Underneath The Archers

By Graham Harvey

A powerful memoir by the environmental campaigner & former agricultural story editor of The Archers.

Autobiography | Environment
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The Forgiveness of Nature Bundle

A first edition hardback plus a hardback copy of The Forgiveness of Nature, Graham’s classic book on the history and influence of grass on human civilsation, first published in 2001. STRICTLY LIMITED TO 50

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Underneath The Archers Mug

A first edition hardback signed by Graham, plus a ceramic mug to accompany your Archers Omnibus listening, available exclusively from Unbound.

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Underneath The Archers Tea-towel

A first edition hardback signed by Graham plus a limited edition 100% cotton tea-towel, for those important Archers moments in the kitchen, exclusive to Unbound.

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If you want to understand the English people's relationship to the countryside there is no better place to look than The Archers.

All of the extraordinary changes and developments of the last seventy years have found a place within Ambridge. For almost half that time, Graham Harvey was the man behind its agricultural storylines, responsible for writing over 600 episodes. He helped to craft some of the most memorable moments in the show’s history (the Great Flood, the death of Nigel Pargetter, the Grundy’s loss of their farm, the gaslighting of Helen Archer) while also making sure it kept up with the rapid pace of change in village life and farming practices.                          

Underneath The Archers also tells how Graham uncovers his father's dark wartime secret, a trauma which blighted Graham’s childhood and helped foster his deep attachment to the English countryside. This led him to a career not just as a writer but as an environmental campaigner and champion of sustainable farming. His 1997 book on the failures of industrial farming, The Killing of the Countryside is now hailed as modern classic, a UK version of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. In 2008 he went on to co-found what has become Britain’s leading conference on ecological agriculture, the Oxford Real Farming Conference.                                                                 

The collective nightmare of COVID has made us all look once again at the role the countryside plays in our nation. Brexit has us debating the future of our land, its crops and animals. Underneath The Archers addresses both with authority, warmth and humour.          

The Archers has been at the centre of British national life for seventy years. It is the world’s longest running drama with over five million listeners every week and is Radio 4's most listened-to non-news programme. To understand the countryside, Harvey argues, the best place to start is by looking at the stories we tell about it.

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  • Graham Harvey avatar

    Graham Harvey

    Graham Harvey was born a townie but has had a life-long interest in farming. He read agriculture at university (Bangor) in the 1960s and has been writing about it ever since. After a spell at Farmers Weekly as a feature writer, he worked as a freelance journalist for a wide range of publications including the Sunday Times, the Guardian, Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday, New Scientist, and Country Life. For four years he wrote the Old Muckspreader column in Private Eye.


    Graham’s first book, The Killing of the Countryside, was published by Cape and won the BP-Natural World Book Prize for environmental writing. Other books include The Forgiveness of Nature (Cape), We Want Real Food (Constable Robinson) and Grass-Fed Nation (Icon Books).


    In 2008 Harvey co-founded what has become Britain’s leading conference on ecological agriculture, the Oxford Real Farming Conference.


    Until 2019, Graham was best known as a scriptwriter for The Archers. Over 34 years writing on the show, he scripted more than 600 episodes, and also served as the agricultural story editor for twenty years, a role that earned him the nickname ‘the other Minister for Farming’.



  • It’s a wet Saturday in early March and the rain’s coming down in stair-rods. Every so often the gusty wind hurls torrents at the windows of Brookfield farmhouse. No on inside takes much notice. They have other things to fret about.

    Following David Archer's autocratic decision to call-off the planned move to a new farm in the north-east, everyone's feeling hurt and angry, especially Ruth and Pip. As the rain lashes the window panes, the atmosphere in the kitchen is toxic. Resentment hangs in the air, as thick as the aroma of Jill’s weekend baking. As I eavesdrop on the family’s discomfort, I can't help but feel a small glow of satisfaction. It’s me that’s bought them to this. Not a bad job, if I say so myself.

    Read more...
  • Graham Harvey has written 3 private updates. You can pledge to get access to them all.

    12th January 2022 Joy at Bridge Farm

                Delighted to hear Natasha and Tom are expecting twins. It’s 25 years now since Tom’s brother John was killed in a tragic tractor accident on the farm. It happened on Tom’s seventeenth birthday and to this day he’s been carrying a fair bit of mental baggage from that terrible event.

                Nothing’s going to take away the pain of that memory obviously. It’s the same for all the…

    25th August 2021 Young love in Ambridge

    Back in the 1980s I got the chance to write a week's trial episodes for the radio soap that had enthralled me since student days. I didn't think there was much chance it would lead to a permanent job but I was determined to give it a go.

                My storyline for the week included the first appearance of a young teenage girl who was destined to become one of the show's leading characters. Somehow…

    10th August 2021 A new direction for The Archers?

    If I were Controller of Radio 4 right now I'd be very worried by the success of Clarkson's Farm over on Amazon Prime. For all his trade-mark buffoonery, the ageing boy racer shows us the reality of farming today. We share the setbacks, the frustrations, the triumphs and the delights of life on the land. And we get to meet a cast of country characters who are engaging and interesting, all with their…

    1st August 2021 Farming's what counts

                Just lately there's been a lot of media clamour about the Amazon Prime series Clarkson's Farm. The former Top Gear presenter has brought his unique, anarchic style to the running of a farm – his own, as it happens. He plays the rich but clueless landowner whose basic mistakes provide endless laughs for the cast of country characters he surrounds himself with. They include Kaleb, the farm…

    18th July 2021 Our home on the land

    Funny the places environmental writing can take you. For me it started with a series of whistle-blowing articles on the destructive impact of industrial farming, with its habit of ripping out hedges and flattening woodlands. These I exposed fortnightly in my column for the satirical magazine Private Eye. That was nearly 40 years ago. Today I'm working on a TikTok drama about a new generation of young…

    11th July 2021 Re-wilding the fields

     

    I've been visiting a farm with so much wildlife you could easily imagine it to be a nature reserve. How's this for starters – 137 bird species, 40 butterfly species, 740 moth species. All officially recorded by expert naturalists. Amazing.

                But it isn't a reserve or even some new location for rewilding. It's a working commercial farm whose owner has as much need of…

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