Tor McIntosh | Freelance writer and photographer

The Archers

The Archers: Top 10 storylines for the BBC Countryfile MAGAZINE blog

1: The Grundys’ Eviction (2000)

The eviction of The Grundys from Grange Farm following bankruptcy was a poignant story that highlighted the real economic struggle for tenant farmers. Forced to move to a council flat in Borchester the move seriously affected this poor farming family – even for non-ferret lovers it was a tough listen when Joe Grundy had to kill his son’s beloved ferrets. Determined to live in Ambridge the family moved into a caravan before renting Keeper’s Cottage. There was a collective cheer from listeners when the family finally moved back to their spiritual home, Grange Farm, in December 2015.

2: Will, Ed and Emma (2001-2015)

For much of the noughties Archers’ listeners were treated to a love triangle between Emma Carter and the Grundy brothers, Ed and Will, that took sibling rivalry to epic levels. It was a tantalising saga seemingly straight out of an Austen novel, in which Emma found herself having to choose between following her heart (the bad brother, Ed) or her head (the good brother, Will). The crux of the tale was Emma’s decision to marry Will in 2004, despite sleeping with Ed on her hen night, leaving the paternity of her son, George, in question – a paternity test confirmed Will was the father, but the marriage broke down nevertheless. After a decade-long love affair full of twists and turns, Ed and Emma finally tied the knot in May 2015.

3: Foot and Mouth Crisis (1956 + 2001)

Brookfield Farm has been the focus of two foot-and-mouth storylines in the drama’s 65 years on the airwaves. In 1956 the farm, then run by Dan Archer, tragically suffered from a foot-and-mouth outbreak in which over 170 cows, sheep and pigs were slaughtered. Not wishing to suffer the same fate as his grandfather, David Archer sealed off Brookfield Farm for six weeks against the national foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001. Although the farm escaped infection the writers made it very clear to Archers’ listeners that the financial costs to David and Ruth Archer were damagingly high, reflecting the real-life economic impact of the 2001 foot-and-mouth crisis for UK farmers. However, it was noticed that Borchester seemed to be the only county in the UK that wasn’t affected by the foot-and-mouth outbreak in 1967!

4: Brian Aldridge’s Lovechild (2002)

Following his various flings with Ambridge ladies it was no surprise when lothario businessman Brian Aldridge had an affair with the doctor’s wife, Siobhan Hathaway. But he didn’t expect her to give birth to his child – a much-wanted son, Ruairi, in November 2002. For months Archers’ listeners waited for Brian to finally confess his adultery and lovechild to his wife of 27 years, Jennifer. But that wasn’t the end of the saga, as things became even more complicated when Siobhan died of cancer in 2007 – her dying wish was that Brian would take care of their son. Cue another awkward conversation between Brian and his long-suffering wife Jennifer. After understandably exploding with rage she magnanimously agreed to care for Brian’s illegitimate and motherless son.

5: Jack Woolley’s Dementia (2003-14)

Over eight years listeners heard the subtle decline of local businessman Jack Woolley as he slowly succumbed to dementia. It started with confusion over a party invitation back in 2003 and, once the signs of memory loss became more obvious (forgetting names, confusion over whether his beloved dog, Captain, was dead or alive, and not letting his wife, Peggy, into the house due to not recognising her), he was admitted into a home in 2009. Unbeknown to some listeners shortly after Jack Woolley was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in The Archers, the actor who played the character for 31 years, Arnold Peters, found out he was suffering from the same condition. Arnold Peters died on 11 May 2013 following his final appearance in The Archers in July 2011. Jack Woolley died on 2 January 2014.

Read the full list on the BBC Countryfile magazine blog here.