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33 of 77 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars AND THEY CALL THIS FARMING, 8 Oct. 2007
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This review is from: Tales From The Green Valley [DVD] (DVD)
I am an eleventh generation farmer (plus historian). When I first saw this on TV with my father we were both interested to see how the programme would go, especially as some of the people professed to have prior knowledge of the land. We spent large parts of each episode variously laughing, shouting at the TV and often turning over in frustration. It was awful. My father was brought up when horses were still used on the land, before herbicides and when you carried two hundredweight bags of corn on your back. And even when I grew up - and today for that matter - many of the skills used then are still known even if not practiced. They didn't know what they were doing at all, and didn't know one end of a horse from another! The older feller, the `expert' in farming methods made constant remarks that he was following some Tudor or Stuart description, completely ignoring the fact that many of these accounts were written by people who were armchair experts with no practical knowledge - farmers at the time would have been as wise to follow their descriptions as one would be to listen too much to some of the theorists that can be found in agricultural colleges today. The result: that the obvious way of doing a given chore was ignored in the desire to slavishly go `by the book'. He showed himself to be `book smart' but to have no real understanding of what he was doing. For instance, when harrowing they drag some branches of thorn and gorse behind their horse, anyone with the slightest knowledge would know that the branches were woven into a rectangular timber harrow frame which provides weight. This was still being done in the fifties and such harrows are found in illustrations from the fourteen century, so they were certainly known. I know that the reply to my criticisms will be that things were done differently then than now; not so, farmers wanted to get the best return from their land and stock then as now, the methods of cultivation were the same, the only difference being the scale, and a cow was always a cow in any century - though the girl would need considerably more practice to get a job milking then or now (and yes cows are still sometimes stripped down by hand today). A farmer from the seventeenth century would recognise their clothes and what they were trying to do but would dismiss them as a bunch of pathetic town dwellers - much as we would such well meaning armatures today. It is more like the Good Life in costume than an insight into normal agricultural life in the past. If you have any connection with the land avoid this, or at least take a tranquilizer before watching it, your nerves won't stand it otherwise!
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 10 Nov 2007 16:18:12 GMT
Last edited by the author on 10 Nov 2007 16:20:19 GMT
Tom Bombadil says:
I must say Sweed Basher that I found your entry helpful. I did indeed like the series and was happy indeed when it came out on DVD. They were bound to get things wrong though weren't they? My girl at the time of its tv release was 'doing' the Tudor thing at school and sat through the lot without a complaint, and she wished for more, so they got the angle right at least. Her school has a copy of the 'Christmas Tudors' (not yet on DVD) as it lets the kids in on the deal in a festive way. Could you recommend a book or other, for us folk, like you that like to see the 'facts'?

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Nov 2007 23:26:13 GMT
Last edited by the author on 22 Nov 2007 23:32:10 GMT
Hi there, sorry to get back to you so late, I only just noticed your message. What you ask is more difficult than you may realise, not helped by the fact that the late Tudor/Early Stuart period is somewhat later than my normal time frame. If you want a book suitable for your daughter I am afraid I can't really help; as for adult information, on that specific period `The Earlier Tudors' by Mackie (Oxford) has a chapter on economic development that includes agriculture, `Elizabethan Life In Town And Country' by Byrne is interesting particularly from the social historical point, but be aware that it was written quite a time ago and is somewhat dated. Also the earlier chapters of `Agricultural Revolution in England, 1500-1850' by Overton is scholarly though very, very dry. For an earlier period (my sort of time!), `Medieval England, Rural Society and Economic Change 1086-1348' by Miller and Hatcher is excellent; also `Life on the English Manor 1150-1400' by Bennett and ch. XI on Rural Society in `The Fourteenth Century' by McKisack. `English Society in the Early Middle Ages' by D M Stenton, this is earlier than your period by far but I would recommend its ch.III to anyone interested in the rural past, it is a good and informative read. These books are pretty much devoid of colour, but the dusty facts of the historian mostly are.
More generally and from a landscape perspective, Hoskins' classic `The Making of the English Landscape' is well worth a read though some of the earlier views (ch 1-2) are now supplanted. `Interpreting the Landscape' by Mick Aston (Time Team guy), and `The History of the Countryside' by Oliver Rackham are excellent, and almost anything by Maurice Beresford, but I must stress that these are not social histories.
Shire does a whole series of booklets about rural crafts etc, such as 'Old Farm Buildings', `Thatch and Thatching' and `The Village Blacksmith'. They are inexpensive and pretty informative.
You may not be aware that many of the experts from the series have produced books and pamphlets through Stuart Press Publications, their web-site is at
A good rural or country museum is a great place to learn hands on, the finest that I know is Acton Scot in Shropshire. Many of the tools used are Victorian but in reality the processes are not too different. For an earlier experience of rural life, the Cosmeston Medieval Village, near Penarth, S Glamorgan is great. Although I have never been there, I have heard good things of the Weald and Downland Museum; I know they have a late medieval yeoman's house and garden laid out there, and buildings from other periods too. But to really get a feel of what this sort of life was like in the pre electric, horse-drawn farming world you can do no better than to search out the local old-time countrymen in your area, ten minutes with them will give you a feel for the attitude and realities of life than all the historians in the game can achieve. I was lucky, we lived near an old thatcher, my grandfather was a wheelwright, and my father has his own memories. Often I have quizzed my father on issues such as yield of crops, milk and weight of fatstock, methods of storage and processing of crops to check the feasibility of an assertion or theory. Not everything is transferable of course, but much is. For example, a crop mentioned in fourteenth century documents as masslin - a mixture of oats and barley sown on the same land together, this is mentioned as dredge by an Elizabethan Pembrokeshire Historian George Owen as being grown in his day; when I told my father this, low and behold dredge was still very commonly grown in his youth, and only this summer we found a local farmer growing this same crop only a few miles away! A historian of medieval Pembrokeshire would never realise the long continuity; it is still just to be found in many regions. I hope some of this lot will be of help to you, have fun and all the best, S. Scale

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Mar 2008 09:45:48 GMT
Tom Bombadil says:
Thanks again Sweed Basher. I will look into the stuff you recommend. I have a longer attention span than my girl so maybe I will have to do the teaching after I got the info....and now my lad is about to embark on that period in school. Ho-hum.

Thank you again for responding.

Posted on 21 Feb 2009 00:40:06 GMT
Although you are quite right...... look at this from another angle. How often do we have the pleasure of seeing heavy horses working on tv? This series, and the 'Victorian Farm' (I am writing this Feb 2009) are way above the normal tv reality mush.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Mar 2009 18:29:05 GMT
P. G. Croft says:
Absolutely right ! We must'nt frighten the viewer too much. Showing people actually slaving from dawn to dusk throughout the whole year, must be very disturbing to your average couch potato. The fact that these programmes get a surprising amount of viewers, followed by excellent sales of books and DVDs--proves that this generation just love to watch other people working---over and over again, they also get good excersize when they clench their muscles--when IMAGINING what it is like. There's always a good side to things--------------------

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Oct 2010 15:25:32 BDT
I do see your point, and on looking at this series again through non rural eyes, I can see that it is not as poor as I have said.
As for the Victorian Farm - uch, it is so poor it is unbelievable. I have used most of that equipment my self and was embarrased for the mouthy 'expert' archaeologist who didnt know a single thing, and just tried to use volume as a mask for ignorance.
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