Lark Rise To Candleford Review: The Simple Life

LARK RISE TO CANDLEFORD:Sunday 16th January, BBC1, 8pm

The earth goes round the sun, the sky is blue and there must always be one bonnetfest on TV at all times. There’s probably a stone tablet engraved with those very words somewhere in Television Centre. But with the success of Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs, there’s certainly no lack of appetite for historical drama.

In the quiet village of Lark Rise this week, everyone’s fretting about the impending poetry competition organised by newspaper editor Daniel (Orlando Bloom lookalike Ben Aldridge). It’s certainly got the villagers scratching their heads. Pearl engages in a bit of plagiarism when her own efforts aren’t up to scratch, and Margaret composes an epic poem about Thomas’s postal rounds. Laura as an aspiring writer is determined to win but Ruby spreads a malicious rumour that if she does it’ll be because she has Daniel’s eye, who will be judging the contest – a rumour which is quickly quashed by his public declaration that all poems will be submitted anonymously.

Elsewhere, pensive blacksmith Gabriel is still mourning the loss of his wife and attends her grave every evening. But when Laura flicks through some old poetry books she was reading for inspiration she finds an undelivered letter from Gabriel’s late wife confessing her love to another man and denying that she ever loved him the first place. She hands the letter to Postmistress Dorcas (Julia Sawahla) who agonises over whether to show it to Gabriel, especially since there are the beginnings of a romance between them.

Meanwhile Mrs. Turrill is dismayed that she was unable to sell her bobbin lace at the local fair and that Ruby and Pearl’s shop is now stocked with machined lace as well. The rise of the machines is seemingly inexorable even in the idyllic hamlet of Lark Rise. This leads to several touching scenes as Mrs Turrill contemplates how her mother taught her how to weave bobbins, the future of her cottage industry and Ruby’s realisation that the personal touch might have some place in her heart after all.

There’s something reassuringly gentle about Lark Rise’s bucolic simplicity. There are no murrrddeerrrs to be solved here, no hoodies roaming the streets, no life-threatening accidents or conspiracies to unravel. These are just simple people living simple lives with all their petty jealousies and rivalries and it manages to be both enthralling and touching without ever descending to the crashing boredom of Heartbeat. Now that is something to celebrate.