Last Alteration: Friday 12 April 2013

Good Hunting ...

This journal records a personal trip to visit Doctor Who locations around the country/world (and beyond?!).

20th October 2006 - Mud, glorious mud!

15th October

Being that we're heading into the final couple of weeks where National Trust properties still let you wander around their houses, we decided to go and visit a couple lurking near the M26. And being that the doors tend not to open until 10:30-11:00ish it seemed a good moment to go and reverify a couple of locations ...

John's Hole Quarry had been a bit of a headache, as I had originally thought it was the active Eastern Quarry next to the former Western Quarry now Bluewater. On our previous visit I'd taken some shots accordingly, but later when I checked up on it in On Location I noticed that Richard had referenced it next to the A226 in Stone, which Eastern Quarry isn't near. Pouring over the maps revealed a couple of other possibilities, but these seemed unlikely, too.

Checking the DWAS Production Guide Vol 1, Keith had instead indicated that John's Hole Quarry was indeed where Eastern Quarry is, so it crossed my mind that maybe Lafarge Aggregates had renamed it when they took over operations there. The Internet was proving to be uncooperative over this matter! So anyway I decided it wouldn't hurt to take another look from the other side, which is actually the A296. (Mind you, the road between the quarries is the B225, to add to the mix ...).

Of course, the DWAS tome was compiled before Bluewater transformed the area, and with road re-design the directions were no longer accurate. I pulled up at the quarry entrance, but the CCTV presence persuaded me not to linger so I stopped across the road near the B225/A296 roundabout instead! Then it was a matter of checking over the hedges to see if the tunnel under the road was visible (or indeed there at all). Unfortunately it was impossible to see (short of climbing up a road sign which probably wouldn't have been a good idea!), so I'm still none the wiser. The only clue is that there is a tunnel entrance on the Bluewater side of the B225, which could indicate the location on the eastern side. A matter for Lafarge to confirm I guess!

(Mind you, Eastern Quarry is earmarked for residential building from next year so it may be accessible nearer then, or the tunnel reopened between the two quarries for pedestrians to use - something to watch for!)

Update 8th Jan 2007: Richard Bignell has now confirmed that my headache can finally be cured - the actual quarry is a smaller one a little further west. Thanks Richard!

Next it was back to Northfleet and an examination of other roads around Lafarge Cement to see if the tunnel into the cliff was present off one of those instead. One of the problems with my GPS and GoogleMaps, though, is that they'll show roads and paths but not their accessibility, and Lafarge have unfortunately closed off footpaths in the interest of public safety (another quarry closing down!), which led to a couple of dead ends. So, the end conclusion was that about the only way into the complex is via the Shore Road gates, so that will be another Lafarge enquiry in due course!


Quarry to the west

The existing quarry Works

Cliffs on the south side
Two quarries down, and that left the one remaining Kent location I hadn't visited before to take in before a nice country house would be in order. Unsurprisingly another privately owned quarry had succumbed to the larger business conglomerates, in this case Olley's Sand Pit now becoming Wrotham Quarry with the other now familiar name, Hanson's Aggregates! On Location reports that the original quarry suffered from the M20 being built across it, and the noise from the motorway was a constant hum in the background here!

This was one of those more fortunate locations where there is a public footpath that enables you some measure of access into the site without an annoying fence to block your way! The path crosses the road into the quarry, which did make a good point to take a photo, though quite how much of this is related to the 1968 Dominators filming is unknown (if indeed that area isn't under the motorway of course!). Still, it does look like a quarry still! The path actually takes you down into the quarry workings as it passes under the motorway, and the south side is now fields, though some cliff edges are visible to show where work used to take place.

At this point it might have been possible to explore further, but the ever deepening mud decided that it didn't warrant more wandering - plus I'd left Emma in the car as I hadn't planned on the footpath being there or so beneficial (not that she minded as it wasn't the warmest day!). So it was off to Knole and the biggest deer park in Kent ...

16th September 2006 - The Dorset Run

Saturday

This was perhaps our most ambitious outing to date, this little trip originally came about after watching The Seeds of Doom, then reading up on Athelhampton House and finding it was open to the public. Once we'd decided that it would be worth a visit I then looked at other locations that were nearby, and realised that it ought to be possible to visit pretty much all of them in one weekend ...

And so it began on a rather overcast Saturday morning, even managing to escape the clutches of a warm house at a planned time, too ...

The first destination on the plan isn't technically in Dorset at all, but being one of the villages in The Awakening it became an honorary one for the purposes of the visit! Martin is situated on the eastern side of Hampshire, not too far from Salisbury, and it's contribution to the series comes in the shape of the village green where Sir George plans to burn Tegan. I'd been to the village before, around three years previously, and so I knew what to expect, though this time I was armed with screen shots so that I'd know what I should be looking at rather than guessing from memory!

Not much has changed in the village for the twenty-three years since


2003

2006
filming; in fact this was pretty much the case for all the non-quarry locations for the weekend, making the trip a very worthwhile venture. A couple of notable changes had occured, though. Firstly, the old post office/shop has been demolished in favour of a new home - a fate that has occured to many such village stores, including one that my father used to run in a small village in Essex. Looking at my older photos I could see that the house was there in 2003, so the post office's demise was some time before. The other change was on the green itself, where a large tree in the centre had been removed since my last visit!

Also nearby to the village is Martin Down and Damers Farm. The former is a large area of conservation heathland, but as to where exactly a shot of a horseman on a hill was taken wasn't apparent at all - I'd assumed that it would be near the village, but it might well have been closer to the farm. As for the latter, that's a working farm and of course private property, so the closest I got to Turlough's imprisonment was the farm drive (and then nearly got squashed by a tractor!).

Into Dorset proper, and just a jaunt down the A354 into the Tarrant villages - Rawston, Keyneston, etc., and in our particular case


2003

2006
Tarrant Monkton. Quite how the production team finds these places is an interesting exercise - do they know of places in advance, or is it a case of happening to pass them on recce and deciding that would be good to film at! Did the original Awakening script call for the ford that this village boasts, or did it become incorporated through a process of serendipity?!!!

At least this time the ford was there! Last time, after a long hot summer, the road was completely dry, but this time there was plenty of water for cars to splash through!

Next up was Shapwick, the final of the villages used for The Awakening, and features the "Cross" scene and those around it's church, St. Bartholomew's. With screenshots in hand, it was much easier to work out which graves were used in the story, but it wasn't until we'd been right around the churchyard checking graves for the 1850 date that we realised that the gravestone the Doctor shows Will was a prop! This was a slight problem in that using the Microsoft Photo Print function of 35 photos a page is good for lots of shots, they can be a little too small to see the background details sometimes!

The other village location is Bishops Court Farm, which is situated at the western end of the village. It lays across both sides of the road, with the Manor House on one side and the stables on the other. I hadn't noticed the stables in my 2003 visit, but this time I realised it was from the opening scene of the story where Jane is menaced by Sir George. It also isn't apparent from the screen that the field they are seen to approach the farm is actually quite small, as the road curves around it to the back! The wonders of camera angles ...

One area of confusion for me is when the Doctor is knocked down by the beggar and then sees him down the lane to the church during episode one. Richard Bignell's On Location indicated that this was filmed in Martin, but the church there has a spire which the one on-screen doesn't, and the lane leading to that church doesn't have the same houses either. The church does look like the one in Shapwick, but there aren't any lanes leading to the church like that in the village! Hmm!

Having safely tracked down the Malus, it was time to go Dalek-hunting! Winspit Quarry is on the south coast, not too far from Swanage - in fact the quarry is actually open to the sea, which though it could be inferred as such from The Underwater Menace, watching Destiny of the Daleks shows no sign of its proximity (the constant "howl" of the wind in the story probably helped!). Reaching the quarry itself is quite a feat, as it involves a lot of hill walking to get there from Worth Matravers village, which is the closest place to park. Being the day was quite nice, this wasn't too difficult - though of course we still had to walk the mile back uphill afterwards! Not a nice route in the rain methinks.

The quarry is on private ground, but is open to the public - there is a nice big sign warning visitors that they enter at their own risk, which when you see how the quarry opens out straight to high cliffs down to the rocks you can appreciate why! However, it does lend itself to rock-climbing, and is quite a popular venue for climbers with a few well-mapped routes on the cliffs; these have wonderful names like "Think About It", "Things that make you go hmmmmm" and "Post-Coitol Snooze"! "The Skin Room" is where the TARDIS materialises at the start of Destiny, and further west into the quarry is the largest cave where the Daleks' mine was situated. It does go in a long way, and next time I go there I'll remember to take a torch with me to actually see how it looks inside!

The rest of the quarry looks pretty much the same as it did in the 60s and 70s, in spite of the occasional piton in the cliff walls! Destiny gives the impression the quarry is large, but much of the story is actually the same cliff at different angles! The "city remains" are still there, too, though those buildings have unsurprisingly suffered from more collapses in the intervening years.

Plenty of other people visited the quarry when we were wandering around, and the remains of several fires and candle show that there's quite a bit of life here at times! However, the most haunting experience of the visit was when we were about to leave - someone was playing a didgeredoo in one of the caves and it was echoed all around us everywhere ...

Taking a quick look at the rocky beach by the quarry Emma decided I was not going to attempt my way down there to where the TARDIS probably materialised in Underwater Menace, and with hindsight she was right; the path down had pretty much vanished.

The mile-odd walk there and back again certainly ate the time up though, and with the B&B owner ringing up to check where we were we decided to call it a day and head off into Weymouth for the evening. This meant that we would be passing Stanton Court from Ghostlight on the way, though as I drove by I decided not to slam the brakes on, but check it out later on. We did pop by in the evening after dinner (a very fine home-made Steak and Kidney pie at a local restaurant, yum), but by then it was a little too dark to take any reasonable photos with my camera so one for Sunday!

Sunday

A bright and early start to the day, not to mention a very nice breakfast to get us going, and we were off ... to the other side of town for Stanton Court. Security gates now block access to the drive, but the front of the house itself still looks the same (sans the added observatory of course!).

Next up was the first quarry on the list for today, Warmwell. I somehow suspected that quarries were going to cause us a little problem and arriving in Crossways reinforced that expectation with a nice barrier to welcome us! This was also another quarry that has turned into a landfill site, so it wasn't too difficult to imagine that the 'surface' within no longer looked like it would have done in Greatest Show or Survival.

Still, not to be perturbed, we moved onto the next on our agenda, the picturesque Lulworth Cove. It was also a very popular destination, and as the morning wore on it's population exploded dramatically. Fortunately for us, we were there by 10:00am, when the beach was inhabitated by fishermen and canoeists! The cove itself looked to be the same as it did in Fenric, though on closer scrutinisation twenty years of erosion was beginning to show around the (cliff) edges. Still, a few missing rocks were not about to make the cove unrecognisable! It might seem strange to say, but it was a bit disappointing when the sun came out - mainly as this meant that photos from the cliff suffered from over-brightness!

It wasn't immediately obvious where the "hole" in the cliff where the Russians arrive at the start of the story was, so in the end we decided to have a wander around the cliffs to see if anything was there and, lo and behold, there it was! Stair Hole was immediately obvious as we came over the hill, but getting down to it was another matter! I wasn't too sure how the families down there had done so as there were no obvious paths, but in the end I managed it, though Emma decided not to try (the right choice methinks!). Erosion has struck again, though, and it wasn't until afterwards that I discovered that the cliffs are now considered too unsafe to climb. Ummm ...

We did have one failure though, as we couldn't find the spot where Ace does her dive at the end of the story. There was nowhere apparant for where this took place within the cove, so it's possible it was a little further along the coast to where we were.

Next up were three quarries, all of which were on the same road! First up was Binnegar Heath, the other location for Destiny, which you could just from the roadside, though the actual area used was unlikely to still be there being it is a working quarry (not to mention private!). Similarly, Masters Pit (Androzani) was visible from the road but again active and probably unrecognisable from 1983. Finally, more Daleks originally lurked in Gallows Hill (Death), but this is now a nature reserve and was the one story I didn't have screen shots for, so there wasn't much point in trying to guess where filming took place - there was a lake, but it didn't resemble the "root" attack from episode three!


Binnegar Heath

Masters Pit

Gallows Hill

This brought us up to midday, so we decided to squeeze in a couple of National Trust properties in the area to fill up the time before we planned to arrive at our "highlight" of the weekend. Not too far from the quarries is Bovington Camp (in the news this week due to Princes William and Harry!), and the home of TE Lawrence, Cloud Hills. It was at this point that the weather turned drizzly, and that was to remain the course for the rest of the afternoon, oh well. Anyway, after Cloud Hills we went onto the former home of Thomas Hardy, which also involved a long walk through a forest (boy we were going to be healthy by the end of this weekend!).

After our little diversion it was time for the reason we'd travelled this far in the first place - Athelhampton House. From the moment we pulled up we were immersed into Chase's mansion, with the house in all it's glory on view from the car park. Once we'd got a bite to eat we then went into the grounds themselves and started the long walk trying to marry up the gardens with the story. Being that the formal gardens have changed little in thirty years this was relatively painless, though with so much to see we had to go round again a couple of times to find some spots that we'd missed first time. And I still managed to miss a couple of angles, too, which only became apparent when I'd got home and done the comparisons! Oh well, you can't get it right all of the time!


House

Great Court

Queen Victoria

River Cottage

And that was that, two days of mad-cap driving about over with, and then it was time to head back home (and discovering the delights of attempting to drive back towards London on a Sunday evening with everybody else!).

The conclusion to be drawn: it is possible to visit all of the Doctor Who locations in Dorset in one weekend!

15th July 2006 - Kroll!

Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to holiday we go! Well, okay, so actually it was just a weekend with my parents at their caravan in Great Yarmouth, but still it was a break away from London for a bit - phew! And as we were going that way I thought I might as well make a slight detour and see if I could spot a few squid!

The land surrounding the river Alde is extremely flat, once marshland that was reclaimed in the 19th Century for farming, and then reclaimed back by the river in the 1950s. The marshes on the south bank run from the village of Snape (yes, that amused the Harry Potter fans too!) through to Iken Cliff, both of which are mentioned as filming areas.

One of the problems with these locations, however, are that the production notes refer to areas like A1 and B5 which, without an appropriate map showing those points, is no use for identifying where filming took place. This means resorting to visual identification, but then you have to take into account over twenty years more river erosion, reed growth, etc., which makes that rather difficult, too!

Also, the main public footpath through the marshes is no longer accessible, as the erosion caused over the years has made it impassable. I don't know if the Production Team did use that route quarter of a century ago to access some parts of the marsh for filming, either from the Snape or Iken Cliff sides, so some of the channels might well have been lurking in the middle somewhere impossible to find without a canoe!

Being canoe-less, Emma and I had to resort to walking the paths that were accessible in order to see if there was anything that was recognisable. One thing that was immediately apparent was how quiet the area is; all you can hear around you is the gentle rustle of the reeds in the seemingly constant breeze - something apparent in the story itself if you ignore the rampaging swampies! That breeze was very welcome in the warm sun beating down around us, phew!

Fortunately high tide was due around 5:30pm, so being there around midday meant that the muddy banks were exposed, not that any proclaimed themselves as the place harbouring the wake of a hovercraft ... trouble is one bank looks very much like another!

At least the TARDIS materialisation spot was obvious(ish); the meandering river is still visible from the back of Snape Maltings, and it makes sense for the production crew to use the firm ground here to have a stable place for putting the police box in place. Judging by the river curve they might well have set up where a piece of modern art now stands, a good marker point. However, they also had the advantage from shooting above ground level, which I couldn't quite emulate holding my camera over my head (I refused to climb the statue thing on the ground that just isn't right!), plus the reeds are cut back on a three year cycle which means that time it wrong and they are rather tall and obscure the views ... like this day, ho hum!

Having exhausted the Maltings routes, we then drove round to Iken Cliff itself, which has a handy picnic area car park to pull up in. This affords some great views across the Alde, but none that match anything from Kroll, unfortunately (well not close up at any rate). However, a bank footpath allows you to wander along beside the marshes and we followed this until it opens out to the river itself and the marshes end. We did try the 'dead' footpath here, too, but it got a little too treacherous to follow so we don't know if this led to somewhere recognisable in the end.

The reeds give way to grass at this point, which might well be the place where the swampie village was based. However, the cottages nearby now have a private 'docking' area by the river which could be sited where the village was constructed. There was no sign of the stone where Rohn Dutt ties up Romana, but then that might have been a prop anyway (sigh).

So all in all, not a lot of joy in identifying exactly where The Power of Kroll was filmed, but the area certainly evokes a feeling of alien-ness that suits the story perfectly.

Oh well, off to Yarmouth and ice cream!

25th June 2006 - In further search of Ambassadors

Another Sunday, another intrepid outing, with four of us venturing out into the slightly more murky day to track down more Ambassadors of Death locations, picking up from where we left off before. This time the target was the Marlow area, home to dumped bodies, isotopes, and near-death water experiences!

No problems with the GPS this time, with us arriving at our first destination without incident. The more tricky part was to find where we wanted to walk to! There was no real indication from the car park where to go next, so we first walked down Coldmoorholme Lane until we reached the railway crossing to the Thames, which looked a little unlikely, so we turned back to try the other way instead. This proved more successful when we found the public footpath to Old Spade Lake, opposite a sign which proclaimed Enid Blyton's Old Thatch Cottage to be there to anyone who wanted to know such things!

Spade Oak Lake forms part of Little Marlow Nature Reserve, which was created in the late 1990s in conjunction between the parish council and the site owners Lafarge Aggregates. The quarry itself still exists, and the works can easily be seen across the lake. The lake itself looked quite calm and peaceful, at least until we stumbled across a completely stripped skeleton on the bank! Rob thought was a small dog (which conjured up images of that placid water being pihrana-infested!), but fortunately it was just a rather large fish. Then again, a little further along the path we then came across a sign warning people to go into the water due to the presence of blue-green algae - if that is what it can do to flesh then any thoughts of a swim would be immediately dispelled!

Once we reached the quarry entrance (the path deviates from the lakeside into a field around the edge of the works), it was quite easy to recognise the works from the screen shots - I guess there is little reason to change it all around even after 36 years or so! Being it is private, you can't access the site to procure photos matching the screen shots, but it easy to determine the area in reverse (Rob suggested inverting the photos - hmm!). However, quite where Reegan drives off afterwards is not so obvious, as unfortunately there are no immediate landmarks to help here at all; in the end we gave that up as a bad job and walked on to our next destination, a sewage treatment works ...

Oh the wonders of investigating Doctor Who locations: "What did you do this weekend?" "Oh I wandered round a sewage works". Maybe not something to be too proud of (grin). Not that we actually went into the treatment works of course, but still ... Anyway, this mission was to try to pinpoint the gates to the isotope depot that Reegan uses the Ambassadors to break into in episode seven, and after some head-scratching this was beginning to look like it might be impossible, as there was nothing looking remotely like the gates and road on the screen shots! We decided to have a wander to see if there was another entrance elsewhere, and so walked up to Little Marlow village and along a footpath west in the vain hope this would be a fruitful endeavour. The answer to that one was no, though we did encounter some tourists (for want of a better word!) having a picnic by the side of the road - we must have scared them off as they weren't there when we had to retrace our tracks after another failure!

Back to where we started, and just when we were about to give up completely, I suddenly realised that the post I was leaning against just happened to look remarkably like the post in the screen shot ... and so the ultimate conclusion was that the old gates had succumbed to the inevitable demise of development. I'm not entirely sure what the fishermen who pulled up in the car park thought of a group of people eagerly taking snapshots of an old gate post and we didn't enquire further (grin). It was pretty much impossible to determine which orientation the original gates stood (facing north, west, etc.?), and it is of course possible that this wasn't part of the original gate anyway (I discovered another post nearby which was entirely coated in mud from numerous quarry activities no doubt), but as the current entrance to the sewage works is here and the documentation says Church Lane in Little Marlow this seemed as likely as we were going to get!

So with a certain sense of muted triumph we made our way back to the car, by way of the Thames Path which afforded us a game of "guess the price" of the rather grand houses on the opposite bank! Then it was a quick visit to the ice-cream van conveniently parked nearby before braving the rail crossing back to the car park we started out from a couple of hours before ...

Next up was a quick drive across to the other side of the A404 to Marlow town, on the hunt for where a yellow roadster had been chased. The trusty GPS once again came through for us, and it only took ten minutes to get there. Gossmore Lane itself is quite long, but it turned out left into the road was the correct choice to make, and when I decided to pull into a carpark that this just happened to be the very playing field that Liz is seen haring across at the end of episode three - well that was easy to find! Emma, Richard and I trekked back up to the main road whilst Rob had a rest in the car (I hadn't known at the time that he'd hurt his ankles beforehand and so our lengthy trek around the nature reserve had aggravated that). It wasn't too difficult to work out which houses Bessie pulled up opposite, though as is typical in these circumstances a bloke just happened to be mowing his lawn at the time and didn't look the sort to agree to move out of shot while we were photographing his house! Fortunately, it was more the case that the filming was along the road itself, so we just settled for that instead until aforesaid gentleman went in for his tea ...

Now, according to the documentation some of the chase scenes took place along the road, but on screen it is more open land with trees before the houses are reached. We concluded that it was likely that the area was redeveloped when the A404 was built, thus curtailing Gossmore Lane at Riverpark Drive and it simply became Gossmore Walk with a nice new housing estate to go with it. Pah! At some point I'll have to dig out some old maps to see how it looked back then! Research is quite a business!

And, unsurprisingly, once again vegetation takes control to spoil a nice view, so the houses that are seen at the back of the playing field are now almost completely hidden by trees and bushes. C'est la vie!

Next stop was Marlow Weir, where Liz nearly comes a cropper at the end of the episode. Now this was clearly the same as it had been, hoorah! However, as usual it is a private landmark (not to mention downright dangerous) so there were no re-enactments taking place today ... however, we realised that as the episode finale was at the end of the weir, we could probably get a good shot of that if we crossed Marlow Bridge onto the far shore by the Compleat Angler hotel and restaurant. Crossing the bridge was fun (single carriageway), but once across the view did indeed turn out to be worth it, with the weir visible in all its glory. Though once again we observed by fishermen who seemed to take great pleasure in watching us fight off the geese to get our photos!

Time for a change, this time to drop in on the Brigadier! Fulmer played host to both the garden centre and the Brig's rather nice home in Battlefield. This was another of those little trips where the GPS directed us down a nice single-track road with lots of blind corners, all in the name of being a faster route! (It also thought about sending us the wrong way up the M40 but common sense prevailed at that point!). However, much to our disappointment the garden centre had a large sign proclaiming "closed until further notice", which didn't bode too well for the future of this location! Fingers crossed it's only a temporary measure - with the Black Jack's Mill closure discovered a few weeks back it's beginning to look like McCoy story locations are dying faster than Pertwee ones! Rob took some photos of the centre a few years back when it was open, so hopefully they'll be nice to see.

After this disappointment we were to have even less luck finding the Brigadier's home, aka Little Paston. We drove up and down Fulmer Common Road in the vain hope of spotting the tudor-style house, though in the end we did find the Bridgettine Convent was a worthy match, if a little different in shape. As the convent was founded in 1988 and the story filmed in 1989 it was always possible this might have been the right place, but I've subsequently found out that it wasn't there at all - the house in question is further down the road somewhere ... oh well, it was worth a try!

Much to Emma's dismay our next destination was back to the dreaded A413 layby! Mind you, at this point the England match had started and the carriageway was practically deserted, so bounding across to the central reservation did not prove so life-threatening as the previous encounter! This time I parked up in the existing layby and ventured under the M25 to see if it would match the screen shots. Yes! Well, you can only just see the railway bridge these days thanks to the trees, but a handy train crossing it helped determine this was the right spot after all. (Cue a heavy frown from Emma for our escapade the other week being futile!) This does mean, however, that the TARDIS materialisation spot might well now be underneath the M25 itself! The way in which the film cameras alter perspective on shots makes it hard to judge exactly how far back filming really took place, but the power station seen in the background is still there and it is always possible it was far enough along the layby to be out of the "shadow" of the M25 (which wasn't built back then of course!). All looks reasonable though!

Our final destination of the day was to be Hodgemoor Woods, which is allegedly where the coach travels in Terror of the Autons. I say allegedly as when driving through the woods nothing matched the road layout or the ford seen in the story, ho hum. Still, there is another road that runs to the south of the woods and that might be where they filmed instead, so I haven't quite given up hope on that as yet.

So, a bit of a downer to end the afternoon, but not too disappointing, and there's always next time. And England did manage to win, after all!

11th June 2006 - On the road to Recovery 7

Another bright and sunny Sunday morning greeted us, which after a long and sunny week beforehand meant that at least the ground would be dry, something quite important when you're about to traipse through a valley on the hunt for something recognisable!

Today's outing was to discover where Recovery 7 was transported during The Ambassadors of Death, amongst other places; the original plan was to re-tread a couple of locations from last week to verify a couple of things, and then head southward, but as Emma got back early from Donnington we instead went via hers first and so reversed the planned route. Good thing too, as it was to turn out, time-wise!

And so it was off to Aldershot, letting the GPS guide us pretty much all the way there with only a couple of minor mishaps (like when exactly to turn right!). The M25 can be pretty boring to drive along, and today was no exception, so it was quite a relief to finally reach our first destination. Claycart Bottom. Which was when we discovered that it was MOD land! Fortunately, the signs all indicate that there is public access on the land when the army aren't out and about blowing things up, with just a general warning not to touch anything remotely odd-looking (and that includes Doctor Who fans who might think a bit of a prop managed to survive 36-odd years!).

So in we plodded along a road which rapidly became a track and then a forest ... at which point we bottled it and walked back to the car! So, the first attempt to find anything failed miserably!

West Bank
East Bank

Not to be deterred, I decided we might as well check out the next item on the agenda, Claycart Bridge on Puckeridge Hill Road - or as it looks now Puckeridge Hill dirt track. After the experience of the 'road' to Black Jack's Mill last weekend there was no way I was driving the car through the pot-holes ahead so we parked up and walked instead! Not that we had to go very far before we found the bridge, looking just the same as it did when filmed. The trees and the riverbank have changed quite a bit, unsurprisingly; the river itself is actually the Basingstoke Canal and has a fair bit of restoration work done on it in recent times, especially with the tow path.

One of the main problems with the bridge is that it looks almost identical on all sides - the wonders of military symmetry! With a few decades passed knowing exactly which side was used proved to be tricky, and our eventual conclusion was that it was the non-towpath side by the way in which the bank looks. Also, the bridge on the towpath side has some concrete blocks on the end, though whether they were placed there after filming or not is unclear. Regardless of that, it is clear that this is the same bridge - yippee! (Mind you, an almost identical bridge can be seen a little further along Fleet Road just to add to the fun ...).

Okay, so one success on the matching front; next up was Fleet Road itself, which suffers from the usual problem of being a long road with no interesting features along it at all to assist in identifying where filming took place. It seemed likely that it wouldn't be too far away from the bridge or Claycart Bottom, so in the end I took into account the telegraph poles and the road dip and concluded that it was probably somewhere in this vicinity!

Now, after the first failure with the aforesaid Bottom, we decided to have another go where the MOD Test Unit area was, a couple of hundred yards further up Fleet Road. To cut a long story short, we wandered around a vehicle test-run area for a fair while with nothing recognisable leaping out, and in the end gave up and tried a different path where the sound of motorbikes seemed to eminate. This was far more fruitful, the trail from the parking area leading to two roads that ran parallel to each other, which according to Google maps are called Eelmoor Road and Eelmoor Plain Road respectively.

Originally connected directly to Fleet Road, the two are now enclosed within the MOD grounds. I'm not too sure if they were ever "public" roads, but marking and signs along them seemed to at indicate that they may have been. Regardless of previous use, they are now most likely used for vehicle testing (and certainly of use to the cyclists, joggers, and mini-car racers we saw there that afternoon!). This was to be another case of trying to imagine how it might have looked back in 1970, especially where trees are concerned, in order to work out where filming might have taken place. The roads look likely to have featured in the scene where the Doctor recovers Recovery 7 back from General Carrington, as they do provide a nice, long, quiet road to film along. The general area comes under Claycart Bottom so this is possible.

As for where Recovery 7 is initially found? The area around us was very flat and very wooded, so it would seem unlikely that filming actually took place here - I know it's over 30 years but that would have been quite a change! Looking at maps later in the week it seems more likely that the filming for this scene took place in the nearby "Long Valley" - something to check out for another trip ...

Okay, so after all that walking it was time to ... do some more walking! Fortunately the heat was not too oppressive, and the next port of call was a wood, so we would be in the shade! Well that was the plan ... Beacon Hill Road isn't actually that far away from Claycart Bottom by car at all, about a five minute drive; it's situated at the other side of the MOD land, and runs alongside Beacon Hill itself, which is a forested area that seems to be reserved for the water table (whatever that means).

Thus another hour-odd ramble took place, by the end of which we were quite worn out and kind of irritated that nothing remotely looking like a secret bunker had been spotted anywhere. We decided to give up at the point where the path we were on suddenly looked like it turned into a cliff - this didn't seem to bother the jogger steadily approaching us along it, but somehow the thought of clambering down and then back up again filled us all with dread. So back to the car and another failure ... but then, just before we went back I suggested we just take a look the other way near some open flat ground. Richard and Emma groaned but we went there anyway, turned a corner and ... a secret bunker was finally revealed to us!

This is typical really, and also demonstrates just how lengthy the process of tracking down a location can be when you have no real clue as to where filming actually took place, just a general area. Both "Claycart Bottom" and "Beacon Hill" encompass a large area of land, and you can traipse around for ages trying to find something that is recognisable (two trip to Wimbledon Park and I still haven't worked out exactly where Invasion of the Dinosaurs was filmed there!). In the case of Beacon Hill, had we turned right instead of left we would have found what we were looking for almost immediately. Those travelling there using the guide are having it easy (grin).

Back to the plot; we were very surprised to see that the structure that was used for the entrance to the bunker was still there, especially considering how fragile the ground is around it (very crumbly around the pits where the land has been quarried in the past), and even more so after some 36 years - though it hasn't escaped the eagle eye of the graffiti "artist", hmm! It isn't exactly clear what the structure was originally, but in our travels around the rest of the hill we'd come across a number of other "bunkers" dotted in the forest, so they might all have been used for some purpose, probably military. I think we were also lucky that much of this area seems to have recently been de-forrested so it could easily be seen - otherwise it might have been obscurred by trees and we'd never have found it!

The tricky bit was working out how UNIT arrived there in Bessie; judging by the various tree expanses in view, we eventually concluded that filming used the tracks to the western side of the structure, and across the pit behind it along the tree-line. It doesn't look as "deep" as it did on screen, but then screen camera angles are very misleading as we frequently discover!

So ... two areas of Hampshire down, and time had managed to totally slip away. Where did the five hours go?!! Being that we wanted to watch the commentary for The Satan Pit we decided we might as well head off home now (and experience the wonders of motorway queues on a hot summer's day!).

So much for going onto Marlow for more Ambassadors locations. Something for another week ...

4th June 2006 - Of Doctors Three and Five

A bright and sunny day welcomed us this morning, which boded well for the day - after the rain the previous weekend I really didn't want to engage on another soggy wander, especially if fields were to be involved!

Today's little soiree began with a roundabout ... this particular traffic management system was resident in Watford, and appeared in The Hand of Fear as stock footage showing an ambulance en-route to the quarry where Sarah was buried during episode one. It looks pretty much the same as it did back then, though junctions had been improved. Also, what you don't see on screen is the fire station right behind you! Mind you, having worked out where the camera probably stood, I then discovered that I didn't have my own one with me. A minor panic not to mention annoyance at myself then built up, until I finally found it lurking in my car after all. So, one location down and ready to go!

Next up was to be Springwell Lane, home to a number of locations for The Three Doctors. Springwell Lock remains very much as it did back in 1973 when filming took place, though the inevitable vegetational intrusion was evident in places. Even more so for Springwell Lake, which despite a nice long meanderous walk around failed to conjure up any area that looked vaguely like the place a weather balloon might have come down! Come to that, a cottage where Mr. Ollis lived also seemed to be absent without leave, with Summerfield Bungalow nowhere to be found either. With the whole bank alongside the Grand Union Canal undergoing domestic redevelopment it's always possible that the building has been demolished ... but there's still places unexplored where it might turn up!

Next up was another disappointment, in Black Jack's Mill Restaurant (Silver Nemesis); my cunning plan was to have lunch here, but alas was not to be upon arrival we noted (a) the road had been blocked, (b) a smouldering bonfire in the car park, and (c) large wooden gates blocking off access into the place! Whether this is a simple refurbishment or something else going on wasn't obvious, but it would be a shame if the place is closing permanently (not to mention another Doctor Who location becoming inaccessible/demolished!). The Temporal Renovators visited there for their Christmas Dinner in 2003 as part of their now tradition of celebrating the period at Who locations ... not that you could see much in the depths of December in the evening! Mind you, if the restaurant does re-open I do hope the dirt track leading to it is finally surfaced - the poor Astra really felt the bumps and pitholes both ways!

So in the end lunch had to be at the next lock up, at the Coy Carp pub. Not too bad, but a distinct lack of green vegetables on a Sunday roast!

Once sated, we then headed west into Denham country and the world of residential homes. I don't know what it is about that area, but there do seem to be an inordinate amounts of places for elderly care! Of particular interest to us were Denham Manor - or as we know it UNIT HQ from both The Three Doctors and The Five Doctors - and then White Plains, which doubled up as a French boulevard for The Reign of Terror. Also of note were Denham Aerodrome which may or may not have been used for Fury from the Deep, and the junction with Denham Green Lane on Tilehouse Lane which saw the third Doctor doing a rapid U-turn to escape pesky time scoops in The Five Doctors.

After all this residential care it was time to risk life and limb along a dual carriageway as I tried to line up railway bridge shots for a layby off the A413! I'd originally visited here a couple of years back, but without screen shots to line up with, and so this time realised that the bridge seen on screen was the Marylebone rail line and not the M25 as I had in those photos. And as the verge of the road have now become a grassy peril it meant taking care to walk along and try and work out where the camera could have been - thank goodness it was a Sunday! In the end I concluded that the layby in question had been lost when the M25 was built and that a new one was created afterwards further down the road ... however, with hindsight and some more pouring over photos I'm beginning to change my mind again, which means another trip out there and another meander down the centre of a busy carriageway to see if the railway bridge can actually be seen from the M25 position! Yes, this could be getting a bit silly, but at least it will put my mind at rest. Maybe!

And if that wasn't enough, exactly which field did the first Doctor allegedly trample over at the Isle of Wight Farm during The Reign of Terror? Your guess is as good as mine, though I favour the lack of treeline at one point!



With all these failures in terms of recognising locations, it was something of a relief to discover Chalfont St. Peter looks pretty much the same as it did in Terror of the Autons all those years ago. St. Peter's Court could well have had daffodils being sold only the day before (almost!), though the car park's surroundings have altered somewhat.


And last and probably also least on the grand tour of Sunday was to be Elmswell House, which hosts a celebrity swimming pool from Paradise Towers, but due to the fact that it is a private house and had been the home to the Iranian Ambassador at some point I thought it prudent to simply sidle past the front gates only ... !!!



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