It was Archers Day at The Bull Inn in Ambridge – better known as Rippingale – and the event was a sell out.
More than 40 people tucked into a starter of Stilton, Celery and Pear Soup – also available in Nelson’s Wine Bar, which will only sound familiar to listeners of The Archers.
Among the main course choices was Kathy Perks’ Winter Trawlerman’s Pie, as served by The Bull in that fictional place, Ambridge, the name of the “essential drama from the heart of the country” beloved of Radio 4 listeners.
However, all is not harmony in Ambridge-cum-Rippingale.
The storyline of a recent episode was less rural idyll and more urban combat, involving “a showdown with Rob and Jess”.
It seems controversy is stretching far beyond the boundaries of Ambridge, with a huge row in the national press over the birthplace of The Archers, according to Rippingale resident Jim Latham.
Jim has no doubts about the programme’s origins and other villagers agree with him.
Jim says Rippingale’s Archers Day was the village’s way of proving it was the model for the world’s longest running soap opera – and not that pretender Inkberrow in Worcestershire.
Local journalist Jim and his colleague John Warman have gathered historical documentary proof, not just that Rippingale is Ambridge, but that central characters in the radio drama were based on real-life locals.
He said: “The BBC chose Inkberrow as Ambridge years after The Archers started and became so popular that national newspapers were desperate for photos of the cast in farming settings.
“Inkberrow was near the recording studios in Birmingham and also the home of its editor, Godfrey Baseley, and so it became Ambridge – but it was not its inspiration.”
In fact, Godfrey Baseley visited Rippingale in 1946 as a radio producer to make a half-hour programme called Farm Visit, says Jim. A transcript of that recording came into Jim’s possession and the last two pages carry interviews between Godfrey, local farmer Henry Burtt and his son Stephen.
Jim says: “The eventual main characters of Dan Archer and his son Phil were based on Burtt and his son – and what they talked about became plotlines for early editions of The Archers.”
Godfrey made a second visit to Burtt to talk farming, indisputable proof to Jim that The Archers was conceived in nowhere else but Rippingale.