With The Archers celebrating 60 years on our airwaves this month, TOR McINTOSH sets out to discover the real county on which fictional Borsetshire is based: Worcestershire.
Every listener to BBC Radio 4’s long running drama The Archers has his or her own image of Borsetshire. I certainly do. It’s a rural haven created in my mind that I escape to the moment I hear the opening “dum-di-dum-di-dum-di-di…” of the soap opera’s instantly recognisable theme tune. Of course, the county of Borsetshire, the village of Ambridge, the market town of Borchester and the cathedral city of Felpersham only exist in the imagined world of The Archers. But, as the home county to the programme’s creator, the late Godfrey Baseley, Worcestershire certainly stakes the strongest claim to being Archers’ country.
With fictional Brookfield Farm modelled on Godfrey’s sister-in-law’s Summerhill Farm in Hanbury, many believe that this small village near the town of Droitwich Spa in mid-Worcestershire is the likeliest real-life candidate for Ambridge, the epicentre of goings-on in the radio drama. But fuelled by the success of The Archers over the past 60 years, other villages in the area also vie for the status of being the real Ambridge. One of these is the village of Inkberrow, eight miles south of Hanbury, where Godfrey’s regular watering hole The Old Bull – a black and white half-timbered pub overlooking Inkberrow’s village green – is remarkably similar in name to the only pub in Ambridge, The Bull. And it wasn’t just the name of his local that inspired Godfrey; the bar at The Old Bull was also a rich source of stories. Rosemary Kennedy, a postmistress who lived in the village for 45 years, once said: “At one time, as soon as something happened in Inkberrow you could bet that it would turn up in The Archers a few weeks later.”
Published in BBC Countryfile, June 2010.