After reading The Building of the Green Valley back in 2011 I finally watched the TV series this past month while recovering from minor surgery. What a lovely series. Stephen and I watched it on YouTube, we devoured all 12 episodes in just a few sittings.
The premise: 5 history experts spend a year on a 16th century farm, doing all the things a farm family would do around the year 1620. Each episode represents a month in the year, and starting in September they wear the clothes, plow fields, eat meals, make and use tools, care for livestock, the whole thing. This is not like the reality shows that put “average folks” in historical circumstances, the two women and three men who participate are archaeologists, historians or experts of some sort. We are not subjected to any personality drama, just lovely scenery of Western England, beautifully restored buildings and landscapes, and enthusiastic experimental archaeology.
I am not an expert in 16th Century farming, so they certainly could have made choices that were less than accurate that I missed; but with that caveat, it all felt really good to me. I thought all the activities portrayed on the show: laundry, thatching, land clearing, charcoal burning, haying, cheese making, hog butchery, etc. gave a really good feel both for those who knew nothing about the history, and those of us who strive for accuracy in our own presentations. I definitely learned a bunch. I did not know that much about thatching, or that there was such a thing as a ceramic still for medicine making. In every episode there were times when I would sigh with longing over a besom broom, a lovely landscape, or something else in the show.
Watching Tales from the Green Valley was a really nice way to spend some cold January evenings dreaming about the upcoming reenacting season.