It’s back to the land for these brave girls

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Becci Gemmell didn’t need to be persuaded to return to the Midlands countryside for a second series of Land Girls (BBC1, 2.15pm).

The 27-year-old says even though she’s a “city girl, really”, it was a joy to get back to the fresh air and stunning landscapes of the country, especially as she’d been hoping the wartime drama would get recommissioned ever since she started filming the first one.

“It was brilliant news. They established so much in the first series, with the girls arriving, that I really wanted to learn what then happened to them. And it’s a bit of page-turner this series, it’s great to be back,” the Leicester-born actress says cheerfully.

The original five-parter, broadcast in 2009 to mark the 70th anniversary of the start of the war, was about a group of young women drafted in to the Women’s Land Army to keep agriculture going during World War Two.

Gemmell’s character Joyce was one of four women sent to work the land of the fictional Hoxley Estate, made up of the run down Pasture Farm, and the opulent Hoxley Manor.

Series two picks up several months after the last series ended, with land girl Bea now a farmer’s wife to Billy and mother to William, who is the result of a one-night stand with an American GI. Joyce spent the last series trying to remain positive despite her parents having been killed in a German bombing raid and her husband John being posted abroad.

At the start of the second series, she finds her devotion rewarded when John pays her a flying visit - arriving in the farm on an RAF Tiger Moth training plane and taking her flying for a birthday treat.

“Unfortunately they wouldn’t really let me fly in it, although I was taxied around, which was hilarious as I was wearing half a wig and it’s open top,” she says. “But the views at the opening of series two are incredible. This original Tiger Moth flies over our heads. It was amazing to film as we had to have complete silence on set so they could talk to the guy on the plane.”

Sadly, Joyce’s joy is short-lived, and John is soon off to battle once again. Gemmell also reveals her character is “thrown completely out of her comfort zone” after stumbling upon a crash-landed German.

She explains: “It’s a bit suspicious. This guy lands and she’s the only one who takes him on, so it’s quite scary for little Joyce who’s only in her early 20s. In the way she deals with him she changes quite a lot, she becomes a different woman. She goes from being a nervous land girl to having to take on a huge drama in her life.”

There are also two other new arrivals at Hoxley Manor - Cockney land girl Connie Carter and wealthy American industrialist Jack Gillespie, who arrives on business.

“The new girl Connie is at the completely opposite end of the spectrum to Joyce. She’s opinionated, feisty and sexy, she ruffles a few feathers in the village,” Gemmell reveals.

“Jack also causes quite a lot of difficulty. He’s quite sexy, suave and sophisticated, so he stirs up some trouble at the Manor House by plucking at some heartstrings.”

Gemmell, says she’s had lots of feedback from viewers of the first series, notably those with relatives who served in the Land Army.

She says: “People say, ‘My auntie or my mum’s friend was a land girl’. The first thing people tell us is that it was much harder work than the show made it out to be.

Obviously the BBC are making a drama, so we have to have a bit of poetic licence, but it’s quite incredible how many land girls are still alive and remember it vividly.”