Peter's time travels on TV

A TIME-traveller from Banbury has been part of a fascinating trip back to the year 1620 in a popular TV living history series.

Archaeologist Peter Ginn – known in the programme as Fonz – is one of five volunteers who spent a year recreating 17th century life on a Welsh border farm for the BBC 2 programme Tales from a Green Valley.

Screened on Friday evenings at 7.30pm the series is half way through and has followed the three men, two women, oxen, carthorse and other stock through the farming year.

Their exploits involve not only obvious tasks like ploughing with oxen, sowing and reaping by hand, but building walls and cowsheds, thatching and even constructing a 1620s-style hole-in-the-ground lavatory, the contents of which are used as fertiliser for the land.

Even the participants' urine is stored to be used as a bleach to remove laundry stains.

Peter, 27, who lived in Bodicote and went to St John's RC Primary and Blessed George Napier Schools, is now an archaeologist who lives in London.

"I got involved by accident. I went down to help when my friend Alex, who had been selected to join the project, hurt himself and they asked me to join as a fifth person," he said.

"I've watched most of the programmes and I like them. They are very gentle and strangely absorbing.

"We worked all the daylight hours and spent the evenings doing things like mending clothes.

"Although we spent some time sleeping in the farm buildings, especially the hay loft, the planning restrictions didn't allow us to sleep at the farm so we stayed in a nearby cottage where we could have baths and sleep in normal beds.

"The 17th century doesn't exist; we couldn't go to markets and tinkers didn't visit so some things had to be different. Also we had families so we were allowed to take breaks away which gave me a chance to research things at the library."

The five include a farming historian, a costume specialist who worked on Shakespeare in Love and a saddlemaker.

The lifestyle – with no fridges, electricity, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, chemicals or modern medicine – required much painstaking work including boiling herbal oils for cures and hand-making washing liquid using ashes from the fire.

Each programme includes the preparation of a typical meal using ingredients and traditional methods gleaned from old recipes.

Production of food for the table required harvesting, cultivating vegetables and gathering fruit. It also meant killing Arthur, one of the pigs, and the sausages that were made using the pork were Peter's favourite dish of the whole series.

"They were prepared with apple and were just delicious. You could smell them cooking right down the valley," he said.

The heavy work involved required 17th century farm labourers to eat a mighty 4,000 calories a day. They expected two roast dinners a week!

Experts brought in to share the secrets of self sufficiency in that Shakespearean age included a charcoal burner, hedge layer, candlemaker, dry-stone waller and a thatcher – all using period tools.

Peter said he would like to repeat the experience.

"Now that we've done it I can see that some of the things could have been done differently. We learned so much. It was a very different way of life."