuesday, 9 February at 8pm.


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