And now back to Scatterbrook Farm and Ten Acre Field for the fourth series of Worzel Gummidge, which was shown in late 1981. There were a couple of minor cast changes for this run, which was the last to be made in the UK. Megs Jenkins, who played Mrs. Braithwaite, was unavailable for these episodes, and Thorley Walters didn’t return, so I’m not sure whether there’s any posh toffs, or wannabe toffs, living in “the big house” in these seven stories.
The goofball setup this time is that Worzel gets on the bad side of a crowd of mothers and nannies at a baby beauty contest, and they dunk him in the creek. The kids mention that it’s a shame Worzel doesn’t actually have a mother to take care of him while he has the shivers, and the Crowman agrees that perhaps a mother could potentially keep him out of mischief. It’s an entertaining, if slight, little story, but the highlight for me was the way Geoffrey Bayldon stopped in mid-sentence when he realizes the possibility.
Worzel’s head is a root vegetable called a manglewurzel, and, the year before the Crowman plucked Worzel’s head, he’d plucked one from the same hedgerow that became the head of a scarecrow named Sarah Pigswill, played by comedy legend Beryl Reid. But while Worzel thinks he’s getting a muvver to lavish gifts and treats upon him, Sarah Pigswill is not afraid to box Worzel’s ears, with real boxes, and doesn’t think much of all this human food he’s been eating, and insists he eat like a proper scarecrow, with dishwater tea, pebble humbugs, and sawdust porridge. And every bit of it, too, because people go starving in Africcy.
The kid was very happy to have Worzel back in rotation, but I’m afraid his biggest giggle came from mishearing a line. “Did she say TARDIS porridge?” he asked. It had taken me a couple of moments to realize that was Beryl Reid with dirt on her face and straw in her hair, but when our son said that, it suddenly struck me that she’d actually be on the Doctor Who set less than a month after this was first broadcast, taping the Peter Davison serial “Earthshock”.