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Two Penn’orth


Tudor Monastery Farm was the first of the historical recreation ‘farm’ series featuring Ruth Goodman, Peter Ginn and Alex Langlands. The series ran for 12 half hour episodes, each covering one month in the year of a farm as it would have been in 1620.

The first episode, and the beginning of the agricultural year, is September. And the first task is to plough the fields because if you don’t do that, you’re not going to be planting any crops.

Although one of the good points about these series is that the team is somewhat prepared for the experience, the task still takes some getting used to. Armed with a plough such as has not been used since the seventeenth century and a field that has probably not been ploughed since the nineteenth century, they set to work. Four of them doing what would presumably have been a one man job and taking twice as long to do it.. But they get on with it.

Meanwhile, Ruth and Chloe set to work baking bread.

At the beginning of the next day, we see Pater, Alex and Ruth dressing as a demonstration of the way people dressed at the time. And Peter lights the fire. (No matches in those days.)

Chloe introduces us to the pigs and the pony. And the pony is put to work bringing in the apple harvest.

Another day sees Alex and Stuart broadcasting seed on the ploughed fields which they then harrow with a hawthorn branch.

Pigeons for tea, with some fair coverage of their preparation. It would have been interesting to see how they were caught. All we are told is that it is connected to keeping them off the newly sewn seeds.

Tales from the Green Valley

Episode 1

The Farm

The series was filmed at just one location - Grayhill Farm in Monmouthshire, also known as Bullace Hill. Although this was a great experiment - being the first time for over a century that the site had been operated as a farm, it had been under renovation since 1987. Stuart, who did not appear in the subsequent farm series, is one of the directors of the company that owns, renovated, and runs the farm. And he wrote a book about the renovation: “The Building of the Green Valley: A Reconstruction of an Early 17th Century Rural Lanscape”.

The site appears to be open for group tours on only a limited number of days in the summer. In 2014, this will be from 30th June to 4th July. Further details can be found on the Grayhill Farm website.

Fitzherbert’s Farming Manual

Fitzherbert’s Book of Husbandry was first published in 1534. Something of a classic, it was still in print over 350 years later. It is no longer relevant, of course, to modern farming methods but is of considerable historical interest. A reproduction of the Book of Husbandry is available from Amazon.

The later farm series take farm more interest in the historical context. But Tales of the Green Valley is firmly about farming. It is chronicle of a one year experiment in which the team try to run a reconstructed historical farm as it would have been run in 1620. For Stuart, the commitment represents rather more than a year. He had already spent many years rebuilding and restoring the farm and he continues to do so today.

The series is available from Amazon on DVD

Ruth and Peter can currenctly be seen with their new colleague Tom Pinfold in Tudor Monastery Farm on BBC2