Fifteen months of filming have come to an end as documentary Walton’s ‘Secret Water’ launches this autumn, writes Vicky Gale in the Clacton and Frinton Gazette.
A year in the life of the Walton Backwaters has been packaged into a 75-minute documentary which profiles the wildlife and human characters that inhabit it, as well as environmental issues.
The film, produced by media stalwarts, David Webb and Chris Opperman, should debut at the McGrigor Hall in Frinton, on November 16th.
Chris, 71, said: “It does feel marvellous because it has been an ambition fulfilled. I’ve wanted to do this for many years so to make a conscious effort to really observe the Backwaters has been a wonderful experience.
“David and I have learnt so much. He didn’t even know where the Backwaters were and he lives round the corner in Lawford on the River Stour.”
But filming has not been without bumps in the road. The crew had to do a re-shoot of Beaumont Quay “with water in it” and more shots “motoring through the Creeks,” presenter Chris explained.
His seasoned people skills were also no use when it came to trying to capture black-headed gulls or the interactions between mother and baby seals.
“Getting these animals on film is an incredible skill which we’re still learning,” he admitted. “The wonderful wildlife documentaries you see on TV are the result of people sitting in a tent for days on end, waiting for that shot which we haven’t been able to do.
“Once in a while we’d get an absolute gem and other times they’d be an absolute gem right over David’s shoulder while he’s looking the other way.”
Some of these shots include five fanatical bird watchers counting birds when the ‘Beast from the East’ struck Essex, and iconic landmarks like Witch’s Quay from Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons novel “Secret Water”, which is woven into the documentary. Access to archive footage also helped bring these iconic places to life.
People like Naze farmer David Eagle feature in it too, who expands on erosion and how the whole area is under threat from the North Sea.
He said: “We look at the history of Landermere and a lovely place up at Walton, the foundry, which at one point employed 300 people. Also the brick fields at Kirby. Not many people knew there was a brick industry there.”
Spring proved to be Chris’s favourite season to film.
He said: “There’s this incredible sense of anticipation. The birds are flying in from Siberia, great geese are flying in, some setting up their nesting sites, and we have got birds that spent the winter cowering in the mudflats now ruffling their feathers and saying, “this is quite a nice place”. It explodes into a wonderful wildlife wonderland.”
All being well. “Walton’s Secret Water” will be making its way to viewers not only on DVD via tourist information centres and bookshops like Caxton in Frinton, but will also be available to stream on video platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” Chris added.