DURHAM-BASED underwater archaeologist Gary Bankhead, is teaming up again with TV presenter Rick Edwards and YouTube sensation Beau Ouimette for the return of River Hunters.

The six-part series sees the trio travel the length of Great Britain, from the Scottish Highlands to Kent, as they investigate some of Britain’s unexplored rivers, with each episode delving into a significant, and often turbulent, period of British history.

Gary, an Honorary Research Associate in the Department of Archaeology, Durham University and recently retired firefighter, is well-known across the North-East, particularly due to his discovery of thousands of artefacts in the River Wear in Durham City.

The Northern Echo:

He was originally approached to be the series’ archaeologist/small finds advisor.

However, given that he is a qualified subaqua diver who uses his underwater skills to actually find historical objects in rivers, he quickly became an established part of the River Hunters team.

Gary said that when he found out that the programming and commissioning leads for A+E Networks UK – who executive produce the series for Sky History – specifically requested his return for Series 2, that it was a massive boost of confidence for him, given his previously limited TV experience.

Although filming followed tight Covid-19 health and safety restrictions throughout the production, Gary reckons series two is actually bigger and better than the first.

He said: ‘It’s already been described as a truly lovely blend of banter, adventure, discovery and sheer satisfaction for keen history buffs through to mild enthusiasts alike.

“Ultimately, archaeology is the study of history through the excavation of sites and the analysis of artefacts and interpretation of other records.

“I believe that some of the discoveries we make in series two not only help us better understand the sequence of past events that took place at each of the locations we investigated, but that some of the objects we found will actually help rewrite the historical record.”

The Northern Echo:

Gary said that episode four of this series – Canterbury Murder (Henry II and Thomas a Becket) – was a really special occasion for him.

Given that his own discoveries in Durham have yielded a significant collection of souvenirs associated with pilgrimage to the nearby shrine of St Cuthbert, having the opportunity to search the River Stour, which flows through the heart of another equally stunning cathedral city, was “incredible”.

He said: “What the viewer does not get to see are the hours of historical research, the pouring over of old maps looking for ancient river crossings, the conversations with, and seeking approval from, the relevant landowners and public bodies, and the many site recces, undertaken to confirm the suitability of a particular site all have to happen before any location is ultimately approved for filming.

“So after all that, to finally get the opportunity to travel to the bottom of England in the middle of a pandemic and search the crystal clear River Stour over two warm days in August and find what we did, was simply unforgettable."

* River Hunters, from Glasgow-based Hello Halo Productions, will be screened on Sky’s flagship History channel, starting Monday, April 5, from 9pm.