Kieran's Holiday Blog: 2018

A five-week UK tour, basically of Doctor Who filming locations

Heathrow, Doctor!

13 August
Travel: From Perth to Heathrow, around London

Being a Doctor Who fan in Western Australia all my life, this trip was my first visit to the UK! Naturally I wanted the first filming location I'd visit to be from a very special story (luckily Heathrow Airport from 'Time-Flight' doesn't count as they only filmed in Terminal 1).

But first on the agenda was meeting with the brilliant tailor Steve Ricks, who'd recently worked on the film 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. I had commissioned him for a replica of the tweed coat that Tom Baker wore in various Doctor Who stories, beginning with The Android Invasion (which I'd seen he'd made before). Obviously I *loved* the coat that he made and I wore it consistently for the rest of the holiday! I was also surprised and delighted to discover that on the other end of the street from Cafe Nero, where I had met with Steve, was Old Brewer's Yard where sequences for 1968's The Web of Fear were filmed. The place had hardly changed but for the yard gate having been removed. By my reckoning, the scenes filmed there were Nicholas Courtney's first portrayal of Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart. So I was very happy for this to be my first location visit, especially as it was so unexpected.

After trying my coat on and rephotographing some shots and photos from The Web of Fear, I jumped on the underground train to the number one place in England I'd always wanted to go. Incidentally, the disparity between riding a train in Perth and riding a train in London is similar to that of riding a train in Perth and riding on top of one. Exiting White City station from 'The Chase', my destination was Television Centre, which produced just about all of my favourite programmes growing up. I can't tell you how exciting it was to finally stand in front of that iconic building and say "Hello and welcome to The Pertwee Years" before pointing at it like David Bowie. It was very funny. *Very* funny.

For completion's sake, the day I visited was the 39th, 37th, 32nd, and 31st anniversary of studio days on Nightmare of Eden, Kinda, Terror of the Vervoids, and Dragonfire in Studios 6, 8, 3, and 3 respectively.

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DALEK ONE COMPLETE! CHECK!

14 August
Travel: From Heathrow to Stilton

After my first night in the country, staying at Heathrow, I picked up a hire-car and headed North to stay with family in Stilton. On my way I was sure to stop at 69 Rockingham Road, Uxbridge (I've got that on a T-Shirt). Also known as the former home of Shawcraft Models, the company responsible for creating special props for 60s Doctor Who. Iconically, some of their commissions included the first TARDIS console and original Daleks. These and other of their monster creations, like the Macra and Zarbi, had been filmed and photographed on the street outside the shop. This gave me some reference for further rephotography. The photo of the Macra (of which there are, in fact, two near-identical shots) is the only existing photography of the prop that Shawcraft created. It's been one of my favourite Who photos since I was a child, when it rather freaked me out. Identifying the location of that shot was only made possible by the fortuitous survival of the tin-roofed building in the left of background. One minor surprise to me was that the old building on the corner of Waterloo Road and Rockingham Road had been demolished since that latest Google Streetview update from July 2017. I thought this was a shame as his had remained largely intact since the filming of the 8mm Shawcraft cine film in 1967.

Another Who location in Uxbridge, just around the corner, is West and North Common Road, used for Sarah Jane Smith's home and surroundings in The Five Doctors. I had a quick visit to there, and later down the way, to Tilehouse Lane in Denham. Off this road is the entry to White Plains Care Home, a short avenue lined with Poplars. This was one of the first filming locations utilised for Doctor Who in 1964's The Reign of Terror.

The Boundaries That Divide One County From Another

15 August
Travel: From Stilton to York

And so on a Wednesday, I checked one more Doctor Who filming location off the list before hitting a drought as I continued North. And that location was the town of Hambleton, right in the middle of Rutland Water. This was used in 1989's Battlefield, where it doubled for the fictional village of Carbury. I didn't get down to the lakeside but I did have a drink in The Finch's Arms. My travelling companion remarked on how upmarket they took the area for. In fact we could've sworn we passed Lady Felicia herself in the Inn, so somebody let me know if Nancy Carroll lives in Rutland. As for the filming location, I focused on Saint Andrew's Church, used as the site of Morgaine and Mordred's arrival on Earth, and where they encounter the Brigadier. The one thing that I noticed had changed since filming was that the tree to the left of the Church's public access path has been removed. Sadly this rather ruins the symmetry seen in some of the original shots. A look at Streetview tells me the tree lasted until at least 2011.

Jackdaw Meanderings

16 August
Travel: Around York

Having then arrived in York with a whole day to spend, I took in the sights of York Minster, The Shambles, 3 completely separate different Harry Potter shops next to each other, Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms, Clifford's Tower, the York Castle Museum, St Mary's Abbey, and a cruise on the River Ouse. The Castle Museum particularly disconcerted me when amongst its "vintage" exhibits I spotted some items contemporary to my own childhood. These included a Buzz Lightyear toy, a Harry Potter wand, and a David Tennant Doctor Who doll. They also had some information on Who and a clip from The Dalek Invasion of Earth: Episode 2 playing in a section dedicated to the 1960s.

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17 August

Travel: York to Billingham

Leaving York, I ticked some more "must-see"s off the travel list. These consisted of the Scarborough Pier Police Box, the Yorkshire Moors, Whitby Abbey (where they now charge for entry), and Goathland Train Station. Standing next to the old Police Box had me feeling a sense of history repeating, as one of my family's well-worn photographs is of my mother standing in the very same spot in 1996. And as you may imagine, they also had a lovely selection of Rock Candy at a nearby stall. Later in the day I got to Goathland, used as the backdrop of not only the first scenes filmed for Harry Potter, but also the fictional village of Aidensfield in Heartbeat. I arrived to find that there was a small fair going on outside the village store. There was an animal pen there as part of this, including various birds that you could choose from to have your photo taken with. Amongst them was a Snowy Owl (or so I believe. I've no expertise in owl identification) so I photographed the little chap because he looked like Harry Potter's owl, Hedwig.

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18 August

Travel: Around Billingham

The Saturday was spent with family in Billingham, but I did check out Tees Transporter Bridge. I've got a photo from the construction of that bridge hanging on the wall outside my bedroom door (for some reason), so it was something of a thrill to see the finished product in person. I also managed to pick up one of those "controversial" B&M action figure sets (which seemed like a big deal at the time). 

The Complete Menagerie

19 August
Travel: Billingham to Berwick

Now this was more of a hectic day. We saw Durham Cathedral in the morning, just when they were holding some sort of choir practice I think it was. So we basically went straight to the Cloisters, which is the quadrangle used as a part of Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter films. A nice old lady working there was kind enough to offer me, unasked, a look into Chapter House for a quick photo as she passed through. That was pure dumb luck for me, as I was only on that side of the square to have my photo taken from the other side. That did mean that my proper camera wasn't on me though, so I just used my phone, but hey-ho. On the drive out I learnt that I'd have to wait a little longer than I'd thought for the day's main engagement, which was a visit to Neil Cole's Museum of Sci-Fi in Allendale. So I killed some time, first at the Corbridge Roman ruins on Hadrian's Wall, and later the local cafes and art gallery. I even squeezed in a drink at the Allendale Inn before heading over to see Neil. And all these places were delightful, it amazed me how much variety and interesting stuff could be found in such small areas. Even the local gift shop seemed like a minor Wonder Emporium.

Meeting Neil, he was just as fascinating as he'd seemed on television. The development of his museum had been the subject of the third episode of NETFLIX's Amazing Interiors, which showed the building and "opening" of the museum, truncated time-wise for dramatic effect. In reality the museum was not set to open for another two months when I visited. I can only say what a magnificent collection Neil has compiled and personally restored. As we progressed through the displays, I heard a few stories of the wringers that some of the exhibits had been put through. Tales of being left to rot in storage, lack of proper maintenance, damaging display situations, careless previous owners, etc. I think it's marvellous that someone is taking such care with these unique pieces of cultural history. Naturally, Doctor Who comprises the lion's share of the museum, but various pieces hail from the likes of Star Wars, Star Trek, Space Precinct, Thunderbirds, the Marvel films, and more. And Neil even complimented my replica Tom Baker coat, which was very kind considering the awe-inspiring menagerie of genuine Doctor Who pieces in the room. This was an absolute highlight of my trip.

That afternoon I arrived at my next hotel, which was the Castle Hotel in Berwick. I mention this because just down the road was probably the best Fish and Chips I ever ate. That mightn't mean much from an Australian but I'd recommend.

A Vast Castle With Many Turrets And Towers

20 August
Travel: Around Berwick

You may have picked up the idea that I enjoy the Harry Potter films. It's true. The first attraction of my second week on holiday was something of a backtrack to Alnwick Castle. Of particular interest were the Outer Bailey, the Courtyard, and the Lion Arch, which were utilised in 2000 and 2001 for the filming of The Philosopher's Stone and The Chamber of Secrets respectively. Unfortunately for fans of the series that day, one part of the Outer Bailey seen in The Philosopher's Stone was covered in scaffolding for repairs. This was a minor nuisance for rephotography that would become more prevalent as my trip around the country continued. In fact, its prevalence continued later in the day when I went to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne (being careful not to strand myself there at high tide). There, Lindisfarne Castle was also under what seemed to be a pretty serious construction job. A composite of one of my 360° photos that I took at Alnwick Castle can be seen on the Harry Potter page of WhoSpheres, under the Non-Who Locations tab.

Oh It's Cold And Damp

21 August
Travel: Berwick to Edinburgh

One of the less eventful or stressful days, I spent a couple more hours around Berwick before going on to Edinburgh. After a visit to the Berwick Barracks and Main Guard, I was amused that the gift shop was selling Dad's Army branded chocolate bars with Philip Madoc and Arthur Lowe emblazoned on them.

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22 August

Travel: Around Edinburgh

Welcome to Scotland! Edinburgh Castle was first on the list, scoping it out ahead of the night's Tattoo performance. Naturally there were some smashing views of the city to be taken from atop the Castle. Afterwards I took to the streets where I happened across The Elephant House cafe, the self-proclaimed "Birthplace of Harry Potter". Despite this, it's my understanding that whilst JK Rowling did write parts of the Harry Potter books in this cafe, the books in question were the second and third instalments. In fact The Elephant House didn't open until 1995, after the first book had been written. Before heading back to the hotel to prepare for the Tattoo, I walked up Arthur's Seat (where Katy Manning and Stewart Bevan were photographed with a giant maggot for the 1973 Radio Times Special celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Doctor Who). I didn't go very far, mind. Actually I'd say I did the bare minimum to realistically claim I'd done it at all. However, that's good enough for me to get some nice pictures and a couple of 360°s. The main event though was of course the aforementioned Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. I'd seen it on television many times in past years, so it was another surreal experience of 'screen to life' for me. Though I must say, I hadn't expected to hear The Banda Monumental de Mexico's rendition of Despacito that night, nor ever. But I remember the Star Trek Voyager theme got a look in at one point, which I enjoyed very much. Other highlights were the singing of Mr Blue Sky at the end, and the old faithful Top Secret Swiss Drum Corps. One of the drummers dropped a stick at one point, but I think he got away with it.