Co Armagh comes under spotlight in new documentary series

The Chronicles Of Armagh combines human tales with natural beauty

Man sitting with his dogs and a tortoise in front of an open fire
Tandragee man Kenny Gracey is amongst those featured in The Chronicles of Armagh

Armagh has been the ecclesiastical capital of all Ireland since the fifth century, when Saint Patrick founded his church there. But there’s much more to the county that faith, GAA and apple trees.

A new BBC documentary series, The Chronicles Of Armagh, follows a year in the surrounding villages of the ancient city, where people’s lives are rooted in nature and the seasons that shape it.

Colin Morgan sitting in recording studio
Armagh-born actor Colin Morgan narrates The Chronicles of Armagh

Filmed over 12 months and narrated by Armagh-born actor Colin Morgan, best known for playing the title character in the fantasy drama Merlin, each episode looks at one season.

The first programme begins with spring and sees Armagh Observatory Estates Officer Shane Kelly collecting data from the climate recorders and astronomer Dr Rok Nežič observing the Spring Equinox.

Viewers will meet all creatures great and small at Forthill Farm near Tandragee, where 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, following the tragic passing of their young son.

Couple standing in a field of flowers
Ian and Paula Conroy

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.

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.

During the series cameras will also take viewers to 20-year-old Emer Rafferty’s community garden in the heart of Ballymacnab and a hedgehog rescue centre in Loughgall.

At Navan Fort, a team of archaeologists start a two week dig in search of more clues from an ancient Kingdom and in the autumn cameras capture the fiery spectacle at the Celtic Festival of Samhain.

Amputee standing beside athletics track
Rosie Tennyson from Forkhill, who is training for a triathlon, despite having had her leg amputated a few years ago.

Viewers will hear some inspiring stories from Armagh natives, including mum of five Rosie Tennyson who is training for a triathlon, something which she is determined to compete in, despite having had her leg amputated a few years ago.

“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,” comments Veronica Cunningham, Series Producer and Director, Waddell Media who made the series for BBC Northern Ireland.’’

The Chronicles Of Armagh begins on BBC One Northern Ireland on Monday February 19 at 8pm. The entire series will be available on the BBC iPlayer.