Countryfile is in a festive mood, helping with the preparations for a very special seasonal celebration deep in rural Warwickshire. Matt Baker, Julia Bradbury and John Craven meet up with Ellie Harrison and Tom Heap at Ragley Hall, the ancestral seat of the Marquess of Hertford.
At this time of year the family are busy decking the halls, ready to hold a party for the 100-plus staff that help keep the estate running all year round. Julia finds out more about the family, one of Britain's oldest, and lends a hand decorating one of their most treasured paintings. Matt is on the farm helping move the sheep from the parklands to their winter housing, while Ellie meets the people who work at Ragley all year round. Tom is at the festive shoot, investigating why so many of our stately homes have gone into decline and discovering how Ragley has bucked the trend. And, as everyone gathers for the celebrations, John joins the Alcester Male Voice Choir to get the party started with a rousing chorus of Deck the Halls!
In the Cotswolds, Christmas is a busy time for Adam Henson as he takes on more work to make sure workers on the farm get a Christmas break. And he is keen to show off his latest pride and joy - rare breed turkeys that are definitely not on the festive menu. He also finds out why eating geese could help secure the future of some of our rarest breeds.
Christmas at Ragley Hall
It is Christmas at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire and, like any household during the festive season, it is all hands on deck as they prepare for the winter celebrations. The tree needs to be brought in and decorated, the food organised and cooked, and there’s still work to be done in the grounds and on the farm. It is the season to be jolly and the whole Countryfile team are lending a hand to the family and staff at this 300 year old house to get preparations for the annual staff party well underway.
Julia’s exploring the house
Julia Bradbury is discovering Ragley Hall itself, meeting the 9th Marquess of Hertford and finding out about his parents’ herculean efforts to save Ragley Hall from demolition back in the 1950s. She is also helping Lady Hertford co-ordinate the decorations of the Hall for the Christmas festivities, but will the Christmas tree brought in by John from the estate fit through the door?
John’s chopping the tree
While Julia’s in the Hall, John Craven’s out with Ragley’s foresters in their 1,100 acres of woodland. The wood provides valuable fuel for the Hall’s woodchip burner and income for the estate through their log and Christmas tree sales. But John has got an even more important job. He is on the annual mission to deliver Christmas trees to the local church where he encounters the Alcester Male Voice Choir making their final preparations for a performance at the party.
Matt’s moving the flocks
No estate would be complete without its Home Farm, and Ragley is no exception. Matt Baker is catching up with shepherd Barry, who is tasked with looking after the estate’s 1000 sheep. Over the summer they keep the 600 acres of grassland around the house clipped short, but it’s a big job to round them up for housing over the cold, wet winter. And it’s no mean feat for Matt either. He takes the estate’s produce from field to fork, helping Jason the chef prepare food for their 100 guests.
Ellie’s decking the halls
Final preparations are an essential part of anyone’s Christmas party. Ellie Harrison is with the estate staff, making sure the house is looking at its best. Getting the rugs rolled up in the Great Hall, the rooms adorned with garlands from the gardens, and giving a warm festive feel with a real fire - it’s all go before the guests arrive. But will everything be finished on time?
Tom’s on a mission
Tom Heap wants to know the secret of Ragley Hall’s success. Thousands of our finest British country houses have been lost in the last century and without the money to maintain them many more could be lost in the next hundred. Tom visits Croome Court in Worcestershire, where the National Trust has stepped in to restore the ailing house. There he meets former maid, Hilda Newman, who has fond memories of the days when Croome was still a working estate. Then Tom returns to Ragley to discover how, through hard work and determination, the family and staff have managed to keep the hall running as a business in its own right.
Adam’s and the goose
Adam is gearing up for Christmas on the farm and prepares during the run-up, to reduce the hours out in the field on the day itself. To celebrate the festive season Adam is discovering how the goose lost its popularity to the turkey. The goose used to be our traditional Christmas lunch, but during the 1960s a breed of turkey was introduced from America that was fast growing. The goose couldn’t be farmed intensively and mass produced in barns like the turkey, so it couldn’t compete. It is vital that we don’t lose some of our tradition geese breeds, so Adam meets up with Colin Murton who has a passion for preserving some of our rare breed geese.
|Series Producer||Teresa Bogan|