Land girls land at Helmstead (better known as Toddington)
article by: Ian Crowder
posted on: 29 July 2009
updated on: 02 December 2009
Anyone casually turning up at Toddington station one day
recently might have thought they had arrived at a different place,
in a different time: for there in the platform was a short Great
Western train while the station, which had transformed itself to
Helmstead, thronged with World War 2 forces personnel and civilians
looking as if they had just stepped out of a wartime film.
In fact, that's just what was going on. A BBC film crew
had invaded Toddington to film for a new drama called Land
Girls, part of a season of programmes marking the 70th anniversary
of World War 2, in the process changing the station's name to
The five-part drama, to be broadcast on
BBC ONE Daytime television in September, was created by
Roland Moore and follows the lives and loves of four girls while
away from home, doing their bit for the war effort. They work
on run-down Pasture Farm, which is on the estate of opulent Hoxley
Manor. In the best drama tradition, their lives will never be the
same again - but you'll have to wait for the series to find out
The Land Girls are Annie played by Christine
Bottomley (Hope Springs, Massive and Early Doors);
Nancy played by Summer Strallen (The Sound of Music,
Hollyoaks); Bea (Annie's little sister) played by Jo
Woodcock (Tess of the D'Urbervilles and All the Small Things)
and Joyce played by Becci Gemmell.
The cast also includes Sophie Ward (Holby City), Nathaniel
Parker (Inspector Lynley Mysteries and Bleak House), Mark Benton
(The Street) Susan Cookson (Casualty) and Danny Webb (Our
Friends in the North).
Executive producers are Will Trotter and John Yorke; the
producer is Erika Hossington.
Extras included GWR staff, among them Dave Boot, Toddington
stationmaster, who also took some of these photographs.
Who were the Land Girls?
The Women's Land Army (WLA) played a vital part in keeping
agriculture going in war-weary Britain, helping to run farms and
feed the nation while the men were away. Although many
volunteered, others were conscripted. They worked long hours
under tough conditions and for low pay, but they did so in a spirit
of camaraderie and patriotism. At its peak, the WLA had
80,000 members in 1943 and was finally disbanded in 1950.
There was also the 6,000 Women's Timber Corps (WTC), popularly
known as the Lumber Jells.
Last year the work they did was finally recognised after decades
of campaigning by former Land Girls to get formal recognition of
their contribution. Surviving members of the WLA and
the WTC could at last apply for a commemorative badge recognising