Big furry boom mics, a roving camera manoeuvred by a metal crane with wheels and a former pop star standing by for action.
This is a snapshot of life at Cannon Hall Farm this week where a new television series is being shot in full view of the visiting public.
Amid the constant bleating of sheep, the stars of the show were warming up as the production team prepared for a rehearsal when The Yorkshire Post visited the set. Springtime on the Farm tells the story of farming at its busiest time of the year and Cannon Hall in Cawthorne near Barnsley is playing host to the Channel 5 show at the peak of lambing time.
There may be makeup artists and a Green Room on site, plus plenty of paying guests in the form of families, but everyday farming must go on at Cannon Hall as normal. More than 700 lambs have given birth on the farm so far this lambing season and the Nicholson family, who have transformed this once struggling farm into one of the biggest farm attractions in the country, are on shifts through the night to watch over their flocks.
JB Gill, who runs his own farm in Kent after a music career as a member of boy band JLS, is one of the show’s ‘roving reporters’, and he said the programme is all about showing just how much effort that farmers like the Nicholsons put into producing food.
“What we want people to see is a snapshot of what farming is like. People have an understanding but this is a real honest depiction of what it’s like on a farm at this time of year. It’s very busy, very hectic, everything is going on,” he said.
If the TV crew needed any reminder of the realities of farming, they got one. Mid-filming one of the pregnant ewes needed an emergency intervention, causing show guest Julian Norton, co-star of The Yorkshire Vet, to dash off to the other side of the farm.
Series producer Simon Pass said: “We had a plan for the show and the moment we started those plans went completely out of the window because we had lambings galore. So, we were totally sideswipped by the activities that were going on. We struggled to keep up really so it’s a bit ‘seat of the pants’ stuff.”
For farmers, the ability to deal quickly with sudden situations is a prerequisite of their way of life and for Robert Nicholson, who farms at Cannon Hall with his father Roger and brothers Richard and David, the programme is a chance to show: “We want to show what farming really is. That we care, we love, our animals.”
As previewed in The Yorkshire Post last week, Adam Henson of Countryfile fame is co-hosting the series alongside fellow presenter Lindsey Chapman, who originally hails from near Beverley in East Yorkshire.
“This farm is busy,” a fresh-out-of-makeup Ms Chapman said, just before the rehearsal got underway. “It’s (the show) quite an interesting one for a presenter because things change at the drop of a hat.”
Springtime on the Farm is on air tonight and continues everyday weeknight this week at 8pm on Channel 5.
In tomorrow’s episode, Country Week columnist Julian Norton stars as JB Gill helps out the Nicholson family during a night shift on the farm.
The series is produced by Daisybeck Studios, the Leeds-based outfit behind The Yorkshire Vet, and other stars involved in the show are ex-Emmerdale actor Kelvin Fletcher and Gloria Hunniford.