England's Glory: Steve England's column
THE other day I was chatting away to my mate Harry Phillips about various things, and he then asked me if I ever use to watch a programme that was on the television back in the Eighties.
I'm sure many of you reading this will remember a programme called Out of Town, which was presented by a countryman called Jack Hargreaves. He used to go around the countryside on a horse and cart, just filming various countryside pursuits.
"Oh yes," I said to Harry. "In fact, my dad always used to watch that and he always called me in when it came on."
Jack used to present Out of Town from his garden shed, and one thing that always stuck in my mind was the old antique garden tools hanging up behind him in his shed.
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There were also lots of old jam jars filled up with rusty nails, old screws and other bits and pieces, and a handsaw that was probably so old it was blunt before I was born.
The programme reminded me so much of when I was a kid playing in my grandad's shed.
When we visited him, I used to sit in the shed for hours on end next to a gallon of pig's blood he got from the butcher's shop, which he used to fertilise his roses. I used to bang old, bent, rusty nails into bits of wood to make a sword to fight my brothers with.
I always remember one programme in particular about the traditional art of coppicing and charcoal making in the Forest of Dean.
The charcoal makers literally lived in the woods. It was a hard slog for them, too, as the massive fire kilns were full to the top with wood, which had to be burned.
The timing had to be spot on for closing down the air vents in the kiln, or it would catch fire and they would lose the whole lot.
So the charcoal makers lived for up to six months at a time, 24 hours a day, watching the colour of the smoke, just waiting for the smoke coming out of the chimneys to turn from a cloudy smoke to a clear smoke – which indicated that it was time to close all the vents and let the kilns cool down.
When the massive kilns were opened, there was at least a tonne of charcoal, which had to be sorted through by hand.
By the time the men had finished sorting out the good stuff from the unburnt wood, they looked like they had just come up from a coal mine.
You know, it's looking familiar: a man going around Bristol reporting on countryside activities... I wonder who inspires me?