New Harvestories website records rural memories

By Matt Elton, 14 March 2012 - 10:24am

A collection of memories and experiences of people living in the rural South-west of England can now be explored online, following the launch of a new website
 

Wednesday, 14 March 2012
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The stories of the residents of rural communities around the South-west of England can now be explored online following the launch of a new project.

The website, at www.harvestories.co.uk, features the memories of people living in and around the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), a region covering 40 parishes on the border of Devon and Cornwall. The interviews have been carried out with more than 80 residents and span topics from childhood and social activities to rural industry and the impact of the Second World War.

The site, managed by the Blackdown Hills AONB and part-funded by both its Sustainable Development Fund and Making it Local, a locally managed grants scheme, covers towns including Taunton, Chard and Axminster. As well as the audio files, the site includes interview transcripts and a Google satellite map, allowing users to explore the places featured in the stories.

“The Harvestories site is an invaluable tool for people researching connections to the Blackdown Hills area, and is freely available for anyone to browse,” says oral historian and project founder Judy Simmonds. “It is also a very informative and entertaining way to explore local stories, and highlights how important it is to preserve oral histories such as these for the generations to come.”

Among the experiences chronicled on the website are those of Roger Parris, a national champion hedge-layer from Stockland in east Devon. His interview includes insights into his craft: “There’s an old saying my father used to tell me,” he recounts. “When laying a hedge, lay it thick enough so a butterfly can fly in but not through."

As well as details of other rural crafts, the effects of the Second World War on even the smallest communities are also chronicled. “We were formed into a ‘crocodile’ and walked the streets,” remembers David Grainger, who was evacuated to the Devon village of Chardstock. “Children were taken from the front and passed to people... My brother and I were taken off the end of the line by an old lady who wasn’t deemed to be of the right age to have evacuees. And so we became lost, because no-one knew that we’d been taken!”

Organisers also hope that people from the area will add their own memories, creating an invaluable archive of local life across the course of generations. The site includes tips on carrying out oral history interviews, as well as details of how to add them to the collection.

“This website offers a fascinating insight into the lives of people from some of Britain’s rural communities,” says local historian Alan Crosby. “It’s great to see a project such as this capturing who our ancestors really were – their experiences, memories, thoughts and feelings.”

 
TAKE IT FURTHER

Explore the new site and add your memories at www.harvestories.co.uk
► Image credit: Rob Wolton
 

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