Edwardian Farm

Posted: January 11, 2011 by josheppard in Telly
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

In a nutshell: All the rural charm of a Thomas Hardy novel without the tedious social drama

Rating: 5/5

I won’t lie to you: Edwardian Farm isn’t one to watch if you want fast-paced action. Even by the standards of documentaries, it’s slow. Alex Langlands, Peter Ginn and Ruth Goodman occasionally have a bit of a rush to get some ploughing done before it rains, but if you’re hoping to see anyone surviving a night on Dartmoor by climbing inside a dead sheep, you’ll be disappointed. As Ruth sagely remarks: “If you get over-excited, you don’t make very good cheese.”

What you will see, however, are lovely, intelligent, cheerful people doing fascinating things in beautiful surroundings – with such obvious enjoyment that I defy anyone not to be disarmed by their enthusiasm.

Historians Ruth, Alex and Peter spent a year living as Edwardian farmers to make this programme, and it shows. It’s not just the period costume and the Edwardian diet of cheap cuts of mutton and ale in sturdy bottles. They care. They really, really care. The men fret that their amateur shearing technique might traumatise the sheep. Ruth reacts to successfully clotting cream as if she’d turned base metals into gold. It’s infectious, this caring business. Watch Alex delivering his first lamb at midnight by the dim light of an oil-lamp, and you’ll see what I mean.

The presenters may be not be slick but they’re naturals when it comes to bringing the past alive. I even found myself sharing Peter’s childlike delight at finding a very old door and some bracken. If GCSE history teachers were this good, we could breed a nation of Simon Schamas.

Each episode’s work is dictated by the season, and there’s something comforting about being reminded that even though we can buy strawberries in January these days, there’s still an age-old natural rhythm rolling on. It seems right, somehow. Oh, and vaguely pagan. Alex’s face certainly lit up when he found a row of standing stones.

In a world where reality TV now seems to mean a witless 20-something presenter crowing over a celebrity gagging on a live wallaby foetus, Edwardian Farm is a tranquil oasis of calm that warms the cockles of this particular city girl’s heart. OK, so there’s not much drama, not much conflict. Sometimes, Ruth’s a bit bossy, but so would you be if you’d just washed 50 bug-ridden fleeces in a river.

Anyway, she’s mostly off potting shrimps and making lace, and Alex and Peter are so guilelessly charming that they more than make up for it. Need any help with the harvest, boys?

Reviewer: josheppard

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Comments
  1. curlyshirley says:

    Jo also writes a great book/writing blog, which is well worth checking out:
    http://joanne-sheppard.blogspot.com/

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