Re­ally dum­tee­dum

We’ve got the peo­ple and the places, so is Nor­folk hid­ing in plain sight be­hind the rolling hills and vow­els of the Archers?

EDP Norfolk - - Talk Of The County - Rowan Mantell CONTACT rowan.mantell@archant.co.uk

SOME PEO­PLE have sec­ond homes on the coast, in north Nor­folk or Spain. I have an in­land (and in-my-mind) sec­ond home in Am­bridge.

I’ve lis­tened to The Archers for as long as I can re­mem­ber and ini­tially thought my Borset­shire bolt-hole was some­where in the mid­dle of the coun­try, but have grad­u­ally come to re­alise that it is much nearer Nor­folk than I had thought. No won­der I can travel there and back ev­ery day.

I was talk­ing to David Archer re­cently. No, I re­ally was, or at least to Tim Bentinck, who plays the father and fam­ily man in the world’s long­est-run­ning drama. He has a house here in Nor­folk – as do milk­man Mike Tucker, pig farmer Neil Carter and even the con-man who aban­doned David’s lit­tle sis­ter, Elizabeth, in the early 1990s. Game­keeper Will Grundy must be a reg­u­lar vis­i­tor too be­cause his real-life dad is ac­tu­ally Terry Mol­loy, who plays Mike. (Keep up!)

Sto­ry­lines in­volve ci­der­mak­ing, bird-watch­ing, fruit­pick­ing, com­mu­nity shops and pan­tos, flower and pro­duce shows, cricket teams, ar­ti­cles in glossy mag­a­zines – all stuff that hap­pens in Nor­folk. And we have vil­lage greens with ponds, places with pubs called The Bull, churches ded­i­cated to St Stephen, stately piles di­ver­si­fy­ing into spas, plus Home Farms, Mil­len­nium Woods and com­mu­nity or­chards.

When I lived in a real, rather than a ra­dio, vil­lage, the rhythm of ru­ral life was all around. Morn­ing and evening milk­ing, win­ter plough­ing, spring lambs, sum­mer hay­mak­ing and au­tumn har­vest­ing. In towns the sea­sons are less de­fined. Ur­ban gar­dens still yield fruit and veg in sea­son, and ur­ban trees bud and blos­som, turn golden and lose their leaves. But the un­furl­ing of each year would be more about how many lay­ers of clothes to wear or shed than about ev­ery as­pect of life and land­scape – if I wasn’t also liv­ing in Am­bridge.

This month I’ll be in the crowds for the bon­fire on Am­bridge vil­lage green, and putting my order in for a Grundy tur­key (and prob­a­bly a Fair­brother goose too, as long as I take a few healthy walks up Lakey Hill in­be­tween). And I’ll be in the Brook­field kitchen for Stir-up Sun­day on Novem­ber 26. The tra­di­tion of mak­ing Christmas pud­dings on the last Sun­day be­fore Ad­vent doesn’t take place in my real life but I’m as ex­pert at adding a six­pence to the mix­ture and mak­ing a wish as I am at mak­ing silage and herbal leys, thanks to my agrispir­i­tual home in Am­bridge.

I’m in good com­pany. Peo­ple outed as Archers fans in­clude the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Corn­wall, Martin Clunes, Phil Jupi­tus, Ewan MacGre­gor, Ian Rankin, Fiona Bruce, Sir Ian McKellen and Nor­folk boy Stephen Fry

That other Nor­folk boy, Tim Bentinck/David Archer, is an earl in real life, and 1990s ne’erdo-well, Cameron Fraser, was played by Delaval Ast­ley, also an ac­tual Nor­folk lord. They are not even the high­est rank­ing no­bil­ity to be part of the Archers fam­ily. Princess Mar­garet and the Duchess of Corn­wall have both ap­peared as them­selves. They’ve also both been to San­dring­ham so that pretty much proves the Borset­shire-is-Nor­folk the­ory.

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