Hampton Court Castle and the Severn Valley Railway prepare to reopen to visitors

The rear of Hampton Court Castle in Herefordshire

TWO OF THE most popular current-day tourist attractions which provided filming locations for Survivors back in the 1970s, and which have remained inaccessible during Covid lockdown restrictions, are now preparing to re-open and welcome visitors once more.

Hampton Court Castle, the location used throughout the latter episodes of series one of Survivors as the site for ‘The Grange’, re-opened its gates on 1 April 2021. With Covid restrictions still placing limits on how far people are allowed to travel, access to Hampton Court Castle is currently intended for “local people” only.

Those local visitors will be able to access the formal gardens, the ‘river walk’, and the main grounds of the estate. At present, the castle itself, together with the Gothic tower and the gift shop, remain closed. There will be some restrictions to movement through the gardens, including a one-way system that can ensure adherence to social distancing. The cafe will be open, providing takeaway services only, offering a limited menu.

Rail services on the Severn Valley Railway, which provided locations for the series three Survivors episodes Law of the Jungle, Mad Dog, and Bridgehead (and footage used in Power), will recommence on Monday 12 April.

Services will run between Bridgnorth and Kidderminster, with seats needing to be pre-booked for “travel in a private compartment or reserved table seats” on “specially tailored return trips”. Stations along the line will only be accessible to those with pre-booked tickets for specific journeys. The Engine House will remained closed until 17 May 2021, and there are social distancing restrictions and additional safety protocols in place whilst travelling.

A programme of events, including ‘steam galas’ and special services, has been announced for the coming months.

A SVR video, produced during last year’s easing of lockdown restrictions, gives a good indication of how services will operate in the coming weeks and months.

Hampton Court features in Antiques Road Trip

Hampton Court on Antiques Roadtrip (S21, E17) - arriving at the front of the estate

HAMPTON COURT IN Herefordshire, a key filming location in the first series of Survivors, features in a new episode of the long-running BBC auction show Antiques Road Trip.

Presenter Christina Trevanion visits the grounds of Hampton Court and its gardens to learn more about Tudor methods of soap production – household items which were manufactured by hand and perfumed with flowers and other naturally grown materials.

“Taking a break from shopping, Christina heads to a very fine garden to discover the fascinating history of how the Tudors kept themselves clean”

BBC

In Survivors, the lack of soap is briefly referred to during Abby’s group’s tenure at The Grange in series one. But it is in Survivors second series that the residents of Whitecross get stuck into the laborious business of making their own soap supplies.

Fittingly, Christina arrives at the house by motoring along the long front driveway in a “very robust” Series One Landrover. “Not as nippy” as the Porsche Speedster that her rival collectibles trader Serhat Ahmet is driving “but better over the bumps,” the episode’s description explains.

The short sequence at Hampton Court includes some striking aerial shots of the house and gardens.

The episode (Series 21, Episode 17) was first shown on BBC One on 8 December, and (for viewers in the UK) will be available on the BBC iPlayer until 7 January 2021.

Hampton Court on Antiques Roadtrip (S21, E17) - presenter Christina behind the wheel of the Landrover

Bid to reinstate rail line through Monsal Dale meets opposition

BBC East Midlands Today - report on lobby group aiming to secure funding to reinstate the rail line between Matlock and Buxton - August 2020

A CONTROVERSIAL BID to secure millions of pounds in government funding to reinstate the Matlock to Buxton rail line, along what is now the Monsal Trail, has run into opposition from the public and the Peak Park authority.

The original rail line, which formed part of the connection between London and Manchester, was closed in the 1960s as part of the infamous Beeching cuts which devastated large section of Britain’s rail network. With the tracks removed and the rail tunnels sealed, the section between Buxton and Matlock fell into disuse.

It was in 1977, during the early years of this period of neglect (and before the tunnels had been sealed), that the Monsal valley was selected as an ideal filming location for the third series Survivors episode Mad Dog.

The Headstock Tunnel as seen in the Survivors episode Mad Dog
The Headstock Tunnel as it appeared on screen in 1977 in Survivors episode ‘Mad Dog’

Monsal trail

In recent years, after attracting extensive funding for rennovation, the rail tunnels along this section of the line were repaired and re-opened, and the Monsal Trail developed as a leisure and tourist attraction for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.

The Trail has proved to be an extraordinarily popular location, attracting large numbers of visitors year round, and has succeeded in becoming an important ‘jumping off’ point for those who’ve been encouraged by their experience to explore the Peak District more widely.

Lobby group MEMRAP (the Manchester and East Midlands Rail Action Partnership) has launched a campaign to secure funding for a reinstatement of the old line.

MEMRAP argues that allowing the Monsal Trail to exist solely as a recreational destination means wasting a valuable resource that could be harnessed to “reconnect isolated communities, provide additional capacity for the national railway network (both for passengers and freight), and help Derbyshire to meet its carbon emissions targets”.

MEMRAP are backing the work of the Peak and Dales Rail campaign, which claims that trains could be running over the Monsal viaduct once again by 2030.

Feasibility questions

The group’s proposals will, the Peak and Dales Rail campaign hopes, persuade central and local government to fund a full feasibility study and detailed construction plan.

If approved, MEMRAP hopes that the multi-million pound costs of the construction of the line (which would include bridge building, flood management, and major earth works) would come from “private investment […] or from national government, or indeed from some combination.”

If the project secured funding, access to the tunnels and to the viaduct by pedestrians and others would face the axe. MEMRAP chief executive Stephen Chaytow said he did not want to see “the Monsal Trail lost” entirely and its proposals would see the Trail retained in “some capacity”.

It’s clear however that, were the rail reinstatement to go ahead, leisure access to the Monsal Trail would be sharply curtailed and the experience transformed out of all recognition by the primacy that a live bi-directional train service would have to secure in the limited space available.

Peak authority sceptical

The Peak District National Park Authority remains entirely unconvinced by MEMRAP’s plans. A 2019 study by the Authority found that the easily-accessible trails available in the National Park played host to “more than half a million visits each year from walkers, cyclists and horse riders.” Of those 500,000 annual visitors, 330,000 made use of the Monsal Trail.

The organisation’s Conservation and Planning Director John Scott insists the railway line and the Trail are simply “incompatible”.

“It’s hard to see how you can have the railway back and have the Trail experience as it is at the moment,” he explained to the BBC.

Save the Monsal Trail petition banner

The proposals have sparked opposition from individuals and groups entirely unconvinced by MEMRAP’s cost-benefit calculations. A Help Save the Monsal Trail petition on the Change.org site has already (by 20 November 2020) attracted more than 10,500 signatures.

It’s difficult to tell at present, if MEMRAP’s proposals have any credibility or traction. An application has been submitted to the Department for Transport’s Restoring Your Railway ‘Ideas Fund’, with the backing of two sponsoring MPs Robert Largan (High Peak) and Nigel Mills (Amber Valley).

Train traction

The bid will, however, be in competition with other rail reinstatement proposals from across the country, many of which will not be accompanied with the same kind of eye-watering price tag, unproven economic rationale or impassioned local opposition that the MEMRAP plan will have to confront.

Countless major infrastructure ‘projects’ (particularly those which originate from private organisations and lobby groups) fail to secure funding or official backing and grind to a halt at the “feasibility study” stage.

The proposal can though count on some local rail-enthusiast support. A competing Re-open the Railway between Matlock, Bakewell, Buxton and Manchester petition on Change.org has attracted thousands of signatures. Tellingly, the statement accompanying the petition is silent on the fate of the Monsal Trail in the event that the line is brought back into use.

East Midlands Today – 18 August 2020
East Midlands Today (late evening news summary) – 18 August 2020
East Midlands Today – 29 August 2020

Earlier echoes

As the debate continues, it’s impossible not to reminded of the controversy that greeted the construction of the Monsal viaduct and the building of the rail line back in 1863. The celebrated critic and social commentator John Ruskin famously denounced what he saw as the witless desecration of the valley’s beauty in the name of “progress”:

“The valley is gone, and the Gods with it; and now, every fool in Buxton can be in Bakewell in half an hour, and every fool in Bakewell at Buxton; which you think a lucrative process of exchange – you Fools everywhere.”

John Ruskin, 1871. Fors Clavigera: Letters to the Workmen and Labourers of Great Britain.

Once opened, trains ran across the viaduct and through the valley for around 100 years before the Beeching cuts led to the lines being ripped out. Over time, the viaduct that Ruskin had considered such a monstrosity blended into the landscape of the Monsal valley, and became an integral part of one of the Peak District’s most recognisable and acclaimed vistas. Within ten years of the line’s closure, its impressive spans and brickwork had secured Grade II Listed Building status.

Fans of Survivors might well find themselves torn in relation to the rail reinstatement plan. While the return of trains to the Monsal valley would almost certainly render key Mad Dog filming locations inaccessible once more, and compromise the gentle tranquility of the valley, there is one other consideration.

Charles Vaughan and Greg Preston were both enthusiastic advocates for the reactivation of dormant rail services across post-Death Britain (admittedly in legacy, steam-powered form). In Survivors, it was Charles and Greg who were most determined to “get a national network going”.

Hampton Court ends its visitor season as new lockdown confirmed

Hampton Court - Herefordshire

HAMPTON COURT IN Herefordshire, the principal filming location for the second half of the first series of Survivors, has closed to visitors for the remainder of 2020.

Hampton Court had reopened the grounds of the estate in early July, once the first Covid-19 lockdown restrictions had been lifted (the site usually reopens from its winter break in March or April, but had remained shut during lockdown).

With the new restrictions unveiled by the Johnson government taking effect from 5 November, and running to early December (in the first instance), the owners of Hampton Court have decided to end the visitor season with immediate effect, forgoing any plans for Xmas and end-of-year events.

An announcement on the Hampton Court Castle site explains:

We are closed to day visitors for the 2020 season. We will reopen in April 2021

Hampton Court, Herefordshire reopens to visitors

Hampton Court - Herefordshire

HAMPTON COURT IN Herefordshire, the main filming location for the last seven episodes of the first series of Survivors and a regular travel destination for fans of the show, re-opens to visitors on Wednesday 8 July 2020.

Hampton Court estate has been closed to public access during the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions that were imposed towards the end of March. Lockdown meant that the estate remained shut even as its usual April opening date passed.

From 8 July, the estate will again open to visitors (from Wednesday to Sunday each week).

UPDATE, 7 JULY: Details of exactly which facilities and services will be available, and what social distancing arrangements will be in place, have been published on the Hampton Court site.

In summary, the grounds and main garden will be accessible, and the Orangery restaurant will provide a limited menu of refreshments. However, the castle, the maze, the play areas, sunken garden and gift shop will all remain closed, in order not to conflict with social distancing and safety guidelines.

Covid-19 Update

We are delighted to announce that we are reopening the majority of our gardens and grounds to visitors from Wednesday 8th July. Our new opening hours (until further notice) will be Wednesday – Sunday, 10.30am – 5pm.

To keep within government guidelines, some areas are still closed for the time being, including: the maze, sunken garden, play areas, gift shop and the castle itself. These are areas where we feel that government safety guidance would be challenging to uphold.

Due to this, entry prices in July have been reduced – adults £6, children £3 (4 -15 years) and under 4’s are still free. At present, we won’t be offering any other concessions, accepting discount vouchers or group bookings. We’ll also only be taking card payments and encouraging contactless wherever possible.

We are pleased to be able to open the Orangery Café, albeit with a limited menu and reduced indoor seating. There is plenty of outdoor seating available and visitors are welcome to bring their own refreshments.

With regards to safety measures, we have implemented a one-way flow system in some areas of the gardens and staff have been issued with appropriate PPE. The cleaning of facilities has been increased to every hour and hand-sanitising points are available throughout the grounds. As these are new circumstances for all of us, then we would appreciate visitor feedback. Please speak to a member of staff during your visit or email us on hello@hamptoncourtcastle.co.uk 

New study of performance and production in Survivors

A NEW BOOK which examines the way in which actors perform in television drama, and the way in which their performance is captured by the camera, uses Survivors as one of its illuminating case studies.

In The Changing Spaces of Television Acting: From studio realism to location realism in BBC television drama, author and researcher Richard Hewett scrutines the craft of actors and performers working on The Quatermass Experiment, Doctor Who and Survivors.

He looks at the interplay between custom and practice, acting theory, evolving technology and other factors in shaping how performance for television is realised. Hewett pays particular attention to the distinction between studio and ‘on location’ production, exploring the influence that ‘place’ exerts on the way that a story is translated from page to screen.

Hewett’s book builds on the research that he undertook for the doctoral thesis, and an academic journal article that he published as one of the outputs of his research findings. Yet it’s clear that the aim of the book is to reach a non-academic as well as an academic audience.

For those interested in the history of British television production, there’s a great deal in Hewett’s book to capture the attention.

Enthusiasts with a particular interest in Survivors will be able to enjoy some fascinating and original reflections on the making of the show, informed by new interviews with cast members (including Lucy Fleming and Denis Lill and Roger Lloyd-Pack), and illustrated with numerous screencaptures from different episodes of the show.

In a Q&A with publishers Manchester University Press, Hewett explains that he enjoyed “every aspect of writing the book, from re-viewing the case studies to poring over archive documents.” He suggests that conducting interviews was the most satisfying part. “It was fascinating to have my theories challenged by the practitioners who originally worked on my case studies,” he says – people who were on set at the time and who were able to offer “their own unique perspectives.”

This book provides a historical overview and then-and-now comparison of performing for British television drama. By examining changing acting styles from distinct eras of television production – studio realism and location realism – it makes a unique contribution to both television and performance studies, unpacking the various determinants that have combined to influence how performers work in the medium. The book compares the original versions of The Quatermass Experiment (BBC, 1953), Doctor Who (BBC, 1963-89) and Survivors (BBC, 1975-77) with their respective modern-day re-makes, unpacking the effects of the shift from multi-camera studio to single-camera location production. Textual analysis is combined with extensive archival research into production process and reception, alongside interviews with numerous actors and production personnel from more than sixty years of television production.

Richard Hewett. 2020. The Changing Spaces of Television Acting: From studio realism to location realism in BBC television drama. Manchester: Manchester University Press, ISBN 9781526148636.

Britain by Bike with Larry & George Lamb visits Monsal Dale

TV CAMERAS WERE back in Monsal Dale again recently, this time to record part of a two-wheel tour of the Peak District by Larry and George Lamb.

Episode three of the second series of Britain by Bike with Larry & George Lamb (first shown on Channel 5 in the UK on 31 August 2018) showed the father and son cycling along the Monsal Trail out of Bakewell, through the Headstock Tunnel and out across the Monsal viaduct.

In 1977, the Monsal valley was one of the principal filming locations for the third series Survivors episode Mad Dog.

‘The Peak District’ episode of Britain by Bike is available to stream from the My5 web site (until 15 July 2019).

Britain by bike with Larry and George Lamb - Monsal Dale - Headstock Tunnel

Britain by bike with Larry and George Lamb - Monsal Dale - inside the Headstock tunnel

Britain by bike with Larry and George Lamb - Monsal Dale - top of the viaduct

Britain by bike with Larry and George Lamb - Monsal Dale - view of the viaduct

Britain by bike with Larry and George Lamb - Monsal Dale - the rocky outcrop

‘Gone Fishing…’ in the Monsal Mad Dog valley

Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing - title plate

THE MONSAL VALLEY filming locations used in the classic third series Survivors story Mad Dog featured in an episode of Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing shown on BBC Two earlier this month.

The BBC’s cameras (at both ground and drone level) took in shots of the valley floor, the valley’s bridges, the viaduct, the weir and (of course, given the subject matter) the river Wye as it meanders its way through the valley.

The series shows the efforts of comedians Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse to fish in a variety of locations (with Whitehouse as the expert and Mortimer as his apprentice). With both of them having to adjust their lives after recovering from major heart surgery, the pair spend as much time joking, teasing one another and reflecting on their lot as they do attempting to catch-and-release fish.

Episode three “Rainbow Trout – Derbyshire Wye” was first shown on BBC Two at 22:00 on 4 July 2018, and will be available on the BBC’s iPlayer (for viewers in the UK) for thirty days following transmission.

A fully-illustrated guide to all of the Monsal Valley filming locations used in Survivors can be found on the Survivors: Mad Dog site.

Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing - the bridge close to Netherdale Farm

Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing - Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer

Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing - the Monsal valley

Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing - the Monsal valley floor, looking towards the viadcut

Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing - the bridge near Upperdale House

Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing - Bob Mortimer shares the Wye with a farmer's cow

Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing - the Weir in the Monsal valley

Survivors’ location enjoys annual open weekend

The abandoned village of Imber on Salisbury Plain (the principal filming location for series three Survivors episode Sparks) enjoyed its annual ‘open’ weekend over the Easter holiday break; an event covered this year by an illustrated feature in The Mirror (27 March 2016).

The village of Imber was forcibly evacuated in December 1943, as the military commandeered sites that could be used to prepare troops for the street fighting that would follow the Normandy landings of D-Day. The emptied village was repurposed as a Ministry of Defence training ground. Villagers were never able to return, and the site became sealed-off from public access all year round – except for a single annual open weekend, when visitors were welcomed to view the landmark church and other buildings.

St Giles Church, the main interior and exterior location in Sparks, benefited from a £300,000 restoration project in 2008, sponsored by the Churches Conservation Trust, which prevented the building from falling into a state of complete disrepair.

Imber - open weekend - 2016

Hermitage Riverside Memorial Garden – Lights of London location

A trip to London last weekend, took me close enough to Tower Bridge to visit, for the first time, the Hermitage Riverside Memorial Garden in London. In 1976, this particular stretch of the Thames riverbank was still a wasteland, and had not been redeveloped since suffering repeated bombings during the Blitz.

With the iconic Tower Bridge in the background, and no city traffic to contend with, the area made an ideal place for director Pennant Roberts to shoot the sequences from Lights of London II in which (during a motorbike sortie for supplies) Manny attempts to shoot dead the dissident Wally. The on-location staging of this short sequence helps to reinforce the ‘sense of place’ in the episode. That said, it was not obvious (from how the area was framed on screen) that the wasteland was immediately adjacent to the River Thames.

Today the area is completely unrecognisable, and the site of a huge development of luxury flats. The building of the commemorative garden, in memory of those Londoners who died during the bombing of the capital in World War II, is dominated by its large dove sculpture. Its creation was a contractual requirement for the developers of the surrounding apartment complexes.

Hermitage Riverside Memorial Garden
Hermitage Riverside Memorial Garden, London

Hermitage Riverside Memorial Garden commemorates the civilians who died in the London blitz which commenced on 7 September 1940 and ended on 10 May 1941. London was initially bombed for 57 consecutive nights. Many other cities and areas suffered but the East End of London was one of the worst hit areas due to its proximity to the docks with 436 Londoners killed and 1,666 injured on the first night alone, and with total casualties near to 30,000

Hermitage Riverside Memorial Garden, Wapping High Street, London E1 (see Google maps)