Gardeners’ World September 1987













































Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission.

Thanks to Stuart Allen for making these screen grabs available.

These stills are from Gardeners’ World transmitted on 9th September 1987. This was when the Friday night gardening series was still being made as an outside broadcast. I think it was usually shot on two cameras and used a system called editech to assemble the programme as the recording went along, rolling back to last edit and picking up from there.

Jean Laughton was a renowned production assistant, who was working more as a researcher than a PA. She compiled a very comprehensive set of card notes which included all the programme details, along with which plants were included in which episode.

Denis Gartside was a larger than life director. I worked with him on Gardeners’ World in 1989. I remember driving with him to location, he used to steer with his knees and stop with the handbrake!

50 Years of Gardeners’ World

Joe Godwin, Sharon Fisher, Louise Hampden, Claire Johnson

Joe Godwin, Sharon Fisher

























In June 2017, Gardeners’ World will be celebrating its Golden Jubilee. A special 50th anniversary edition is being planned. Today (5th May 2017) a Gardeners’ World masterclass was held in the BBC Birmingham, Mailbox building, for students, and BBC staff. The event took the form of a conversation between Joe Godwin, Director of the BBC Academy (the training arm of the BBC), and three of the production team: Sharon Fisher, series producer; Louise Hampden, producer; and Dr Claire Johnson, horticultural researcher. It was interesting to hear from the team about some of the challenges of making the programme, and we found out that presenter, Monty Don’s dogs, Nigel and Nellie, have a huge mailbag, and even their own Twitter accounts – although the production team don’t know who it is that writes on their behalf!

Gardeners’ World was a Birmingham programme from its start in January 1968, until it was moved to Bristol in 2012. Sharon, Louise and Claire, used to work on gardening output in Birmingham, but moved to work in Bristol when production was moved there. Gardeners’ World has been a BBC production, except for a period of 10 years in the 1990s, when it was produced by Independent production company, Catalyst. This was when Alan Titchmarsh was presenting the programme.

Gardeners’ World was one of the first shows on the BBC to be recorded in colour. It was preceded by an earlier BBC Birmingham series, Gardening Club, presented by Percy Thrower from his greenhouse in the Gosta Green studio, Birmingham.

The following comment was left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

Bryan Comley: ‘Edited one of the episodes in the mid 80’s on CM2, made using the roll back & mix method of linear production, even the captions were as live. A very pleasurable & satisfying way of making tv.’







Radio Links Vehicle at Burghley Horse Trials

Copyright Steve Dellow, no reproduction without permission









The photo shows a radio links van at a mid-point on an outside broadcast at the Burghley Horse Trials, in September 1985. The radio links van would receive the OB signal from the truck at the event, and then send it on to the transmitter, or to another links van.

The following comments were posted on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

Bryan Comley: ‘Burghley is a huge job with 20 plus cameras covering the cross country course, today the cameras all come back to one truck via fibre optics. In the 80’s there were two trucks one at the start/finish and one at Lion bridge, the cameras at the extremes of the course were radio linked to the trucks , Formula one at Silverstone use cross course microwave too.

Too get the pictures on air, links had to be set up to the nearest inject point, either a BBC centre or a transmitter site, the max distances for one link was around 40 miles sure to the curvatures of the earth and signal strength, so mid points on high ground would be set for some OBs. This could fail due to fog if the midpoint was high above the fog and the OB was in fog as the beam would get bent leaving the fog.’

Steve Dellow: ‘Indeed – a big job – and I’ve still got the Comms planning sheets! In 1985, at Burghley Park there were two Comms vans (758 and 602) – ‘Dairy Park’ and Main. The van in the photo (356) was at Tinwell Lodge (with Generator PG50), then 587 at Cold Overton, then onwards to Sutton (and underground circuit to Pebble Mill). Receiver 102R and Transmitter 124T on the top of 356, with Pete Myslowski asleep in the cab! I was supposed to give £25 cash to the site owner (Mr Flint), plus £20 as they hadn’t been paid the year before! The ‘hops’ were 5km, 18.5km, and 69km.’

Comms planning sheet










Malcolm Hickman: ‘On other occasions, we used a different mid point, where the vehicle would pick up the signals (7ghz microwave) and relay them to a receiver located at the Morborne transmitter. We used a passive reflector up the mast to bounce the signals down to a receiver on the ground. They were then injected by BT into a protection circuit to Pebble Mill.’

Roy Thompson: ‘As explained radio links had to be line of sight. This could be a problem for some starter links (the first one from the ob site) especially in town centres. Eagle towers were used, which had a self erecting, two stage tower which would carry the transmitter. It was rigged at 30 foot and then sent up to its maximum height of 60 foot. Have no actual photos but came across this model Dinky toy at my local dentist. Unfortunately the second part of the tower is missing.’

Andy Marriott: ‘I love seeing stuff like this. I joined the comms dept at Pebble Mill in 2000. But by then it was a shadow of its former self. Still got to work on a few OB’s before the plug finally got pulled a year or so later. OB’s aren’t nearly as cool when they’re over satellite or fibre!’











CM2 and CMCR40 at Chester Races

CMCR40 Chester Races 1985












Photos by Robin Stonestreet, no reproduction without permission.

The photo shows Pebble Mill’s small-ish outside broadcast truck, CM2, with the larger CMCR40 truck at Chester Races in 1985.

The OB trucks were scheduled all over the country, depending on where they were needed, they covered football matches, cricket, as well as working on factual shows like Gardeners’ World.

The following comment was left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

Dave Bushell: ‘Pretty sure we had CM2 out on Vanity Fair in 1987 and other dramas.’

Ray Lee: ‘The cameras were Philips LDK14’s with the Triax adaptor LDK514. From memory there were 3 cameras, but whether there was a spare as well I can’t now remember. The cameras had a short multicore cable (10metres or so) between the triax adaptor box and the camera, then the base station in the vehicle was a modified LDK5 base station which powered the camera and adaptor box down standard triax. (at that time CM1 was a type 5 with Philips LDK5 cameras which also used triax but all the way to the camera) The front area had 2 VPR2 1″ videotape machines. CM2 was thus a complete production and recording vehicle, which meant for programmes like Gardeners World, the could leave site with a complete edited programme, apart perhaps from some captions.’

Bryan Comley: ‘Gardeners World has a very simply caption generator, so we did leave site with a TX tape, and this was 30+ years ago!’

Outside Broadcast VT area

JCB 111 04 12 85











Photo by John Burkill, no reproduction without permission.

This photo dates from December 1985. It shows the VT area of an outside broadcast truck, probably CM2. You can see the 1″ machine in the centre of the photo, and probably a U-matic VT machine lower down to the right.

(Thanks to Chris Harris and Peter Poole for adding in information).

Bryan Comley added the following comment on the Pebble Mill Facebook page: ‘This is the VT end of CM2, the VT machines are Ampex VPR2b’s with a shared TBC. The audio tape m/c I think is a Studer.’