Jill Halfpenny visits North East for BBC Easter show

First published on: 12th April 2022

Jill Halfpenny and pilgrims taking part in the St Cuthbert’s Three-Church Trail

Hexham Abbey, Holy Island and Cuddy’s Well all feature in an Easter-themed BBC programme starring Jill Halfpenny.

The religious landmarks are visited by the well-known actress as part of her latest TV series ‘Jill Halfpenny’s Easter Walks’.

The two-part show, which airs on BBC One over the Easter weekend, tours the North East and Scottish Borders, exploring the landscape, its significance to Christianity and the unique traditions still celebrated at Easter.

Jill says: “Though I was born and bred in the North East I have just moved back after years working away, and I am really, really loving it. I didn’t travel much as a child, and a lot of what I am finding is new to me so I am enjoying exploring my own backyard.

“When I was younger I was part of the choir at church, and I always felt that Easter was really intense – I seemed to be in church all of the time. For me it’s all about renewal and rebirth and in these programmes I have enjoyed seeing if I can find anything about myself in the area where I grew up.”

In Hexham, Jill meets with bellringers in the abbey’s bell tower to find out more about the theory and history behind the age-old tradition of bellringing, and watches the abbey choir perform.

Malcolm Thompson, one of the abbey’s churchwardens and bellringers, said: “It was great to welcome Jill into the bell tower. She was really interested to hear about the history of bellringing and how we learn so many different methods, and how complicated it can be! She chimed one of the bells and was surprised at how much effort it takes. I think she was impressed!”

Jill also meets with walkers taking part in the St Cuthbert’s Three-Church Trail which connects the churches of Bellingham, Elsdon and Corsenside, and culminates at St Cuthbert’s Well, known locally as Cuddy’s Well.

New steps linking St Cuthbert’s Bellingham and the trail to the ancient holy well were blessed by Bishop Mark during an opening ceremony last October.

Revd Dr Susan Ramsaran, who retired as team rector of North Tyne and Redesdale in 2020, is one of the pilgrims to feature in the programme and speak with Jill. She said: “We enjoyed our time with Jill Halfpenny and the film crew at St Cuthbert’s Well and on part of the St Cuthbert’s Three-Church Trail. 

“There was a cold wind but nothing stops pilgrims from pressing on. After all, pilgrimage is a concentrated version of the Journey of Life. Perseverance is especially relevant on this pilgrimage as we are constantly reminded by St Cuthbert’s teaching that ‘God will provide’. Anyway, Jesus didn’t give up on the way to the Cross, but showed us how death leads to the resurrection of Easter.” 

The programme also sees Jill travel to Lindisfarne where she meets artist Mary Fleeson who draws in a similar style to the monks who used to live there, and shows Jill mindful practices of prayer.

Trips to Coquet Island, Corbrdige Roman Town, the Scottish Borders, the Angel of the North, formed Catholic seminary Ushaw House and Anglo-Saxon village Jarrow Hall - where Jill learns about The Venerable Bede - also feature in the series.

Jillends her journey at Durham Cathedral where Revd Charlie Allen, Canon Chancellor, washes her feet and explains the tradition, and she also joins the gospel choir, Voices Of Virtue, in song.

  • The first episode airs on BBC One on Good Friday (15 April) from 1.30-2.30pm
  • The second episode airs on BBC One on Easter Sunday (17 April) from 11.25am-12.25pm
  • The St Cuthbert's Three-Church Trail guidebook is available (minimum £5 donation) from each of the churches on the trail or from Marie Ness at marie@training4business.org 
Powered by Church Edit