TV Programmes Filmed In West Dorset

Broadchurch Season 3

Nowadays the iconic image of West Bay’s East Cliff has become synonymous with the hit TV series Broadchurch. But what other television programmes were filmed locally, before the days of Broadchurch? It turns out there have been several television crews in West Bay and West Dorset over the years. Here’s a quick round-up.

Harbour Lights

Harbour LightsDo you remember another drama series which gave West Bay a little bit of fame for a while? The short-lived BBC series Harbour Lights ran from 1999 to 2000. It’s main character was harbour master Mike Nicholls (Nick Berry) with police officer Melanie Rush (Tina Hobley) and the money grabbing villain Tony Simpson (Gerard Horan). The harbour, with its characteristic kiosks, fishing boats, pubs and restaurants, was often visible. During filming Nick Berry was spotted in the local nightclub, DeVinchies, now the Spar supermarket on West Bay Road!

The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin

The Fall and Rise DVD CoverGoing back a little further in time, the BBC series The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (1976 – 1979) deserves a special mention. Reginald Perrin, played by Leonard Rossiter, runs into the sea in West Bay in the opening credits, having left all his clothes on East Beach.

The BBC made the classic series again in 2009, this time with Martin Clunes in the title role. However this remake used Worthing beach instead of West Bay for that famous scene. I don’t know, the star being a local chap too!

The Goodies

 

The Goodies in DorsetIn 1975 The Goodies filmed a special called The Goodies Rule – OK. During the episode a huge Dougal, the dog from The Magic Roundabout, charges up behind them. As Graeme Garden tries to ride the giant animal, and Tim Brooke-Taylor is run over it, Bill Oddie grapples with an enormous Zebedee from the same programme. The trio guide Dougal and Zebedee back to a country house. This scene was filmed at Parnham House near Beaminster. Sadly this sixteenth-century house was gutted last year in a huge fire. Arson was suspected. The police concluded their investigations after the owner was found dead in Switzerland a few months later.

Another episode, The Goodies and the Beanstalk (1973), filmed scenes on Portland and in Dorchester.

Rockliffe’s Folly

Rockcliffes FollyThe short-lived BBC police serial Rockliffe’s Folly (1988) was a spin off from the popular London-based series Rockliffe’s Babies. A fed-up Scotland Yard detective played by Ian Hogg moved to the provinces for a change of pace. He transferred to the Wessex Police Force, finding the country has plenty of crime problems of its own. Weymouth portrayed the central setting of “Maidenport” and the police station seen was Dorchester’s. The series used Bridport for town scenes, along with the surrounding countryside.

Gulliver’s Travels

Gulliver's TravelsIn 1996 the mini-series Gulliver’s Travels  was filmed along the Jurassic coast. It had a star-studded cast including Ted Danson and Omar Sharif. The series won five Emmy Awards. 

River Cottage

River Cottage DVD CoverHugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s popular River Cottage series on Channel 4 was originally filmed near Bridport. In the first series, Escape to River Cottage (1999), Hugh left London to pursue an ambition of self-sufficiency, growing his own vegetables and raising his own animals at a gamekeeper’s cottage near Netherbury. In 2004 Hugh set up a new business from old dairy buildings near Broadoak, Bridport. This was shown in the series Beyond River Cottage.

Hugh is an enthusiastic fan of the local countryside and the series captured Dorset’s rural charm. Episodes were shot all around the county, ranging from cooking sea bass on the beach with local fisherman to selling produce at the farmer’s markets.

Hugh was off again in 2006, this time moving River Cottage HQ to a bigger site in East Devon. 

In Soaps

In April 2008 several members of the EastEnders‘ cast, including Barbara Windsor, spent five days shooting scenes in Weymouth, shown in July 2008.

TV Adverts

Hovis AdvertIn the 1970s Formula One driver Jackie Stewart made a Goodyear tyre advertisement where he raced down the old West Pier in West Bay and slammed on the brakes at the end. He insisted on boats being positioned in the water in case he skidded and overshot the pier. The pier has since been demolished and replaced by the Jurassic Pier.

A bit further afield, Gold Hill in Shaftesbury became famous when it featured in the Hovis advert in 1973. It was directed by Ridley Scott and has been voted Britain’s favourite advertisement of all time. Is that tune playing in your head?

I wonder how many of these TV programmes and adverts you have seen? Do you remember spotting any of the local sights? If you know of other TV series with scenes around West Dorset please leave a reply and let me know.

If you’ve read this and fancy a holiday in the area too we’d love to welcome you to West Bay Cottage. Please take a look inside the cottage or head to our Enquire and Book page for availability, the rates and how to book.

The Greatest Fossil Hunter Ever

Mary Anning Painting

Mary Anning’s story is fascinating. Born in Lyme Regis in 1799, she lived her whole life there hunting, collecting and selling fossils. The Natural History Museum proclaimed her the greatest fossil hunter ever. Yet the scientific community didn’t completely accept her during her lifetime or give her as much credit as she deserved. Why? Because she was female, poor and working class. If you’d like to know more please read on. Are you lucky enough to be visiting Lyme soon? Find out about the town’s most remarkable person before you go.

Her Early Life

Copy of Ichthyosaur skull displayed in Lyme Regis museumAt fifteen months old Mary Anning survived a lightening strike which killed the three other people sheltering under the tree. Unlikely as it sounds her family maintained that the sickly baby girl became much smarter and livelier as a result.

As a young child she would often go out on the beaches of Lyme fossil hunting with her older brother Joseph and her father, a carpenter and an amateur fossil collector. The family was poor and selling the fossils was a necessity to bring in money. It was dangerous work particularly during the winter months, out in storms and after landslides. Her father died when she was only eleven, leaving the family in debt. Mary, along with her mother and brother, continued collecting and selling fossils to tourists from a table outside their house.

In 1811 Mary’s brother discovered a four foot long skull. With its long snout and prominent teeth it might have been a crocodile except that it had huge, bulbous eyes. A creature never seen alive. A few months later Mary found the rest of the skeleton. It became quite a sensation, rocking the scientific world.

Her Fossil Expertise


Sketch made by Mary Anning
Mary eked out a living by finding, painstakingly recovering and selling fossils throughout her life. As she continued to make important fossil discoveries her reputation grew. Scientists and collectors from around Europe and America visited her in Lyme. However the majority of her finds ended up in museums and personal collections without giving her any credit.

Mary read scientific papers and dissected animals to gain a better understanding of anatomy. She became an expert in the delicate work of removing fossilised bones from the rocks, then reconstructing skeletons. She knew more about fossils and geology than most of the gentlemen geologists and stayed in frequent contact with them. They published information she gave them, but often neglected to mention her name.

Despite her incredible understanding of fossils and skeletons she was not eligible to join the Geological Society of London. Not surprisingly she grew resentful of the scientists who failed to acknowledge her work, remaining an outsider barred from full participation because of her sex and social class.

The dangers of her occupation was highlighted in October 1833 when her dog was killed by a landslide that nearly killed Mary too.

The Huge Importance Of Her Discoveries

Mary Anning’s fossil discoveries caused major controversy as they challenged the belief that the world had been created as described in the Bible. If God’s creation was perfection, how come these creatures no longer existed, so must have been imperfect? Those who had faith in Genesis as literal history required every species ever created to be alive still. They also believed that everything had been made within a week. Why were different types of fossils found in different layers of rocks, evidence that the animals had existed during different eras?

The spectacular marine reptiles that she unearthed provided the evidence for extinction, shaking the scientific community into looking at different explanations for changes in the natural world. This indirectly lead Darwin into his insights which culminated in his publication The Origin of Species in 1859.

Her Death

In the last few years of her life, Mary became increasingly sick, suffering from breast cancer. She began taking laudanum for the pain and local people mistook the effects of the drug for drunkenness. When the Geological Society’s members learned of her plight, they started a fund that paid for her treatment. In 1846 they made her an honorary member of the society. She died in 1847. A eulogy was read at a society meeting and they published her obituary.

After her death her story attracted increasing general interest. In 1865 an article in a magazine edited by Charles Dickens celebrated her life and achievements.

Mary was probably the inspiration for the 1908 tongue twister, “She sells seashells by the seashore.”

In 2010 the Royal Society included Mary in a list of the ten British women who have most influenced the history of science.

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

Remarkable Creatures Book CoverIf you enjoy reading historical novels then Remarkable Creatures by Tracey Chevalier is a great way of finding out more. Like her most famous book, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Chevalier takes real historical events and people and winds a fictional tale around them.

In Remarkable Creatures two alternating voices tell Mary’s story. One is Mary, the other is Elizabeth Philpot, a middle-class spinster sent by a married brother from London to live more cheaply in Lyme. Elizabeth begins searching the beaches for fossils and meets Mary, then a child. Despite their differences in class and age a loyal friendship develops, founded on their shared passion for fossil hunting. As well as an absorbing story it is also a revealing portrait of female friendship. They, as much as the fossils, are the remarkable creatures of the title.

A production company optioned the book earlier this year and so, who knows, maybe a movie beckons.

Visiting Lyme

When you are visiting Lyme the Lyme Regis Museum, on the site of Mary’s birthplace, has a Mary Anning wing which tells the story of Mary and Lyme’s fantastic fossils. They also offer guided Mary Anning and fossil walks. Click here to see if there are any scheduled conveniently for you. Incidentally the museum, built in 1901, was commissioned by Thomas Philpot, a relative of Elizabeth Philpot.

Mary Anning’s grave is in the churchyard of St Michael’s Parish Church. A stained glass window there, paid for by the Geological Society, commemorates her life.

Getting to Lyme Regis from the cottage is an easy drive down the A35. Alternatively you can take the Jurassic Coaster bus which goes from outside The George. You can even get a water taxi there from the harbour. Even if you aren’t interested in Lyme’s fossil history you’ll find plenty to see and amble around, and lots of places to have a bite to eat. If you are interested I hope this potted history of Mary Anning’s life helps to enrich your visit a little. If you want to know more, Remarkable Creatures is well worth reading and particularly suited to a holiday on the Jurassic Coast!

If you’ve read this and want to visit the area we’d love to welcome you to West Bay Cottage. Please take a look inside the cottage or head to our Enquire and Book page for availability, the rates and how to book.

Inspiration For Your Romantic Break

Romantic break

Do you want to whisk someone off on a fabulous romantic break? West Dorset is a perfect destination. Perhaps some of these ideas will inspire your romantic escape to our cottage for that special getaway!

  • Enjoy a countryside walk and the dreamy scenery of gentle rolling hills.
  • Stroll around the harbour together with an ice cream or a bag of chips.
  • Simply take to the South West Coast Path and gaze at the beautiful coastline.
  • Feast your eyes on the blanket of bluebells across Eype Down in late spring.
  • Enjoy an afternoon cream tea at Downhouse Farm or The Seaside Boarding House.
  • Visit Bridport on a Saturday where you can meander all morning perusing the market, record and book shops, cool cafés, antique and craft stores.
  • Walk along a beach holding hands.
  • Pack a picnic and head to a scenic spot, perhaps Hardy’s Monument, St Catherine’s Chapel or a local beach.
  • Fly a kite on Eggerton Hill.
  • Tour a vineyard and enjoy a tasting at Furleigh Estate, a vineyard and winery.
  • Set off in a rowing boat and take in the glorious scenery while drifting along the River Brit.
  • Walk through the woods on Langdon Hill.
  • Enjoy a distillery tour, vodka cocktails and lunch at the Black Cow Distillery.
  • Take to the skies on a champagne balloon flight.
  • Take a portable barbecue and supplies to a secluded beach for an evening supper.
  • Head to Bridport early evening for a movie or a show at the art deco Electric Palace.
  • Get yourselves down to the pier at dusk, look towards Lyme and watch the sun sinking over the sea. You may be rewarded with a beautiful sunset.
  • Enjoy a candlelit meal in one of West Bay’s restaurants or pubs.
  • Make the most of Dorset’s dark sky and gaze at the stars together.
  • Snuggle in front of the wood burner in the cottage.

Feeling the love? So why not channel your inner Bridget Jones and visit West Dorset for a Full-Blown Mini-Break Holiday Weekend, or stay longer and explore all that the area has to offer. If you haven’t yet booked accommodation we’d love to welcome you to West Bay Cottage. Take a look inside the cottage, or head to our Book With Us page for availability, the rates and how to book.

West Dorset – A “Modern Gastronomic Capital”

Dorshi Photo from Telegraph

Did you see Saturday’s Telegraph article about how West Dorset has become a modern gastronomic capital no less?  Read it here if you are lucky enough to be in the area and looking for a special meal. The focus is understandably on the more top-end restaurants but it mentions West Bay’s Watch House Café and Seatown’s The Anchor Inn so they’re not all very pricy. The picture above, pinched from the article, is of Dorshi in Bridport, open since 2016. It’s Asian style cooking, so lots of small dishes, dumplings, noodles, using local Dorset produce. Cocktails too. It’s getting great reviews on Tripadvisor.  I read about it a little while ago and filed it away in my head as somewhere to try to go to when next in Bridport, then promptly forgot about it when I was actually there. D’oh

Bridport Open Studios And Floorboards!

Bridport Open Studios And Floorboards!

I was lucky enough to spend a West Bay weekend during the Bridport Open Studios event this September. Every year over 75 of West Dorset’s artists, designers and makers open their galleries, studios and homes for people to explore, view and have a chat about their work.

There were three Open Studios in West Bay. I’d never realised before that The Old Timberyard, the big old warehouse you can see as you look out of the front bedroom window, houses two artist’s studios on the top and middle floors. It was a pleasure to visit them and see their work inspired by the sea and rocks of the coast here, with the added bonus I could see our cottage out of their windows from a viewpoint I’d never had before!

On the middle floor is the huge studio of abstract artist Jon Adam. His pictures were big and stunning but I couldn’t help being sidetracked by his… floorboards! Not something I usually get distracted by but they were the same as the ones upstairs in the cottage, dark and unusually wide. In the studio some of them were very, very long too. I’d always though we had these wide boards due to the ship building history of West Bay, with the same planks used for ship decking too. Jon told me that actually the tree trunks our floorboards are made from were shipped back from America in the eighteenth-century. West Bay, then known as Bridport Harbour, was a busy port with ships setting sail laden with rope and nets to trade. For the return journey large American logs were used as ballast in the ships’ holds in order to remain upright and stable at sea. Upon arrival in England, those same timber cargoes were made into, amongst other things, our floorboards.

South Dorset Ridgeway Field GuideOn the top floor is Amanda Wallwork. Her work is concerned with the archeology and geology of the South West landscape. Her richly coloured and rocky paintings are constructed from layers of plaster and oil paint. She’s also created charts of the barrows of the Dorset landscape, reimagining them as constellation maps. Most recently she has produced a Field Guide and two maps (more to come) exploring the landscape of the South Dorset Ridgeway. The concept behind these is to highlight how the rocks below the surface influences the landscape we see today. The Field Guide gives an introduction to the landscape and some of the things to look out for, with the two maps show walking routes in the Abbotsbury and Portesham area. There’s now a set in the cottage cupboard.

Chris Neaves Bright Day West BayUnfortunately my budget wouldn’t stretch to an original painting but I did treat the cottage to a print of the harbour. Very appropriate I think. The artist is Chris Neaves and he has a little gallery in Bridport on Gundry Lane called Cloud 9 Studio. I’ve given it a frame and it’s now waiting to return home to West Bay.

Holiday In Thomas Hardy Country

Thomas Hardy

Maybe you are a Thomas Hardy enthusiast, keen to see where he lived and visit the areas which inspired him? You’ll find that West Dorset makes an ideal base for doing just that.

To be honest I wouldn’t say Thomas Hardy is a favourite writer of mine. Perhaps the result of having his book The Trumpet Major drilled into me at school. A frustration with his characters when they don’t communicate, don’t say the one sentence that would sort everything out. Oh my, what miserable storylines! Did you see that depressing film Jude, made about twenty years ago?

Should I give him another chance? His life and work is so tied up with West Dorset. He is undoubtably Dorset’s most famous author and considered one of the greatest ever English novelists and poets. He created some of the strongest leading female characters in 19th century literature. So that’s a yes then. In the meantime I’ve been reading about him. Just google his name and you’re spoilt for choice, although you do come across the actor Tom Hardy a lot too. I’ve written a little here on the writer, an outline of his life with a focus on the links between it, West Dorset, and the “Wessex” of his novels. Some links are included to help with the planning of a visit to Hardy Country.

Thomas Hardy’s Life

Hardy's Cottage NTThomas Hardy was born in 1840 in a tiny Dorset hamlet called Upper Bockhampton (now Higher Bockhampton) near Dorchester. The cottage where he was born and brought up had been built of cob and thatch by his great-grandfather in 1800. Initially Hardy’s mother educated him at home where she introduced him to the classics. Aged eight he went to his first school at Bockhampton before attending the Academy for Young Gentlemen in Dorchester. Hardy’s family couldn’t afford to send him to university so, aged sixteen, he started training as an architect in Dorchester. After moving to London in 1862 he began to write in his spare time.

After Thomas Hardy’s first novel was rejected by publishers in 1867 he turned to the “pastoral” for his subject matter. His intimate, first-hand knowledge of the countryside where he grew up was to be a major factor in his subsequent success.

Hardy lived in Weymouth in 1869 and between 1871 – 1872, working as an architect’s assistant. Here he wrote part of Under the Greenwood Tree.

In 1874 he wrote his fourth novel, Far from the Madding Crowd, at his parent’s cottage. He was so excited at times writing it that while out walking he had to grab a leaf or a stone on which to scribble phrases. In this book he introduced the idea of calling the region where his novels are set in the west of England “Wessex”.

Married in 1874, the Hardys moved from London to Yeovil, and then to Sturminster Newton in Dorset. Far from the Madding Crowd was successful enough for Hardy to give up architecture and pursue writing full-time. Over the next twenty-five years Thomas wrote ten more novels.

Max Gate NTIn 1885 Thomas and his wife moved into Max Gate on the outskirts of Dorchester, a house he designed and built by his brother. Hardy’s wife died there in 1912. Although they were estranged for the last twenty years, during which she lived up in the attic, her death had a traumatic effect on him. His eulogies to her written after her death are considered his peak poetic achievement. In 1914, aged 74, Hardy married his secretary who was 39 years his junior.

By 1928 when he died, aged 87, he was a celebrated grand old man of letters. He was buried in Westminster Abbey in Poet’s Corner. He had requested to be buried in Stinsford (his Mellstock) churchyard in the family plot. His heart was buried there with his first wife, later joined by his second wife after her death in 1937.

Thomas Hardy’s Works

Thomas Hardy is now regarded as one of the greatest of English novelists and poets. His complicated tales of thwarted desire and human failing, his memorable characters and evocative descriptions of recognisable places, have become classics.

Alongside Far from the Madding Crowd his fourteen published novels include Under the Greenwood Tree (1872), The Return of the Native (1878), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), The Woodlanders (1887 and Hardy’s favourite), Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891) and his final novel, Jude the Obscure (1895). His Complete Poems has been continuously in print since the 1920s.

Visit Hardy’s Homes

You can visit Hardy’s Cottage, the cottage where he was born and grew up. It is now owned by the National Trust. It sits next to Thorncombe Woods, an ancient woodland. This opens out onto heathland, the beginning of Hardy’s “Egdon Heath”. Tripadvisor reviews are very positive. They note that the National Trust volunteers in the cottage are very helpful and interesting, the cottage is fascinating and the garden is beautiful. The cafe by the car park is recommended too.

Max Gate is also a National Trust property, only fully opened to the public in 2010 with work still in progress. It is another “must see” for those interested in Thomas Hardy and giving an insight into his later life (only negative comments I can find are about the lack of a car park or tea room).

Explore Hardy’s Wessex

West Bay is an ideal base from which to explore some of the sites of the thinly disguised Wessex made famous in his stories and poems. Many of the features of Hardy’s descriptions still remain. A long distance (actually very long, 220 miles) footpath, the Hardy Way, links many of his favourite sites.

Bridport (Port Bredy) is a location which makes numerous appearances in Hardy’s works. It is the place the Squire retires to after the momentous events in Hardy’s witch story The Withered Arm. It also receives mentions in the short story The Fellow Townsmen and The Mayor of Casterbridge.

Weymouth’s Esplanade, the Gloucester Lodge Hotel and Old Rooms are featured in The Trumpet-Major (1880), renamed Budmouth in the 1895 edition. Budmouth Regis makes an appearance in several other of his novels too.

The town of Beaminster (Emminster) is home of the Clare family in Tess of the D’Urbervilles and the place the destitute Tess walks to in order to seek help from her estranged in-laws. Going east from there on the Wessex Ridgeway, hidden in the verge, is the Cross-in-Hand stone pillar. Tess swears on it to Alex that she will never tempt him. The Acorn Inn (The Sow and Acorn) is in Evershot, where Tess eats her breakfast. Lovely views of Blackmoor Vale can be seen along the route.

Speculation about the location of Gabriel Oak’s original home has led some to suggest that nearby Eggardon Hill may have have been the model. Maiden Castle has strong connections with the Mayor of Casterbridge.

Mayor of Casterbridge HouseHardy’s home town of Dorchester is called Casterbridge in his books. Along with Hardy’s Cottage and Max Gate it is definitely worth a visit if you are interested in Hardy. A collection of Hardy relics is held in Dorchester’s museum, which includes a re-creation of his study. On a walk around Dorchester you will find buildings, geographical features and monuments connected with the great author. His statue is not far from County Hall.

What a treat if you are a Hardy fan, to visit West Dorset and explore some of the most beautiful literary heritage sights in England. If you’ve read all this and haven’t yet booked accommodation for your trip to the area, we’d love to welcome you to West Bay Cottage. Take a look inside the cottage if you wish, or head to our Book With Us page for availability, the rates and how to book.

Incidentally, if you are interested in finding out where the locations were for the 1960’s and the recent film versions of Far from the Madding Crowd check out this post,  this post and this one!