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Why did the original Helen Alderson leave All Creatures Great and Small?

Carol Drinkwater left after seven years

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Nicky Morris
Nicky MorrisTV and film writer
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Channel 5's adaptation of All Creatures Great and Small has introduced a new generation of viewers to the popular James Herriot novels. 

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The book series was first adapted for the screen by the BBC in 1978, which attracted a legion of fans who fell in love with beloved characters such as Helen Anderson, originally played by Carol Drinkwater. But why did the actress decide to leave the show?  

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The series ran for 12 years from 1978 to 1990, but Carol didn't stay with the drama for its full run. The actress departed from the programme in 1985 after starring in 42 episodes and two TV films, being replaced by Lynda Bellingham.   

Chatting to The Yorkshire Post last year, Carol, 74, revealed that she left the show soon after becoming engaged to her husband, French director Michel Noll. 

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"I was already thinking about leaving because I felt that there was no more stretch for Helen," she explained. "They wanted to stay very strictly to the books, because Alf was alive and at that stage he was quite adamant that they did.  

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Carol Drinkwater played Helen for seven years

"And I didn't feel that there was anywhere else I could take Helen, I thought that I'd reheated that tea bag – 'Oh James, let me make you a cup of tea' – enough times and unless there was new material for me I felt that it was time for me to move on. And I was getting lots and lots of offers, because the series was very successful."

Looking back on her decision, Carol realised that she could have stayed on the show. "Having said that, if I had my time over again, I wouldn't have left it... I feel I could have achieved all the things that I have achieved and continued with the show, but you know, that's life," she said. 

all creatures helen© Photo: Channel 5

Rachel Shenton plays Helen in the Channel 5 series

After leaving the show, the actress went on to appear in several TV programmes, including The Haunted School, Captain James Cook and Peak Practice

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