A Country Harvest Songs of Praise


A Country Harvest

Music and worship. Aled Jones visits plum-crazy Pershore in Worcestershire. Including hymns for harvest from the town's ancient Abbey.


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Transcript


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Hello, this week I'm in Worcestershire,

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one of England's biggest food-growing areas,

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so what better place, then, to celebrate harvest

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than with some first-class hymns and some great food and drink?

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Cheers, John.

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This week, we get a taste of the good life...

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..watch as Pershore turns purple...

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and we've got music from the town's stunning abbey...

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and the Operababes.

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In our consumer society where every variety of food is available

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all year round regardless of season,

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it's easy to forget all the skill and effort

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that goes into stocking the shops and putting food on the table.

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And a huge variety of that food is produced here in Worcestershire.

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The county's mineral-rich flood plains of the River Severn and Avon

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make it the perfect location for growing

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a wonderful array of fruit and vegetables.

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From apples in the Teme Valley,

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asparagus in the Vale Of Evesham,

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and plums growing just up the River Avon in Pershore.

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And our hymns come from the town's stunning abbey

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where the congregation has been joined by choirs from the surrounding area.

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We begin with a 20th-century hymn that celebrates the circle of life

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and God's role within it,

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O Lord Of Every Shining Constellation.

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Worcestershire vicar and allotment gardener Richard Etheridge

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has a keen interest in the history of harvest celebrations.

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Harvest festivals began with a Cornish vicar who got fed up

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with people getting drunk at the harvest supper...

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HE LAUGHS

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..and thought that there was something better to do,

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and he thought the idea was to encourage people

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to bring a token of the harvest to church

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for a special thanksgiving service,

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and that idea then spread throughout the countryside and into the towns.

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It's a reminder to us

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of our dependence on the labours of other people

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and the good things that God has provided for the world to use.

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The harvest loaf was first mentioned in the Old Testament

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and was a way of thanking God for a successful harvest.

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It was the idea that they took the first few sheaves of wheat,

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made the flour, made the bread,

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as the very first of the crop.

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Fresh flour from the fresh wheat as an offering to God.

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So often the harvest loaf was in the shape of a wheat sheaf.

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Sometimes it used to be shared out at the harvest supper

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as a token of the loaf that was broken and shared

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by Christ to feed the hungry.

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Whatever we do, we're dependent on God,

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we're dependent on the gift of the weather,

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on the gift of life for the seed,

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and the gift of life for ourselves.

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O-yay!

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Well, I've heard of painting the town red,

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-but here in Pershore....

-O-yay!

-I can't hear myself think!

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Here is Pershore they prefer the colour purple,

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and every summer they go plum crazy.

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You're the organiser of this event. Em, it's all a bit mad, isn't it?

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-Very mad, but isn't it wonderful?

-It's fantastic.

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-So many people, it's really good.

-Did you come up with the idea?

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No, the Pershore Plum Festival was founded about 15 years ago.

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There was a plum festival here over 90 years ago,

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and it was said that it was the greatest plum show on Earth,

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so almost 100 years later we're striving to recreate that spectacle.

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-Mr Sandon, what are you doing here? How are you?

-Nice, big smile.

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-Two choirboys together.

-Oh, yes!

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How important is it to Pershore, this event?

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Incredibly important!

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In fact, they've got special awards this year for the Plum Festival

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and the Pershore Plum itself is a wonderful thing

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and part of, I suppose, the well-being of the town is based upon plums,

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so it's marvellous.

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-So a big honour for you!

-It's great. I love it, yes.

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I get free plums! THEY LAUGH

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We remember our wonderful times together.

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Oh, plenty of wonderful times together!

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Two choirboys together, we usually burst into song, don't we?

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But not today.

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No, not...not singing. I'm not singing.

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# Plum, plum, plum Remember you're a plum... #

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I've just spied the smartest ladies in Pershore. Hello, how are you?

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I'm fine, thank you.

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I should be bowing in front of you, shouldn't I? You're...

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-What are you?

-We're princesses.

-And who are these two ladies with you?

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-The attendants.

-Oh.

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What does it mean to you to be princess of this festival?

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-Em, it's really fun and I'm really enjoying it so far.

-So far?

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What have you got to do in the future?

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You've got lots of exciting events, haven't you?

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Yeah, we're going to go to the races.

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We'll cut the ribbon around the plum tree.

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You'll cut the ribbon around the plum tree?

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I declare this tree planted.

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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If only we lived in a world where you could pay for your rent

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using fruit as currency. Just imagine!

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Well, that's exactly what happens here in Pershore.

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The town rent this land from Westminster Abbey

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and guess how much they pay for it.

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A pound of plums!

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Plums have been growing here for a couple of centuries,

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so plums are a sort of mascot for Pershore.

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There are three varieties of Pershore plum -

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the Yellow Egg plant, the Purple and the newest addition,

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the Pershore Emblem, the proud discovery of a local gardener.

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This is the original Emblem, which I planted here 30 years ago,

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and er, you can see that we've got quite a family of them here now.

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It's a good all-round plum, makes good jam, very dark jam,

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and it freezes well and you can...

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It's like a dessert plum as well.

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So we've got the Purple Egg Plum on the top.

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Oh! Delicious!

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As the organiser, do you get to travel around on this for the year?

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Not yet, but I'm hoping that this will be

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my mode of transport for the next four weeks.

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Pretty impressive, isn't it? It runs on plum juice, you know.

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It does, yes! SHE LAUGHS

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She's got the regal wave going.

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It's hard for me to imagine that we can look at nature

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without thinking of God.

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I think, right through my life, I've been fascinated by growing things,

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whether it's a plant or an animal.

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Trees are certainly important because of the shelter they give to crops.

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We're still learning about the relationship with many forms of wildlife,

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obviously birds and insects and so on,

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and there are many other things that people are discovering even now,

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where trees are interrelated with other forms of wildlife.

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They provide a lovely atmosphere.

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A lot of older people like myself

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associate Worcestershire with elm trees.

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It used to be referred to as "the Worcestershire weed",

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it was so common, but apart from that,

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it's a very, very beautiful tree - huge, billowing, cumulous,

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cloud-like branches everywhere and quite majestic.

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In the 1970s, the appearance of the landscape changed

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when millions of native elms were killed by Dutch elm disease.

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Dutch elm disease suddenly took off. It's been around for a long, long time,

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but it became rampant suddenly, maybe a different fungal strain,

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but it really took off then and the area around this area,

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it looked almost like a desert with dead elms in the summer, everywhere.

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It looked very, very bleak.

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Certainly consequences for many forms of wildlife,

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including some species of butterflies became rare or even extinct.

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Although Dutch elm disease all but wiped out the native species,

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a chance discovery by Bob and his team provided a glimmer of hope.

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Some years ago, we were travelling around the area

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and noticed a beautiful elm tree that was in full health.

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It was a bit strange because the whole area was

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at one time filled with elm trees and this was the only survivor.

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We took cuttings and we've been rooting these at the college.

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We've been busy propagating these now for some years.

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Although it's still early days, Bob's hopeful the young elms will flourish

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and be reintroduced across the countryside.

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You never can be absolutely sure they're going to be completely immune

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or even resistant, but so far so good.

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The elms we've planted are really growing away now, quite well.

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I've got high hopes that there are

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quite a few elms now that are growing away very healthily.

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I've always been very conscious

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of the beauty of creation and God's goodness.

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It seems to me that every leaf and every blade of grass

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is an "I love you" from the Lord.

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For me, nature is one long, ongoing miracle.

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We shall never fully understand it, it's like opening a box

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and then we find the wonders of creation and there's a smaller box inside

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which we have to open, and again and again and again,

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so for me it's a never-ending wonder.

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# Let us wander not unseen

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# By the elms on hillocks green

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# While the ploughman near at hand

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# Whistles o'er the furrow'd land

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# And the milkmaid singeth blithe

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# And the mower whets his scythe

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# Singeth blithe, singeth blithe

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# Singeth blithe

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# And the milkmaid singeth blithe

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# Let us wander not unseen

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# By the elms on hillocks green

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# While the ploughman near at hand

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# Whistles o'er the furrow'd land

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# And the shepherd, and the shepherd

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# Tells his tale

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# Beneath the hawthorn in the dale

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# Beneath the hawthorn in the dale

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# Let us wander not unseen

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# By the elms on hillocks green

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# While the ploughman near at hand

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# Whistles o'er the furrow'd land

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# And the milkmaid singeth blithe

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# And the mower whets his scythe

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# Singeth blithe, singeth blithe

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# Singeth blithe

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# And the milkmaid singeth blithe

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# Let us wander not unseen

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# By the elms on hillocks green

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# While the ploughman near at hand

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# Whistles o'er the furrow'd land

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# And the shepherd, and the shepherd

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# Tells his tale

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# Beneath the hawthorn in the dale

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# Beneath the hawthorn in the dale

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# Let us wander not unseen

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# By the elms on hillocks green

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# While a ploughman near at hand

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# Whistles o'er the furrow'd land. #

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MUSIC: Theme From "The Good Life".

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We used to be quite normal once. We lived in Bewdley just down the way.

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We had fairly normal jobs.

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John worked for a solicitor's in Birmingham

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and I worked for the Forestry Commission,

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but an opportunity came up

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to move up to this farm and at first we thought,

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"No, silly idea," and then we thought,

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"Well, why not, you know? Opportunity of a lifetime, let's go for it!"

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John and Linda are sampling the good life on their farm,

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living in harmony with the natural environment.

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A lot of people say that we're well bonkers. We've taken on a lot here.

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It was very hard work for the first few years.

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We replaced all the fences around the farm

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so that we could get the cattle in and get them grazing.

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We wanted to farm it in an environmentally friendly way

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and we're not actually connected to the National Grid here,

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so we had ideas about using as much renewable energy as possible

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and heating the house with our own wood and all that sort of thing,

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and generally have a go at looking after the land.

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And also, it was very much about it being open for people to come and share that journey with us.

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So the folks here today are learning about pig-keeping.

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You know, it's just us sharing as far as we've got in our learning,

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and people have been keeping pigs for thousands of years,

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so it can't have been that difficult.

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You know, Stone Age man didn't have an NVQ in pig-keeping, you know, he just got on with it.

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We have other volunteers who are getting stuck into apple presses,

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learning those skills.

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We've had all sorts of people, some not as weird as us!

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You just pray that God sends people that are going to be useful

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and they turn up.

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You should get another flush of juice.

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I like to think that people are enjoying coming here,

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enjoying being reconnected with the land.

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And just having some fun realising the joy they can have

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in being in the natural environment and working in it.

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I can imagine, out here, seasons mean a lot more to you than to

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the person who just picks up their food from the supermarket shelf.

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Yeah, the harvest is just an amazing time, and that sense,

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which I wasn't really fully aware of before we came here.

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I've had a niggling thing going on about the harvest festival we do in our own church,

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which was ending up as sort of

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tins of baked beans and packets of spaghetti.

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I'm thinking, "This isn't what harvest is about."

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Harvest is about real food and that real sense

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of overwhelming...joy that we've got food in the barn.

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If we've got the food in the barn,

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we'll be able to eat through the winter,

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and how, you know, 50-100 years ago, that sense within a community -

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that there was enough for us to get through the winter -

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would just be so overwhelming.

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No wonder you wanted to sing your praises to the Lord.

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Creator God, provider of all, we bring our thanks today.

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We bless each other that the beauty of this world

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and the love that created it...

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..Might be expressed through our lives and be a blessing to others,

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now and always.

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Amen.

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And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,

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be amongst you and remain with you always.

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ALL: Amen.

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# For the beauty of the Earth

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# For the beauty of the skies

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# For the love which from our birth

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# Over and around us lies

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# Over and around us lies

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# Lord of all, to thee we raise

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# This our joyful hymn of praise

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# For the beauty of each hour

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# Of the day and of the night

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# Hill and vale Hill and vale

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# And tree and flower And tree and flower

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# Sun and moon and stars of light

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# Sun and moon and stars of light

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# Lord of all, to thee we raise

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# This our joyful hymn of praise

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-# For the joy of human love

-For the joy of love

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# Brother, sister, parent, child

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# Friends on Earth Friends on Earth

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# And friends above Friends above

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# For all gentle thoughts and mild

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# For all gentle thoughts and mild

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# Lord of all, to thee we raise

0:29:050:29:13

# This our joyful hymn of praise

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# For each perfect gift of thine

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# To our race so freely given

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# Graces human and divine

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# Flowers of Earth and buds of heaven

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# Flowers of Earth and buds of heaven

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# Lord of all, to thee we raise

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# This our joyful hymn of praise

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# This our joyful hymn

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# Our hymn of praise. #

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With the harvest here safely gathered in for another year

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and the thankful relief that there'll be enough food to feed the animals through winter,

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our final hymn reminds us that even though the days fly by, God is always at our side.

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Next week, as the BBC marks the 10th anniversary of 9/11,

0:33:220:33:27

Sally Magnusson discovers how a new generation of young people

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are finding ways to build a more peaceful and tolerant world.

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And there are hymns and songs in harmony

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from Milton Keynes, London and Birmingham.

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And I hope you can be with us in London

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for our 50th birthday celebration at Alexandra Palace.

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We'll be singing some wonderful hymns, of course.

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And our special guests include the one and only Andrea Bocelli,

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gospel diva Beverley Knight,

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voice of an angel Katherine Jenkins

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and international country-music legend LeAnn Rimes.

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If you'd like to be part of the audience,

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tickets cost £12 each plus a charge of £1.50 per transaction.

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If you haven't got your ticket yet, here's the number to call.

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Standard geographic charges apply. Calls from mobiles may be higher.

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Or you can apply online.

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I can't wait. See you on the 25th.

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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

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E-mail [email protected]

0:34:510:34:55

Aled Jones visits Worcestershire for a taste of The Good Life, a visit to plum-crazy Pershore and hymns for Harvest from the town's ancient Abbey.


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