`Carol Drinkwater: Following 'The Olive Oil Route' with Passion

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Carol Drinkwater: Following 'The Olive Oil Route' with Passion

Nov. 12, 2012
Alice Alech

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Actress Carol Drinkwa­ter stum­bled upon her pas­sion for olives, and once dis­cov­ered there was no stop­ping.

The British artist has worked in film, tele­vi­sion and the­ater and is best known for her award-win­ning por­trayal of Helen Her­riot in the BBC series All Crea­tures Great and Small. Straight out of drama school Drinkwa­ter took on a part in Stan­ley Kubrick’s A Clock­work Orange.

When she bought her 10-acre prop­erty in 1986, the villa was run­down and the aban­doned land was vastly over­grown but while clear­ing it two years later she dis­cov­ered sixty-eight, four-hun­dred-year-old trees grow­ing on the hill­side among the dry stoned wall ter­races.


Cap­ti­vated, she boldly embarked on an olive adven­ture in the South of France and she faced head-on the chal­lenges, tri­als and tribu­la­tions of learn­ing the com­plex busi­ness of grow­ing olives and pro­duc­ing olive oil.

Her aim was to pro­duce the best olive oil pos­si­ble. But this olive oil expert is an actress at heart, an artist eager to learn and to share her knowl­edge and pas­sion. Today she is work­ing on a film doc­u­men­tary series enti­tled The Olive Route.

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Drinkwa­ter said that all started with ques­tions: Where did the olive trees first come from? Is there an olive route?

I set up a meet­ing with the United Nations Edu­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Orga­ni­za­tion (UNESCO) in Paris, with the cul­tural direc­tor, and pro­posed myself for the role of seeker of the ancient jour­neys, she who will find answers.’ I wanted to unearth this tree’s his­tory. I had made up my mind that I would go in search of the plant’s mys­ter­ies, its ancient her­itage and track some of its orig­i­nal routes from wild tree to cul­ti­va­tion.”

Dri­ven by her love of olives, she set off on a his­tor­i­cal jour­ney which took her in search of the routes that olive cul­ti­va­tion has taken over the years, meet­ing and shar­ing her pas­sion: peo­ple like Salah, the guardian of the olive tree in a vil­lage near Beth­le­hem, two olive groves in Lebanon more than 6,000 years old and still pro­duc­ing fruit, and the remark­able dis­cov­ery that the old­est olive trees are in Mount Lebanon.



The olive route stretches from North­ern Syria to Gibral­tar, some of it cov­er­ing dan­ger­ous ter­rain. She found her­self some­times in war zones, she wore a burka when she had to, her back­pack weighted down with a cam­era and lap­top.

Drinkwa­ter spent six­teen months trav­el­ling solo around the Mediter­ranean to Spain, Morocco, Alge­ria and Italy gath­er­ing infor­ma­tion for her lat­est books, The Olive Route and The Olive Tree.

She and her hus­band, the French TV pro­ducer Michel Noll, are now prepar­ing the ten-part doc­u­men­tary film series set around the Mediter­ranean. I am work­ing on the nar­ra­tion of the films which will go out soon to the dif­fer­ent net­works,” she said.

The first film of the series called The Holy Land and the Olive Tree is set in Jerusalem and the West Bank fea­tur­ing a 5,000 year-old tree.

Before my 18 months of travel, I spent 6 years mak­ing con­tacts. When I got there I just went with the flow. I met peo­ple who led me to other peo­ple; the net­work of con­tacts was phe­nom­e­nal,” she said. She added that Inter­na­tional Olive Coun­cil Direc­tor Jean-Louis Bar­jol was very help­ful when they met in Madrid.

Carol Drinkwa­ter is a best­selling author of 6 mem­oirs shar­ing her pas­sion for olives and olive oil and the effect it had on her life, start­ing from the time she first acquired her olive grove.



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