Get­away: West Bay, Dorset

Rose­mary and Sam John­son search out some of the iconic lo­ca­tions used in the ac­claimed se­ries Broad­church

Practical Caravan - - Contents -

Rose­mary and Sam John­son head to the Dorset coast to fol­low the trail of ac­claimed TV drama Broad­church

ROSE­MARY AND I have many things in com­mon – in­clud­ing a love of car­a­van­ning – but television is not one of them.

I like quiz shows, such as the iconic Count­down and the rather bril­liant Point­less. Rose­mary says they’re bor­ing.

She will watch Big Brother and record Coro­na­tion Street so as not to miss an episode, whereas I can stand maybe a minute of ei­ther, be­fore hav­ing to leave the room as quickly as pos­si­ble and not come back un­til they’re fin­ished. Watch­ing strangers ar­gue, whether scripted or not, is not en­ter­tain­ing.

So when a television se­ries comes on that we both want to sit down and watch, it’s quite an event and of­ten re­sults in us want­ing to find out more about it. Down­ton Abbey was one such, but we had al­ready vis­ited the lo­ca­tion where it was filmed – High­clere Cas­tle in Berk­shire – in our pre-car­a­van­ning days.

An­other was the fi­nal se­ries of Broad­church, which aired in March 2017. It was about half an hour into the first episode be­fore one of us asked, “Where was that filmed?” and all of two min­utes more be­fore an in­ter­net search re­vealed that ac­tu­ally, there is no such place and scenes from the show are shot across Dorset, Bris­tol and Som­er­set.

How­ever, the beau­ti­ful coastal scenes that we most ad­mired were filmed at West Bay, near Brid­port in Dorset. So with a week off work in early May forth­com­ing, our next tour­ing des­ti­na­tion was cho­sen.

We trav­elled in change­able weather, but man­aged to pitch up at our cho­sen camp­site – the Dorset Hide­away, about six miles outside Brid­port – in bright sun­shine.

We de­cided to drive straight into West Bay, keen to spot as many lo­ca­tions as pos­si­ble, but a heavy down­pour just as we were walk­ing to­wards the cliffs sent us run­ning to the pub in­stead.

For­tu­nately, the next day dawned bright and clear, and we were quick to re­sume our tour of ex­plo­ration. We started at the West Cliff, partly be­cause we im­me­di­ately recog­nised some of the build­ings from the TV se­ries and partly be­cause the path looked less steep than the East Cliff at the op­po­site end of the bay. Af­ter ad­mir­ing the view

West Bay pro­vides a spec­tac­u­lar back­drop for Broad­church

from the top, we re­turned to the town and noted some more land­marks, in­clud­ing: ■ The El­lipse Café, the in­te­rior of which was used to film sev­eral scenes. ■ The Folly at West Quay, the ex­te­rior of which dou­bled as Broad­church Po­lice Sta­tion. ■ The East Pier. This, with its spec­tac­u­lar views of the Har­bour Cliff beach and the ex­posed sand­stone face of East Cliff, was used to shoot the fi­nal scene of the last episode. We – seem­ingly in com­mon with ev­ery other visi­tor that day – were keen to try to recre­ate the scene.

On closer in­spec­tion of the path from the beach to the top of East Cliff, we de­cided that it didn’t look as steep as it had from a dis­tance. We were wrong. The climb was ex­haust­ing, but the amaz­ing views from the top made it all worth­while.

Hav­ing com­pleted our ex­plo­ration of West Bay and con­quered both cliffs, we re­warded our­selves with a large ice cream and a visit to Ab­bots­bury Swan­nery.

Lo­cated in the shel­ter of the nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring Fleet La­goon and pro­tected by the 18-mile bank of shin­gle that is Ch­e­sil Beach, the swan­nery has been home to a man­aged colony of about 600 nest­ing mute swans since its in­cep­tion by Bene­dic­tine monks in the 1040s.

Swans and mon­keys

The swans are fed twice daily and chil­dren are in­vited to par­tic­i­pate. The guide clar­i­fied that chil­dren up to the age of 97 are wel­come, so if you’re 98 and want to feed the swans, just lie about your age.

The fol­low­ing day saw us visit Mon­key World near Ware­ham, home to about 250 res­cued and en­dan­gered chim­panzees, orang­utans, gib­bons, mar­mosets and var­i­ous mon­key species. I’m not ashamed to ad­mit that I love mon­keys and pri­mates. They are just so sim­i­lar to hu­mans, both bi­o­log­i­cally and in char­ac­ter.

As an ex­am­ple, the hu­man con­tra­cep­tive pill pro­vides an ef­fec­tive method of birth con­trol for chimps and orang­utans. But when this had to be stopped for one fe­male af­ter she caught flu, her preg­nancy was con­firmed us­ing a test kit bought over the counter at a lo­cal chemist’s. Which is why I make no apol­ogy

‘The story goes that Raleigh rode past Sher­borne’s cas­tle one day in 1592 and liked it so much, he had to have it’

for the sober­ing nature of this next para­graph. Some of the sto­ries of the an­i­mals that have been res­cued and brought to this cen­tre are heart­break­ing.

Many have been poached from their fam­i­lies in the wild and used as props for pho­to­graphs in tourist re­sorts. Some have had their teeth bro­ken with ham­mers and chis­els to stop them bit­ing as they grow older.

Oth­ers’ feet have started to de­form as a re­sult of be­ing forced into chil­dren’s shoes. I am just grate­ful that cen­tres such as this ex­ist to res­cue and try to re­ha­bil­i­tate these an­i­mals, and urge you all – even if your love for mon­keys and apes is not as great as mine – to pay a visit, watch the be­hav­iour of these fas­ci­nat­ing an­i­mals and help sup­port Mon­key World’s work.

So far, our trip had in­cluded an­i­mals and TV lo­ca­tions. We de­cided to add some his­tory to the mix by vis­it­ing Sher­borne Cas­tle. The story goes that the ex­plorer Sir Wal­ter Raleigh rode past Sher­borne’s old 12th cen­tury cas­tle – to­day reduced to a ru­ined shell – one day in 1592, and liked it so much, he just had to have it.

But he soon re­alised the cost of restora­tion was be­yond even his wealth, de­spite his close re­la­tion­ship to El­iz­a­beth I, so in­stead, he had a grand house built in its grounds. It wasn’t long be­fore the name Sher­borne Cas­tle came to re­fer to the house, not the orig­i­nal build­ing.

Raleigh of­ten liked to sit outside smok­ing his pipe while look­ing over his gar­dens to the Dorch­ester Road. One morn­ing, a ser­vant, un­fa­mil­iar with the habit of smok­ing, thought his mas­ter was on fire and threw a glass of ale over him. Luck­ily, Raleigh saw the funny side and the ser­vant es­caped un­pun­ished.

Raleigh lived at the cas­tle for less than a decade be­fore the newly crowned James I – who dis­liked him – found a way to have him im­pris­oned for trea­son and ul­ti­mately ex­e­cuted. The cas­tle and its es­tate were sold

to the Digby fam­ily, who still own it to this day. Sto­ries about the fam­ily, who have oc­cu­pied the house for 400 years, are many and var­ied enough to fill a book, but one of the most in­ter­est­ing must be that of Lady Let­tice, sis­ter of Sir John Digby, the cas­tle’s first owner.

Af­ter giv­ing birth to seven sons and three daugh­ters and be­ing wid­owed – all by the age of 38 – she in­her­ited Geashill Cas­tle in Ire­land from her grand­fa­ther and was liv­ing there at the time of the English Civil War of 1641. How­ever, she re­fused to sur­ren­der to the Ir­ish rebels, even when watch­ing them build a large can­non and aim it at the cas­tle. The can­non ex­ploded the first time it was fired, in­jur­ing those around it but leav­ing the build­ing in­tact. Lady Let­tice’s re­sponse was to show her con­tempt by lean­ing out of the win­dow and wip­ing the spot where the can­non had struck with her hand­ker­chief!

Be­fore our stay in Dorset came to an end, there were two

more things that we wanted to do. The first was to spend the evening in the camp­site’s own hot tub (avail­able to hire by the hour) and watch the sun set, which felt a bit like be­ing in heaven. The sec­ond – at Rose­mary’s in­sis­tence – was to go for a pad­dle in the sea the next morn­ing. My, it was cold!

Hy­pother­mia some­how averted, we then de­cided to break our re­turn jour­ney with lunch at Perry’s Cider Mills in Ilmin­ster and two nights at our favourite site from our trip the pre­vi­ous year, the For­est and Wye Val­ley camp­ing site in St Bri­avels, Glouces­ter­shire.

‘A for­est of blue­bells kept us walk­ing on for an­other mile be­fore re­al­is­ing we were head­ing down­hill, not up’

Park in the or­chard

In hind­sight, it would have been eas­ier not to take the car­a­van with us to the cider farm.

Not only are the roads not re­ally suited to it – al­though meet­ing two huge gravel lor­ries trav­el­ling in con­voy in the op­po­site di­rec­tion was prob­a­bly just un­lucky – but nei­ther is the car park­ing. We had to park in the or­chard!

It all be­came worth­while the minute I tasted their medium-dry draught cider. You can buy this in a min­i­mum quan­tity of 2.5 litres, which has to be con­sumed within a week be­cause it’s not pres­surised. Not that this was a chore, you un­der­stand.

We ar­rived at our next site in time to meet the (slightly naughty) goats – newly ac­quired since our pre­vi­ous visit – and go for a walk among the blue­bells and wild gar­lic in the ad­ja­cent wood­land, be­fore re­turn­ing for an ex­cel­lent home-made curry, cooked by the site’s own­ers and de­liv­ered to our car­a­van. This is avail­able to or­der on Fri­day and Satur­day nights.

Our plan for next day was to visit the vil­lage of Tintern and climb the ‘365 steps’ to look over the Wye Val­ley from the Ea­gle’s Nest view­point, be­fore ex­plor­ing the ru­ined abbey. But we got dis­tracted – first by the al­co­holic ice cream on sale in St Bri­avels vil­lage hall as part of a lo­cal fete. The Bailey’s flavour was to die for. The sec­ond dis­trac­tion was the fact that there aren’t 365 steps up to the Ea­gle’s Nest – there are only about 300 now.

The third dis­trac­tion was a for­est of blue­bells, which kept us walk­ing on for an­other mile be­fore re­al­is­ing we were head­ing down­hill, not up. We re­traced our steps to find the view­point, and we’re glad we did it. Even if you catch the river at low tide, the view is breath­tak­ing.

Sadly, this meant that we didn’t have a great deal of time at Tintern Abbey ex­cept to grab a late lunch and a few photos, and learn that it was founded in 1131 and spent most of its life as a monastery be­fore Henry VIII tried to de­stroy it in the 1530s.

Our time in Dorset was great. But the best thing about our trip in­spired by a television drama was spend­ing the whole week with no TV re­cep­tion. It was won­der­ful. More please!


Sam and Rose­mary take in the view from the cliffs at West Bay

Sam lends a hand at for feed­ing time the swans

ABOVE The swan­nery at Ab­bots­bury, home to about 600 mute swans BE­LOW Mon­key World is a multi-species sanc­tu­ary

BE­LOW Rose­mary and Sam add some his­tory to their itin­er­ary by vis­it­ing Sher­borne Cas­tle, orig­i­nally the home of Sir Wal­ter Raleigh

Rose­mary tries out the carved in Cork Oak Seat the gar­dens at Sher­borne Cas­tle

LEFT Draught cider at Perry’s Cider Mills made the jour­ney worth­while, de­spite hav­ing to park the car­a­van in an or­chard IN­SET Sam and Rose­mary take a break from ex­plor­ing with an al­co­holic ice cream at St Bri­avels RIGHT Look­ing out over the Wye Val­ley from the Ea­gle’s Nest view­point

Why we stayed at…

Did we men­tion the hot tub?

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