All Creatures Great and Small: Helen star recalls ‘miserable’ moments on set

All Creatures Great and Small: Season 2's happy ending

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All Creatures Great and Small is a British television series made by the BBC in 1978, which was based on the books about veterinary surgeon Alf Wight, who wrote under the pseudonym James Herriot. Actress Carol Drinkwater played the role of Helen Herriot in the original series and has spoken about her time on the show, including some unfortunate incidents.

Speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post, Carol relayed an incident that occurred on set involving a very friendly cow.

She explained: “There was a whole byre of cows behind us, I was standing in this very kind of deep, intimate scene with Chris Timothy (who played Herriot James).

“[And] he was going off to war, and I was feeling miserable about it. I suddenly noticed that all the crew were kind of looking like that and laughing, and I thought, what are they all laughing at? 

“Suddenly, I felt this shot of warm water all down my back, and I realised that this cow had peed all over me.”

“This wasn’t Hollywood, we didn’t have the same costumes as back-up, so I had to spend the rest of the day in this costume covered in cow pee. There were lots of little occasions like that,” Carol revealed.

She also described her experience on the show as always feeling “happy” and recalled laughing a lot with the cast and crew.

Lynda Bellingham replaced Carol for the role of Helen after she decided to leave the then BBC series after 42 episodes and two TV films.

She decided it was time for her to leave the show after meeting her husband Michel in Australia, who had proposed almost immediately after a “love at first sight” encounter.

She recalled her thoughts about already wanting to leave the show before meeting her husband, as she felt the show was very restricted to how the books were written, as Alf was still alive.

Carol is set to release a six-part documentary series on Channel 5, which is set to invite viewers into the olive oil farm where for 30 years she and her husband Michael have been living in Cannes.

The original series ended in 1990, however, has since made its comeback with the remake of the series in 2020.

Samuel West plays local vet Siegfried Farnon and Nicholas Ralph plays his colleague James Herriot and taking the role of Helen and having to live up to Carol’s reputation is Rachel Shenton.

Samuel West recently opened up in the book titled The World of All Creatures Great & Small: Welcome to Skeldale House about some of the challenges.

“There were all sorts of tensions. Our extraordinary showrunner, Gemma – I realised that I had been working with her for 13 weeks.

“When one lunchtime I saw her eating a sandwich, and I said to her ‘Gemma, you know, we’ve been working together for three months, and this is the first time I have seen your mouth’.”

Speaking of how much he has enjoyed playing Siegfried, Samuel said: “As an actor, you don’t often get the chance to play again a part that you really enjoy.

“Although, at this moment, I think we are at the very beginning of the things that Siegfried could embody, a lot of what he has embodied so far has been great fun to play.”

Rachel recently spoke about the development of her character in series two of the show and said: “Because they [Helen and Hugh] got together so young, I don’t know if there was ever anything truly romantic between them.

“I don’t think either of them knew life in any other way, it was expected that they would get married.

“I think it was only when James [Herriot] came along, Helen kind of thought ‘Oh okay, maybe this isn’t for me.”

All Creatures Great and Small is available to watch on catch up on My5. 
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