On Location

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The other night I switched on the television and came across a piece of iconic viewing from the 1960s: The Prisoner. Do you remember it? Starring the blue-eyed Patrick McGoohan the series was typical of its time. It was quirky, eccentric and surreal, and viewers were constantly intrigued by its bizarre storyline. For those who didn’t see it, McGoohan was a former secret agent who had been kidnapped and taken to a mysterious, but idyllic-looking place called “The Village”, where all his attempts to escape failed. He was only ever referred to as Number Six – despite his repeated protestations of “I am not a number, but a free man.” Although it was a bit before my time, I have enjoyed the series on DVD because – rather like that other superb 1960s programme The Avengers - it is so wonderfully British in its stylish and witty approach to the realms of espionage, science-fiction and fantasy.

The Prisoner was quite unlike anything else that had been on television before, or since, and many people were - and still are - baffled by it! For what it’s worth, I always thought it was a clever study of individuality and freedom, and the refusal to conform. It had elements of George Orwell’s 1984, and even Alice in Wonderland because of the colourful and almost fairy-tale setting. However, The Prisoner’s filming location was far from make-believe; it was the stunning North Wales coastal village of Portmeirion, which is the subject of our "Rural Rides" feature in the current issue of Evergreen (click here for subscriptions). The real “village” was the work of the architect Clough Williams-Ellis and he created an Italianate paradise, rescuing and reconstructing many of the buildings from other parts of Britain. It was a labour of love and it’s no wonder that Portmeirion’s architectural splendour – and The Prisoner – bring so many people to this beautiful part of Wales today.

It’s interesting when you consider how many places across Britain have had starring roles on the small screen over the years. Here are a few I’ve plotted on the map, but I’m sure that you can add more, so let me know in the comments section below.  

Port Isaac, Cornwall: Doc Martin
Cornwall (the entire county!): Poldark
Dartmouth, Devon: The Onedin Line
Cricket St. Thomas, Somerset: To the Manor Born
Highclere Castle, Berkshire: Downton Abbey
Turville, Buckinghamshire: The Vicar of Dibley
The Chilterns: Midsomer Murders
Hastings, Sussex: Foyle’s War
Bursledon, Hampshire: Howards' Way
Northwood, Middlesex: The Good Life
Thetford, Norfolk: Dad’s Army
Long Melford, Suffolk: Lovejoy
Oxford and the surrounding county: Inspector Morse, Lewis and Endeavour
Askrigg, Yorkshire: All Creatures Great and Small
Castle Howard, Yorkshire: Brideshead Revisited
Goathland, Yorkshire: Heartbeat
Holmfirth, Yorkshire: Last of the Summer Wine
Doncaster, Yorkshire: Open All Hours
Callander, Perthshire: Dr. Finlay’s Casebook (1960s series)
Auchtermuchty, Fife: Dr. Finlay (1993 series)
Plockton, Ross and Cromarty: Hamish Macbeth
Loch Laggan: Monarch of the Glenn
Glasgow: Taggart
Cardiff: Dr. Who and Casualty

Finally, on this locations tour, I must highlight the village of Pluckley in Kent. This was the setting for the delightfully bucolic series screened in the early 1990s The Darling Buds of May, starring David Jason and Pam Ferris, as Pop and Ma Larkin, and Catherine Zeta Jones as their eldest daughter Mariette. It was adapted from the book by H.E. Bates and we will be featuring an article about it in the summer issue of Evergreen, which is published on 7th June. As television series go this one was a real winner and, to quote Pop Larkin, it was “Just perfick!”

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