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‘Like the Bake Off with chainsaws’: Perthshire ‘comedy farmer’ Jim Smith presents new BBC Scotland TV series

Jim Smith
Jim Smith

There’s no shortage of chainsaw jobs needing done by Perthshire “comedy farmer” Jim Smith.

A “heap of trees” were blown over behind his shed during Storm Arwen in November.

The combined impact of storms Malik and Corrie then flipped over his neighbour’s tin shed in January and brought down the telephone wires.

“We’ve got no internet or anything just now!” Jim tells The Courier.

Large swathes of forestry were recently devastated by Storm Arwen, such as here at Glen Doll

The 43-year-old farmer and stand-up comedian sees the funny side, adding: “We won’t be short of firewood for the next five years!”

But as Jim reflects on recent “chaos” at Stralochy Farm, near Caputh, the former Blairgowrie High School pupil is excited to be presenting a new TV series which showcases Scottish forests and wood working.

Loggerheads TV series

Loggerheads is a new series which pits two teams of woodworking experts against each other in a timed competition to create something spectacular from their freshly felled timber in just 24 hours.

Visiting some of Scotland’s most magnificent woodlands, the teams cut, craft, create and camp in the great outdoors.

The woodchips fly as the experts battle against the clock, their opponents and mother nature.

Both items remain in the woodlands. But when the clock runs out and the sawdust settles only one team can claim victory – chosen by a local judge – and lift the coveted golden axe.

Jim Smith putting up fences on the farm

Jim knows his way around a chainsaw when it comes to erecting fencing or repairing sheep pens.

But he admits he was mighty impressed with the creative talents on show.

“The creations these guys made were terrific,” says Jim.

“The best way of describing it is it’s a bit like the Bake Off with chainsaws, or the Scrapheap Challenge with chainsaws!

“You know what farmers are like – they are a jack of all trades.

“With a hammer, nails and chainsaw, you can get a lot done.

“But I wouldn’t say I can make a rocking chair or anything like that. So this was brilliant!”

Scotland-wide journey

Jim explains that while making the series last September, the teams travelled the length and breadth of Scotland, visiting a different woodland each episode, as they bid to impress a local judge.

Using wood felled as part of woodland management plans, trees were cut down by professional lumberjacks.

Each team then got it milled and chopped with the challenge being to come up with something creative for use in the community woodland within 24 hours.

The team captains in the series are Linzi St Clair Thompson, 33, who is originally from Edinburgh but now living just outside Perth, and Vicente Ridaura-Harvey, 35, originally from Mexico and now based in East Lothian.

Each week they are joined by two team members from a roster of regulars.

Team captains Linzi St Clair Thompson and Vicente Riduara-Harvey with the golden axe

They include Fife-based Kirsty MacDonald, who is a member of the Scottish Furniture Makers Association; bespoke joiner Jack Hastings, who is based in Dumfries & Galloway; cabinet maker – and former Edinburgh DJ – Jonny Kane, who is originally from Northern Ireland but now lives in Linlithgow, and competitive chain saw carver septuagenarian Alice Buttress, who lives in Carrbridge.

Jim says it was a “joy” to watch the creations emerge.

But particularly so given they were working with wet wood as opposed to the seasoned dry variety.

Varied creations

In the first episode – which is being shown on the BBC Scotland channel – team captains Linzi and Vicente each hope to lead their team to victory amongst the trees at Glenlude in the Scottish Borders.

The teams are challenged to turn their felled spruce into something that will assist the many groups that are helping to re-wild these woodlands, which includes a local rehabilitation group.

Linzi’s team creates a place for the working groups to relax, with resting spots decorated with woodland motifs, while Vicente’s team is making a woodland workshop complete with a wooden vice, shaver and tool hanging space.

Vicente (centre) with team mates David and Phill and the swing chair they created on Skye

Judging their efforts is local property manager Karen Purvis from the John Muir Trust.

Successive episodes will feature forests at Gillies Hill in Stirlingshire, Ringill on the Isle of Skye, Dunnet Community Woodlands in Caithness, Cormonachan Community Woodlands on the shores of Loch Goil in Argyll, and Scone in Perthshire.

Over the course of the series, the team’s creations include a boat inspired picnic table, a swing seat and a play fort.

“The creations were pretty varied,” adds Jim.

“The beauty of the show is that because it’s all community woodlands, they were using wood that was to be thinned out anyway – Citrus Spruce and the like – that was not so good for biodiversity.

“They used that wood, helped clear the wood and used it to build something the community would use in visiting the woods. A win-win situation I think.”

Jim says he was amazed and “loved” watching some of the individual efforts.

Jim Smith with puppy Floss in 2019

“It’s a bit like the Avengers when they all have the different skills! They all came together to build different creative things!”

Jim Smith ‘comedy farmer’

From sheep-based puns to tractor envy, Jim has made a name for himself over the years giving a light-hearted insight into living and farming in rural Scotland – and he’s always taking inspiration from his surroundings.

The grandson of a Fife farmer who moved to Stralochy in 1949, Jim follows in the footsteps of his late father who also farmed there.

He was destined “without a shadow of a doubt” to be a farmer, and never considered a career in comedy.

However, he was later encouraged by friends to apply for beginner’s sessions at The Stand Comedy Club in Glasgow.

He secured a five-minute slot on November 20 2012 and has become established ever since.

While Covid-19 brought some restrictions to the Loggerheads filming roster with social distancing and teams operating in bubbles, everyone involved in the production was delighted to be out working.

Jim feels lucky that he managed to finish his last comedy tour before the pandemic started.

However, with a new comedy tour due to start in the autumn this year, he admits he’s also enjoyed “the break” and the time it’s given him with his family as “normal” farming work continued.

Family man

“Covid has been awful, but Morag fell pregnant and we had a baby girl in that time,” he says, adding that another baby is on the way this April.

“If I’d been having to go to gigs here there and everywhere it wouldn’t have been so handy.

“The real farming has carried on in general as well through Brexit and Covid. It seems to be working away fine just now.

Perthshire farmer and comedian, Jim Smith

“Although it’s awful to say, I quite enjoyed the break. There’s been a lot happening in my life.

“I just announced there’s a new tour coming out in the autumn/winter, so I’ve just been trying to write new stuff for that. I’ve got my big appetite for that going on again.

“And we’ve got another baby coming in April as well, and the lambing to do. So there’s never a dull moment.

“But when  I mentioned to Morag I’d make an extra pen for her in the shed, she didn’t seem to like that much!” he laughs.

‘Cosy comfort television’

Jim feels “really proud” and “grateful” to have been asked to present Loggerheads.

Describing it as “cosy comfort television”, that combines peoples’ love of the outdoors, Scotland, craftsmanship and growing interest in environmentalism/biodiversity, he’s looking forward to hearing the public response.

The experience has even inspired him to build a dolls-house for his daughter in time for next Christmas.

Jim Smith on the farm

“I think I’ll buy my wood from B&Q though!” he laughs.

As a farmer turned comedian, however, he also hopes that his personality “shines through”.

“I’ve always thought I’d like to present some kind of telly show,” he adds.

“That’s the next step up for comedians.

“When they told me about this show I thought it was right up my street – outdoors and in Scotland and I do have a genuine interest in wood working. I just grabbed the opportunity. I think they just thought I fitted the profile with the farmer thing.

“I had plenty checked shirts in my wardrobe anyway, so I was fine! It was handy for that!

“But getting into presenting was also a bit different to just delivering gags all the time.

“Hopefully I come over as quite quirky and light hearted at times. Once I got into the first day of filming, I was absolutely loving it. The director and producer were brand new at keeping me right.”

When to watch

Loggerheads, which has been produced by Mighty Productions Scotland, will start on the BBC Scotland channel on Thursday February 17 at 8.30pm. It’ll also be on iPlayer.

Farmed and dangerous: Perthshire farmer turned stand-up comic Jim Smith is a Force to be reckoned with!