Tales from the Green Valley
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Tales from the Green Valley

2005, History  -   54 Comments
Ratings: 8.44/10 from 41 users.

Tales from the Green ValleyTales from the Green Valley, explores life on a British farm in the 17th century. This 12 x 1/2 hour television documentary, produced and directed by Peter Sommer, attracted large audiences and wide critical acclaim. Tales from the Green Valley follows the five as they labor for a full agricultural year, getting to grips with period tools, skills, and technology from the age of the Stuarts, the reign of James I.

Everything must be done by hand, from plowing with a team of oxen using a replica period plowing and thatching a cowshed using only authentic materials, to making their own washing liquid for laundry and harvesting the hay & wheat with scythes and sickles. Each of the 12 half-hour programmes, made by Lion TV for BBC Wales, follows a month in the life of the farm situated on the Welsh borders.

Far from being a reality series, these beautifully filmed programmes revel instead in the period’s rich history, the British countryside as it changes through the seasons, and of course food. Every episode features a dinner cooked up using period breeds and varieties of animals, fruits, and vegetables, according to 400 year old recipes extracted from housewives’ diaries, farming manuals etc.

The five specialists wear period clothing - because they’re practical, real working garments, with the men in breeches so the bottoms don’t get muddy and wet, and the women wearing long thick skirts which protect from brambles and keep them warm.

This documentary led to the creation of the following programmes: Victorian Farm, Victorian Pharmacy, Victorian Farm Christmas and Edwardian Farm.

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54 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Peter Wadham

    I thoroughly enjoyed this documentary. I would for one be prepared to pay money to spend time here in my holidays, learning and helping with the work. It sounds like a very enjoyable time to be had. Can they please (I realise that it is probably too late) make a film on the farm and the preparation work that they did to do this. Is it possible to see some of the conclusions and learnings that they got. May be a web site with papers or lectures based on the learning from this period.

  2. Noele French

    Ah the seemingly much younger and less experienced crew jump into the time machine for a first time! They've spent considerably more time with excrement on their hands in this series. One of the best aspects of these films is their relaxing simplicity, but this particular set is a bit naughtier in it's details about rural life and facts about human nature. I believe nobody quite delivers an old adage like Ruth. Some of them really link us very much to our history as a people. it's great.

  3. shane scallan

    If I had the money I would finance a load of these projects for the benefit of allowing personal development oppurtunity. There is something truly spiritual about working the land and laboring for your own surrival.

    I think people would pay money to participate in such projects provided it was marketed in the populist way.

    1. Gingerella72

      I said the same thing a few years ago when PBS had Frontier House - a set up like that, for therapeutic, recovery purposes - would do a boatload more good than any time spent in hospitals, prisons, or drugged up on antidepressants.

  4. Sulla123

    Wonderful. wonderful, wonderful. Genuine, informative and educational. The participants were dedicated and determined whilst retaining a sense of humour and I, for one, came away from the whole experience with nothing but awe and admiration for the 'poor, ignorant' peasant farmers of the time. Strip away our technology and we would not last five minutes alongside these 'bumpkins'. Easily a 10 from 5!! A must see for anyone, especially your children!!!!!

  5. John L Cannon

    This is a fascinating series...it's like a 4real reality show sans who's screwing whom...n yelling n screaming...u know, cambridgesque...

  6. Gina Salazar-Raynow

    I love the documentaries that were done with Peter, Alex and Ruth. To be able to live in that style, the simplicity and all the work! How wonderful. Thank you for putting these on here. We have learned so much. I use them as a homeschooling tool!!

  7. Teugels

    Asked this site to put it on asap, which they did. In daily life I often think of how I could get back to a slow, simple life, in a small community of congenial people. A place where I live from own resources, and where I can share it with outsiders to shown them how to live more in balance with our nature. A life where travelling, eating, living etc. would be slow again. A world without electricity, modernism, hypes, media etc... Actually a world a little bit like Amish in the US (but without the religious crap). What really is attracking me is living in such community in the Spanish Pyrenees in one of the numerous abandoned villages there. Unfortunately, mostly there is a reason why it was left... There is always the rational way of dealing with this craving and the feasible reality. Anyone can help me out in finding a way to, at least, work out this dream for a small part. I do live in Flemish Ardennes - Belgium.

    1. Michael Brk

      I'm thinking exactly the same thing, maybe we can chat a bit about it once.

  8. Teugels

    Asked this site to put it on asap, which they did. In daily life I often think of how I could get back to a slow, simple life, in a small community of congenial people. A place where I live from own resources, and where I can share it with outsiders to shown them how to live more in balance with our nature. A life where travelling, eating, living etc. would be slow again. A world without electricity, modernism, hypes, media etc... Actually a world a little bit like Amish in the US (but without the religious crap). What really is attracking me is living in such community in the Spanish Pyrenees in one of the numerous abandoned villages there. Unfortunately, mostly there is a reason why it was left... There is always the rational way of dealing with this craving and the feasible reality. Anyone can help me out in finding a way to, at least, work out this dream for a small part. I do live in Flemish Ardennes - Belgium.

  9. Tim Flinchum

    Watched all episodes in one sitting...immensly enjoyable and educational!!

  10. John Christopher McDonald

    This is a fascinating documentary that really helps gather a sense of life in that era. The cast is great, especially with their accents, and the series has a steady progression that, while 5 hours, runs by at a fairly steady pace. 4/5 stars

  11. Jo McKay

    well done... took a couple days but got through the series. I imagine this was popular when it aired. A significant message, that looking after ones own needs brought a lot of satisfaction. Another mark for sustainability and sharing skills.

    1. Jack1952

      I watched an episode a day and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. It was difficult to portray the hardships of the times in this format and it did appear more idyllic than it actually was.

      Someone mentioned that this lifestyle may be in our future. Lets hope we take the good things we have now along with the best they had then.

    2. Jo McKay

      I'd like to think we do have a small window of opportunity to re-evaluate how we want our societies and lives - voluntarily and strategically reducing population, evaluating how much we really each need toward a goal of living more simply, protection from - or- elimination of business or banks 'too big to fail', and a profound (deep & wide) willingness to accept great change. That's a lot to wish for, yet, I can sense the under ground movements begin to sound. Hmm. As for idyllic; I had a moment in the show, when it was mentioned in passing that people in the country and times didn't much like the summer, as it brought thieves, pirates, etc. as @silkop says below, it's a cautionary tale - sustainability needs a mass movement, a shift in thinking, and something that looks more like community co-ops on the land, for those who like the country idea (my daughter says 'commune', lol, I say co-op) and in towns and cities - local coops still do represent the local people, so we do have a start if we will to take it? = peace

  12. Nikita2012

    Just watched episode 1, very interesting and inspiring! great project by these 5 daring people! few years back I lived with one of the countryside farming community for a year in India. That was an amazing experience in my life. The farmers do not use any modern technology and farming is done in traditional methods. Everything is done manually, and its amazing to know their wisdom on tradition farming. The only difference of the farming community I lived with and this documentary is – the documentary is a project they are experimenting and the people in the farming community I lived with is their way of life! so we still have people, community even today who are living life in a simpler but meaningful way.

  13. Jack1952

    I have just finished episode 2. His statement about herding pigs is absolutely true. It has been my experience that it you are trying to chase a pig to a desired location, let it think that you are chasing him in the opposite direction. It will go exactly where you want and will be quite smut about getting its own way.

  14. Daniel

    Oh god that psycho woman is on this again. I believe she will cause the apocalypse only so that everyone has to live like they did during an old time era.

    1. silkop

      Yay, psycholady for the world president!

  15. Stas Plaizier

    It's October, and witch burning season in the Green Valley...

    1. silkop

      Here's some bonus deleted scenes from the DVD: Winter Wolves Attack, Spring Robbery, Summer House Fire, Autumn Plague. Not to mention the various terrible accidents involving both sharp and blunt tools, falling off roofs, and tragic encounters with aggressive semi-domesticated animals that happened on the farm throughout the year.

  16. Barb Mathews

    This documentary seems so picturesque, and the natural foods so healthy and nutritious, but can you imagine the constant back breaking, never ending work? Still, I would have enjoyed sustainable lifestyle coupled with modern work saving conveniences in a similar idyllic setting. Lovely.

  17. Denise Debra Ann Machan

    How idyllic and satisfying; what a feeling of accomplishment!!
    Life today just can't compare.

  18. NAND Gate

    Pretty sure this will be real life shortly.

    1. Guest

      You mean you may turn into a hippie? lolol

    2. NAND Gate

      17th century hippies?

      I'll be using my knowledge of science to help me.


    3. Guest

      I think my joke was a fair joke after being called a hyppie by you several time in a derogatory way. It is nice to see that arrogant people have the sense to grow organic food, it fills me with hope.

    4. NAND Gate

      rofl I think you will find you are insulting me yourself, unprovoked, while trying to justify yourself - just like that other cn commenter. Hypocrisy is ugly. Try rereading these comments here and have a look at yourself. Also try sorting by "Most Popular".

    5. Earthwinger

      Agreed. When consumer driven capitalism collapses, which I think it's fairly safe to say that at some point it will, I can well imagine that the most workable societies will be small agricultural based co-operatives that mostly provide for themselves, but also barter with similar neighbouring communities. There's no reason it has to be done 17th Century style, though there are many lessons we can learn from studying the past. Modern technologies can still be employed. We'll just have to learn to use technology in a smarter and more energy efficient manner than we currently do.

    6. NAND Gate

      Luckily, I run a sustainable food technology business and run workshops through the local community park and council.... thinking ahead ;)

      Get your heads around THAT one Az and C_and_N ;) All I do is grow fresh food that has no chemicals of ANY kind. Didn't see that coming, did you hippies? ;)

    7. Hanno Conring

      I agree with you both, even though I think people will employ techniques and resources based on what they have, resulting in a mix of techniques ranging from medieval or earlier periods up to present day resources. Apart from tools and land it will also be depend on the people and their levels of knowledge and consciousness in these cooperatives who will work the land accordingly.
      My personal concern will be the ruins of our postmodern atomic and chemical induestries who will leave huge problems for all of us behind. I have no doubt that nature will absorb these problems in time, questions remains: in time for the surviving people? Earth doesnt need us, WE need the earth. And we have been pretty successful in messing it up. Whatever is going to happen, who will carry on the "beacon of humanity"???

  19. Jack1952

    I've only watched the first episode but I think that the farmers back then would burnt the land off before they started plowing. It would add fertilizers to the soil and would have helped to prevent the clumping problem they initially experienced. It would have made it easier to do the spring plowing, also.

    1. Earthwinger

      Slash and burn is a very crude technique, and you can only treat a plot of land like that for a few years, before it becomes unproductive.

      The techniques they used back then, may have been very labour intensive, but they knew what they were doing, and it was very sustainable.

    2. NAND Gate

      Um yeah, but the people he is referring to weren't from "back then". Considering the situation, I would have to agree with Jack. Ideally, you grow specific crops and plough them in to fertilise the soil. They clearly dont have the time to manage this "best practice" for a number of years/a generation before filming.

      And the ONLY reason their methods were sustainable is because they couldn't get their hands on our pesticides and fertilizer - coz they would have used them if they could. Only NOW do we know the dangers.

    3. Earthwinger

      Um....read his post again. ;)

      As an interesting aside, my grandparents used to have a farm in the Welsh borders, so it's a landscape that I'm very familiar with. My grandparents could have used modern agri-chemicals on their fields if they'd wanted too, but theirs was predominately a pig farm, so there was no shortage of organic fertilizer. So they farmed organically, even though at the time it wasn't fashionable to do so. For them, it made economic sense.

      Never once did they need to slash and burn the fields, as to do so would just have killed off the life in the soil, that they worked so hard to cultivate.

    4. NAND Gate

      ....I read his post again, and I have no idea what your point is. Jack is right.

      ....you realise this is a documentary and not real life, right?
      That these people were there for a limited time and didn't have time to "cultivate their fields"? You realise the people in the documentary dont ACTUALLY live in the 16th century?

      Jack is right. And your "grandparents" dont represent 16th century agricultural practices.

      I happen to be a sustainable food technology scientist. Sorry about that. And burning light vegetation above the ground and ploughing it in will not "kill off the life in the soil", since soil doesn't burn. At worst, 5-10mm of top soil might reach 100oC (heat rises remember?)

    5. NAND Gate

      And no - quite the contrary - they didn't know what they were doing. We call THAT science - something completely missing from 16th century farmers.

    6. Jack1952

      @ Earthwinger

      The plot that they were attempting to till was small in area and was a meadowland. It had not been put to the plow for a number of years. A farmer of the past would have used the most effective technique possible in the same situation. I am not speaking of intensive slash and burn. This would be a judicious and one time use of fire to achieve a specific goal. I have witnessed farmers do this when I was a boy back in the fifties. I was not suggesting that they were setting the land ablaze every plowing season.

    7. Earthwinger

      The vast majority of farms in the UK used small fields, which were often divided up by hedgerows. The fields are just too small to do any sort of controlled burn, as the risk of fires spreading to neighbouring fields would be far too great. I also doubt that quite so many of the ancient hedgerows, which are hundreds of years old, would have survived intact had they ever used controlled burn techniques.

    8. NAND Gate

      You are quite justified in your position, Jack. The first step to improving unworked land is to burn off the vegetation, plough the ash in, plant a "green manure" crop, plough that in, wait, burn off again, plough again then finally plant. Assuming you have the time, of course, and are not limited by television deadlines etc.

    9. Guest

      I agree with you @Psinet but why would you burn it again after growing green manure? You obviously know what you are talking about... I have always just turned it in in the fall before it seeds itself, or in the spring if it was planted late summer.

  20. Paul M Webb

    I wish the world could be like this.

    1. NAND Gate

      it will be. But with internet.

    2. magarac

      Ain´t nothing like a 17th century farm with TDF!

  21. Yasuhiro Usuba

    Great documentary! I've always imagined what it would've been like to live in these times without technologies such as iphones and laptops, and the rewards of good hard solid work as well as old fashioned cooking! In fact, I wouldn't mind doing it myself but a nice hot bath would be hard to come by no? ^_^

    1. knowledgeizpower

      Yeah I wouldn't mind trying this way of living either it seems more self sufficient having a farm basically working for yourself but i would like to keep my inside bathroom,
      hot water, ohh and electricity is good too :D ohh well i still would give it a try at least Lol!

    2. brightlight4

      Now you could use solar power for hot water and electricity!!

    3. magarac

      But just think of the first hot bath after one year of being damp and cold. That would be so great!

    4. Guest

      I had a cast iron bath outside with a fire underneath and a board in the bath to prevent from burning myself on the bottom. Even in the winter it was a fantastic home made hottub, sitting under the falling snow, no lights, just nature all around. I also experienced the same at a tree planting camp by a lake many years ago.
      It is possible to revive the way of the past, at least in some small ways. It is a choice of lifestyle.

    5. brightlight4

      We had a bath in our kitchen that my mother would fill with hot water and bath all the kids in it and then fill it again for my father or herself to have a bath, so it is not impossible to have a bath in such circumstances.

    6. NAND Gate

      Good mental images ;) You do look like Denise Richards in her heyday, right? Coz in my head you do now.

    7. Guest

      Don't know anything about Denise Richards other than what she looks like and the fact that she was married to a shite disturber.

    8. Jo McKay

      some good comments below :)... Az says bath tub; I'm thinking Hot Tub, but with thermal heating, solar blanket cover, and rain water collection ... sigh, after all the physical work you know :). You could still be hooked up to a municipal water system (permits for your own well is already becoming very hard to come by as water resources are depleted), but will want water collection for back up & perhaps recycle systems in place for bathrooms, laundry, etc. Where I live folks have 2 or 3, even 4 or 5 bathrooms - I think that will soon see a huge change, as we accept more personal responsibility.