The final episode of TV’s River Hunters sees Durham’s Gary Bankhead teaming up with YouTuber Beau Ouimette and presenter Rick Edwards in North Yorkshire.

IN the final episode of the six-part second series, the River Hunters travel to North Yorkshire hunting for evidence of the brutal 14th century clashes between the English and the Scottish.

Episode Six – Knaresborough Castle (14th Century Northern Raids) will be broadcast on Monday, May 10 at 9pm

The suggestion that Knaresborough could make an ideal location for an episode of River Hunters was made by Durham-based underwater archaeologist Gary Bankhead during the recce phase of developing series two.

Mr Bankhead, the River Hunters’ resident expert, said: “I was aware of the production team’s appreciation of how special North Yorkshire is, with its pretty villages, lively towns and cities, beautiful rolling countryside and rich history and that they may be open to the idea of filming more than one episode in the county.

“Given that we were already in York, checking out the Rivers Ouse and Derwent’s potential as an episode location, I suggested that it would be well worth the recce team’s efforts to make the 30-minute journey westward to investigate the town’s potential.

“Knaresborough is only an hour’s drive from our family home in Durham and one of the many North Yorkshire towns we frequent.

“For me, and presumably many other visitors, it is obvious that picturesque Knaresborough, with its warren of medieval streets, owes its origin to its natural defensive position on an elevated rock overlooking the River Nidd.

“Edward II’s decision in 1310, to grant a charter making Knaresborough a free burgh with its own market, along with the fact that the town is conveniently situated between the uplands and lowlands, would cement the town’s position as an important trading centre during the centuries that followed.

“From a personal point of view, I am particularly interested in the town’s post-medieval textile industry, the activities of drapers, weavers and dyers being well documented, and I was secretly hoping to find a lead cloth seal or two if we got the chance to search near the site of the old fulling mill.”

The River Hunters’ objective was to search two locations in North Yorkshire – Knaresborough and Myton-on-Swale – for evidence of the ‘Raiding of Northern England’ which took place from 1311–1322.

Robert the Bruce’s decisively victory over Edward II’s English army at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 meant that much of the north of England was left defenceless.

In the same way that William Wallace led a brutal and prolonged devastation of northern England following his victory at Stirling Bridge in 1297, Robert I orchestrated a similar series of raids deep into northern England with the aim of bringing Edward II to terms and make peace.

As long as they stayed clear of any fortifications, the raiders were pretty free to move through much of Northumberland, Durham, Cumbria and Yorkshire, burning and plundering as they did so.

Although the main objective of the raids was money, which could be extracted through ransoming captives or the threat of destruction of buildings by fire, the Scots would carry off anything they could, including precious metals, iron and armour, livestock, crops, textiles, including bedding, books and even pots and pans.

In 1318, the Scottish raiders, led by James Douglas, set up camp at Fountains Abbey allowing them to raid the surrounding countryside and granaries, before then descending on Knaresborough.

As long as the Scots stayed clear of archers positioned high up on the castle rampart they would have been free to wreak their havoc – contemporary accounts suggest that 140 houses were burned.

Mr Bankhead added: “Of particular interest to the River Hunters was the fact that the granary, situated on the Nidd, would have been an obvious target and therefore, the fast-flowing section of river between Knaresborough High Bridge to the wear, situated beneath the Castle ruins, was searched by Beau, Rick and me.

“The second location that we searched for evidence of the Scottish raiders, and which also features in the final episode, was the site of a late-medieval wooden bridge over the River Swale positioned to the western edge of the charming village Myton-on-Swale.

“In the year following the destruction of Knaresborough, a diversionary force of some 15,000 Scottish soldiers were again sent south to ravage Yorkshire.

“In a naive attempt to surprise the Scottish raiders, the Archbishop of York, William de Melton assembled a force of some 15,000 townsfolk and clerics – many of York’s noblemen and trained soldiers were assisting Edward II’s siege of Berwick .

“Unfortunately, for the inexperienced York men, as soon as they crossed the bridge they were set upon by the battle hardened Scots and panic quickly ensued – if they weren’t cut down in the hay pasture, they drowned trying to make good their escape over the Swale.

“In the days prior to filming, heavy rainfall in the Yorkshire Dales elevated the depth of the river at Myton-on-Swale and we also lost some of the clarity that had been present on the recce.

“For safety reasons, plans for me to undertake an underwater search of the riverbed using my dive kit were cancelled.

“Not to be deterred by these new challenges, the River Hunters got to work searching the shallower river margins.

“Without giving away any spoilers by describing exactly what we found at each location, it would be suffice to say that we found material culture evidence dating from the time of the Raiding of the North through to the Victorian period: objects that help contribute to our understanding of Yorkshire’s remarkable history.”

l River Hunters, from Knaresborough, is on Sky History on Monday, May 10 at 9pm. Sky History is available on Sky 123, NOW TV, Virgin 270 and TalkTalk 327. Episodes will be available on catch up.