My country file

Managing communications, as I do, for Shropshire Wildlife Trust I receive countless requests from media companies. But the one I always take very seriously is when Countryfile comes calling.

Did you realise it started in 1988, so is older than (nearly) all my shirts. Most importantly, when it’s first aired in its Sunday slot it attracts at least 6 million viewers, rising to over 10 million with repeats and catch-up. So it’s worth being on.

Filling an hour every week with compelling and different rural stories is no mean feat, hence regular requests from BBC researchers for ideas. When their target is Shropshire we try to make sure we have an interesting story.

Ellie and Matt Countryfile

Matt Hawkins with Countryfile presenter Ellie Harrison 2020

A quick dash round colleagues to ask what they’re up to that might work for Countryfile and I’ll send a list through. They like something where the presenter can become involved. This time round it was Ellie Harrison helping our own Matt Hawkins find slow worms at Earls Hill. (Watch this episode here).

Matt Baker Countryfile

Matt Baker filming at the Serpentine Telford 2018

When we know they’re actually coming (this can be on and off repeatedly) there’s a frisson of excitement as to who our presenter will be. One female colleague melts at the mere mention of Matt Baker and who doesn’t think John Craven is a national treasure? To me he’s still John Craven’s Newsround!

Stuart Countryfile

Stuart Edmunds filming with presenter Ellie Harrison 2015

We’ve filmed numerous Coutryfiles over the years – restoring the Whixall scrapyard, collecting Christmas berries at The Hollies, finding pine martens on camera traps, the orange coloured brook in Telford, releasing rehabilitated hedgehogs back to the wild. But the most memorable has to be the eco-Olympics of 2012.

Much Wenlock brought them to Shropshire in June. The Wenlock Olympian Society was the precursor of the modern Olympic movement. Baron Pierre de Coubertin organised the first modern international Olympics in 1896 after visiting Dr William Penney Brookes at Much Wenlock in 1890 to see the games.

Our take was the eco-Olympics. My colleague Bryony was getting schools to run nature-based sports – jumping to touch the highest tree branch, making and shooting bows and arrows – you get the idea. Countryfile grabbed this immediately.

A group of primary school pupils were recruited and the stage was set for our games at Apley Castle in Telford, Julia Bradbury the presenter. Exciting.

Countryfile Apley 2012

Countryfile filming at Apley Ecolympics 2012

What you may have forgotten about the summer of 2012 is how much it rained. And we chose the rainiest day of the whole year to film. Normally, cameras don’t pick up rain. In movies they have to use special hoses to show rain. Not today.

The children weren’t the slightest bit perturbed by the rain. Bryony was asked by the director to remove her hood so they could see her face. She complied. Julia, ever the diva, refused. So poor Bryony spent 4 hours getting soaked. The glamour of it all.

Countryfile

So next time you watch Countryfile spare a though for all the work that goes on behind the scenes. The likes of me scurrying round for story ideas, BBC researches making sense of them, our staff who have to wear clean clothes when filming and even the underpaid and overworked presenters. We’re all part of what has become a national institution. Long may it continue.

John and Matt Baker

John and Matt Baker filming at The Hollies 2016

 

 

John Hughes

Shropshire Wildlife Trust