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I’ve been listening to The Archers for a full year, now. I know because one of the characters recently said “Can you believe that happened a whole year ago?” And, I remember when it happened! The Archers is the world’s longest-running soap opera which, of course, means that it’s a radio show because that’s where soap operas began.
According to the Wikipedia article, The Archers began with a pilot in 1950 and continued as a regular show starting on the first of January 1951. The show focuses on the farming region around the fictional village of Ambridge and originally had a purpose of educating farmers in modern methods to increase productivity in the United Kingdom during the post-World War II rationing years.
Now, of course, most of the listeners are city dwellers. I enjoy the show as a way to connect with my rural ancestry, even though my ancestors farmed in Indiana, not England. If I were farming today, I would encounter many of the issues that are explored on The Archers: soil conservation, the role of organics, modernization of machinery.
One of the fun aspects of episodes of The Archers is that they take place on the day of broadcast. I enjoy getting little snippets of how the people of Ambridge celebrate holidays. The community is recovering from a devastating flood right now, but they managed to pull off a very British May Day celebration, a holiday that is mostly ignored in the US. The contemporaneous nature of the show also means that big news stories, especially ones that effect farmers like the 2001 foot-and-mouth disease outbreak, will quickly make an impact on the characters in the show.
We didn’t get to spend much time in the countryside of England, but we did have one memorable day. Our adventurous journey to Crofton Pumping Station included over two miles of walking along a canal, passing pasture and other farmland. That’s when we encountered the British stile, a structure to help walkers get over fences without relying on them to remember to close the gate behind them, thus risking the safety of the livestock. As a farmer’s granddaughter, I know full well that one always leaves a gate the way you found it, but any farmer, including the ones on The Archers, wouldn’t want to depend on the average city dweller knowing that policy. In England, much more than in the US, farmers are expected to allow certain rights of passage for walkers.
How connected do you feel to your rural ancestry?