Dozens of locals grabbed trowels to plant snowdrop bulbs in the grounds of the Trinity Centre on Friday as the Countryfile cameras rolled. The BBC1 programme came to Shaftesbury to feature the snowdrop season.
Trudie Stanley is a trustee of the Trinity Centre and is pleased that the producers chose to film in Trinity churchyard. “It’s great. There’s a huge gang of people who are all busy planting new snowdrops,” she said. “They just said come down at 2 o’clock. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen but there are lots of people from different organisations linked to the Snowdrops Trust. We are all here together and we had to start planting when they started filming.”
Trudie says they were told to appear busy and not to glance at the camera. “I did what I was told which is most unusual,” she laughed.
As Matt Baker recorded interviews, around thirty locals silently dug on their hands and knees. Staff from sponsor BV Dairy and volunteers from Shaftesbury in Bloom, Steps in Time and Shaftesbury Civic Society boosted the numbers of snowdrop season committee members. The helpers patiently provided a backdrop as programme co-presenter Matt interviewed Fontmell Magna-based potter Yo Thom. Yo has produced a limited edition souvenir cup for this year’s event. “I always do a limited edition, snowdrop-themed thing just for the festival,” she told Alfred.
Yo explained her passion for snowdrops to the TV presenter. “They asked me why snowdrops are special to me. My two girls were born in February and one of them was two weeks overdue, so I had nothing to do. We were walking around and sightseeing and there were so many snowdrops everywhere at that time. That’s special,” said Yo. “This time, I helped to plant because it was in memory of my mother-in-law who sadly passed away a few weeks ago. It was at snowdrop time as well. So snowdrops have become a symbol of life for our family.”
Earlier in the day, Matt Baker had filmed in the garden where heritage and special snowdrop bulbs are grown. Down the hill, his co-presenter Ellie Harrison walked along Kingsman Lane with local author and bee campaigner Brigit Strawbridge. Brigit was filmed searching for wildflowers which are in bloom earlier because of climate change. Brigit told the presenter that gardeners must plant winter-flowering plants for pollinators flying at this time of year.
Ellie was taken to the allotment that Brigit works with her husband Rob. There, Brigit planted a winter-flowering honeysuckle, which is one of her recommended plants for winter flying pollinators.
It’s unclear which interviews will make the final edit of the programme when broadcast. Pam Cruickshank says she was interviewed as a snowdrop committee member. Other interviewees included snowdrop specialist Chris Horsfall and Emma Thick, who helped make the study day possible. The programme-makers also spoke with snowdrop volunteer Carole Walpole and woodturner Darren Wheeler was filmed turning a dibber.
Artists Jonathan Garrett and Des Alner of Twyford’s Higher Green Farm Arts were recorded for the programmes. Des arranges the snowdrop lantern making sessions. The BBC filmed a rehearsal for the lantern procession on Gold Hill. The parade, scheduled for Sunday, was cancelled because of the strong wind warning.
There is still some uncertainty over when the Shaftesbury Snowdrops segments will be broadcast on Countryfile. Pam’s understanding is that the programme will be screened on Sunday the 23rd.
Mayor Tim Cook hopes that this high-profile exposure for Shaftesbury will bring tourism benefits. “It’ll be a very good boost, not just for the snowdrop project but hopefully for Shaftesbury in general. People will see this nationwide. They will see the beauty of Shaftesbury and will want to come back. Those who haven’t been might want to come and visit and see where we are,” said Tim.
This year’s snowdrop merchandise featured the image ‘Lanterns of Light’ by local artist Amy Yates. Amy’s design was voted for at last year’s snowdrop art exhibition. Next year’s design has already been selected. Visitors to the Arts Centre Gallery chose Percy Lizzard’s ‘White Bird with Snowdrop’ as the featured image for the 2021 snowdrop season.