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Snowdonia 1890 - behind the scenes

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Ceri Rowlands Ceri Rowlands | 14:44 UK time, Monday, 18 October 2010

As series producer of Snowdonia 1890, the last 12 months have been busy. I started the job in September 2009, with a simple but sweeping directive to send two brave families on an epic journey back in time, to live the tough everyday lives of Snowdonian smallholders.

Ceri Rowlands is series producer for Snowdonia 1890

Recreating the world of 1890 was a big ask. We started with pretty much a blank page but over the course of the next six months, the idea rapidly took shape.

The series development team had already found a suitable smallholding, Tal y Braich, just outside the village of Rhosgadfan near Caernarfon. Job done I thought. But a memorably rain-soaked site visit soon revealed that the property was a virtual ruin, with no running water supply or decent access road, and there was still the small matter of finding a second cottage nearby.

We quickly decided that our best option would be to renovate Tal y Braich and build a neighbouring cottage from scratch in the network of fields that made up the smallholding. That's easier said than done when you're dealing with a windswept, sodden mountainside in the depths of winter.

I thought it best to gloss over the worst of the detail when briefing our very capable set designer. The hysterical laughter that punctuated his conversation with me after his first site visit said it all. But, good egg that he is, he got on with it.

Add to this the challenge of finding a Victorian slate quarry, school, village shop and chapel, and you quickly realise the scale of the task that we'd taken on. If a structure or feature couldn't be sourced then it had to be built.

There was also the matter of finding period accurate livestock, sourcing heritage crops for the vegetable garden, researching and making period costumes, props and tools.

What and how much would families eat and drink? How should they behave? How do you build an authentic earth closet without polluting the water table? Cue more laughter from the long suffering set designer.

The list seemed never ending. Worse still, we were informed that we would also be shooting the series in high definition, so every detail, no matter how minute, had to be period accurate.

Finally, there was the important matter of finding and selecting our two brave families, not to mention populating a whole community in which they would live. They wouldn't be entering a different era so much as a whole new world.

Psychologists, nutritionists, historians and animal experts were all consulted to ensure that the selected families would be equipped to survive what would be a truly authentic experience.

The challenge we faced was immense, not helped by the worst winter in a decade, a location in which the wind could flatten a grown man, and me discovering I was pregnant.

While the production and build teams battled the elements, I grappled with morning sickness and a raft of health and safety regulations which would effectively bar me from the smallholding when lambing started.

But despite all the obstacles we did it and in March 2010 the cameras started rolling.

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