A huge and hidden archive of Jack Hargreaves’ Out of Town TV programmes is being converted to DVD… and there’s much more to come

credit: Archant

I talked at some length with Simon, the other day. Simon who? Well, together we covered all sorts and conditions of men, dogs, birds and the beauties that surround us, but most of all we talked of his stepfather, the late and much loved Jack Hargreaves.

Jack Hargreaves was everyone’s uncle who morphed into a grey haired and bearded grandad as his TV series Out of Town approached its quarter century. For 25 years, this laid-back, pipe puffing, tweed-hatted gent with a slowly delivered fund of fascinating information on all things country, had a half-hour early evening slot on Southern TV, a must-see Friday feature with audience figures to match. No arm waving, no histrionics, no childish ‘enthusiasm’ and not a hint of political correctness, just good to watch, easy to absorb yet detailed and fascinating country lore, interrupted by brief periods for quiet reflection and the occasional puff on his pipe.

The programme set was, essentially, his garden shed – which stays much the same today in his Dorset village home of Belchalwell, his ashes sprinkled on a nearby hill – and among all the plethora of lore and his love of field, moor, stream and coast came the finer points of wildfowling, pigeon, rough and game shooting, deer stalking, falconry and fishing in all its forms, displayed and discussed in detail. These formed parts of his half-hour programmes and were accompanied by all sorts, shapes and sizes of crafts, skills, oddities and just about any and everything else that might have come to his constantly inquisitive mind. From pony shoeing to scythe sharpening and dog training to barrel making, all this and much more was revealed to the continued and eager delight of his many fans and aficionados. Revealed, too, in his quietly knowledgeable and informative way with not a hint of talking down nor degree-level environmentalism.

And oh yes, indeed, that’s right. Out of Town included shooting. On the telly, in front of the children. Regularly. Who’d have thought that, today?

In fact, today, Simon is on a mission. There are currently two 5-disc boxed-sets of Out of Town DVDs offering a wealth of Jack’s televised knowledge, plus an 8-disc Old Country set and these have been joined by Further Out of Town, the first of the new series which has been compiled from the archive Simon has inherited. Drum after drum and mile after mile of 16mm location film, now smelling a bit vinegary and dating predominantly from the 1960s and 70s, provides an enormous library from which previously unseen gems have been selected.

So far, the first six episodes feature 14 items, from planting a grape vine to fishing in the Hebrides and stocking a lake to the finer points of butterfly watching with all sorts in between, and Simon tells me there’s more wildfowling and pheasant shooting currently being remastered for inclusion in the next Further Out of Town series.

One way and another, thanks to Network on Air, there’s a wealth of Jack Hargreaves’ work to be seen, and a whole hidden world of fascination remains to be revealed – so watch this space...

RRP: Further out of Town, £9


credit: Archant