Thursday, 12 July 2018 19:33

Visiting UK TV and Film Locations

As a follow-on to the article about holidays in the UK what could be better for the film buffs amongst us is to visit the settings of our favourite television and films.  Be prepared to drive though because on screen the places may be beside one another but in reality they are often 10’s if not 100’s of miles apart.

So where to start….

Scotland will provide lots of locations whether it is Outlander, Local Hero, Train Spotting, Taggart, Highlander or Chariots of Fire for the opening beach run. Comedies of Rab C Nesbit or Still Game will take you around Glasgow.

The North of England if you are a George Gently or Vera fan you will take in Northumberland, Newcastle, Durham and Middlesbrough and many of the surrounding towns.  A bit further south you will get in to Heartbeat country around Whitby and the North Yorkshire moors or James Heriots backyard of the moors and Yorkshire Dales.  You have The Likely Lads and Last of the Summer Wine as a northern comedies and dramas such as When the Boat Comes In. 

To the West you will have the great Manchester and Liverpool dramas of Boys from the Black Stuff, Life on Mars, Last Tango in Halifax, Happy Valley and comedies such as Care Share The Liver Birds, Bread, The Royle Family and Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps. In the Lake District Swallows and Amazons and Heart of the Lakes.

In the Midlands you have gritty Peaky Blinders and Dalziel and Pascoe with Boon and Cadfael as a bit lighter hearted. Comedies such as Citizen Khan and Carrot Confidential.

In middle England you have Brideshead Revisited, Midsummer Murders, Inspector Morse (including Endeavour and Lewis) and Bridget Jones’s Diary and programmes like Father Brown, Lark Rise to Candleford and Wolf Hall. Or the comedies like The Vicar of Dibley.

The South of England has Downton Abbey and Dunkirk or who can ignore in Kent you have the recent Oscar winner The Darkest Hour and Darling Buds of May.

East of England has the Eagle has Landed and Shakespeare in Love and not in France, Allo Allo, or recent hit The Detectorists, or, Norfolk based I’m Alan Partridge.

The South West has Cornwall with Poldark and Doc Martin with a trip to Dorset and Lyme Regis the French Lieutenant Woman and the iconic scene on the harbour wall.  Others along the South Coast and West of London include Broadchurch, Innocent and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Comedies such as Fawlty Towers and The Office.

In Wales you have the dramas The Indian Doctor, Being Human, Torchwood, Merlin and Dr Who and who could ignore Barry Island and Gavin and Stacey.

Not forgetting Northern Ireland where Game of thrones, The Fall, 37 Days as major dramas and then recent comedy hit Derry Girls and the comedy farce Blandings.

You then get Films and shows like Harry Potter that has used locations across the UK, if you fancy a UK-wide road trip, equally many a James Bond has used UK locations.

What we have not covered is London, but this is all about seeing the rest of the UK!

So next time you are out in the UK whether a day out or holiday it never goes a miss to do an internet search and see whether you could be stepping in the footsteps of your favourite actors and actresses.

As we have just had a prolonged warm spell the question asked is why go abroad, flying and increasing your carbon footprint when on your door step is a wonderful country?

I think one argument which will always be voiced is cost and another will be weather.  I also think it depends on what sort of holiday someone wants.  If you want a fortnight clubbing, sleeping during the day and cheap booze then maybe the UK can not cater for your holiday ideals.  If you want Culture, Relaxation, Good Food and the occasional drink then the UK can provide this and much, much more.

On a personal level my parents could not afford a European holiday when I was a young child and I did not go abroad until I was 10 and did not fly until I was 21 and working.  How many of those under 30’s can say they have holidayed in more than a handful of geographical locations?  I am guessing not many.

The UK has diversity in not only Culture at a regional level but as a relatively small island arguably the widest variation of flora, fauna, geographical and geological features which are sightseeing must see locations.  Dramatic coastlines and beaches, hills and mountains, moorlands and not to take anything away from the patchwork of agriculture and forests that you drive past or through.

The UK needs to up its game! Hotels and restaurants need to step up to the mark, cost does not always mean quality and vice versa and attracting visitors is fundamental and expectations on standards normalised as high as a minimum.  If you talk about 1-star versus a 5-star standardisation is fundamental, if you pay for a 5-star service and get a 1-star product then you should not have to pay, and the establishment should understand that.  Experience and expectations are obviously the perception of an individual but clearer standard published and people know what they are paying for.

What about international travel and broadening your experience of other nationalities.  Yes, there is a place for it and I would encourage but this is not the Magaluf’s, and Ibizia’s of the world.  It is also important that the travel is done with integrity, so the destination gains from the influx of holiday makers economically across the population.  Countries with poor human rights who persecute much of their population typically the tourist income is filtered and directed to the few.

What concerns me the most is that people go to foreign destinations and see a small subset of the countries population and other UK visitors and develop opinions about both the destination and the UK areas without seeing first hand.  This is not healthy! 

Have you visited the Jurassic Coast?  What about the mountains and glens of Scotland’s West Coast with dramatic skylines and beaches of coral and fine sand? The oldest national park of the Peak District with rolling hills and moorland? Smugglers coves and cliffs and beaches of Cornwall? The valleys of Wales and Offa’s Dyke?  Castles and historical building across the whole of the UK?   A cultural trip to London, Cardiff, Belfast or Edinburgh? Quaint fishing villages across the UK such as Pennan, Polperro, Whitby and so many more?

I am proud to say I have and along the way met some wonderful people in all these locations.  I have visited many more UK locations and feel that when I do occasionally travel abroad I appreciate the country but also the place where I call home and what it has to offer to others and can wax lyrically about the UK and encourage other to make the journey and experience it for themselves.

Thursday, 01 February 2018 18:23

Mydilsburgh or Middlesbrough

As my place of birth, I thought I would compile some not so well know facts about the place.  Some maybe not great claims to fame but worth a mention!

Really Middlesbrough is the genuine new town as it pre-dates the likes of Stevenage, Cumbernauld, Cwbran, etc by nearly 100 years and the towns of the Welyn Garden City and Letchworth established as part of the garden city movement by over 50-years.  Planned in the early 1840’s for workers supporting the iron industry.

George Henry Camsell was the record goal scorer in English football in the 1926-27 season with 59 goals.  He held the record for 1-year before Everton’s Dixie Dean scored 60 goals in the following season but at least the record of the first to score 59 goals in a Season. He also discovered Brian Clough whilst working as a scout after WW2.

The Steel and Iron manufactured in Middlesbrough is all over the world.  The Tees Transporter bridge is an iconic landmark, but the steel was used to build the Sydney Harbour Bridge and railways across the globe.

Captain James Cook is probably one of the most famous explorers and people quite often picture him as a Whitby boy but no he originates from Middlesbrough.  At that time Marton was a small settlement that was consumed by Middlesbrough in the late 19th Century.

The River Tees was once the home to Paddle Steamers both used for pleasure trips and commuting between Stockton and Middlesbrough.  The river has been the life blood of the town ever since it was decided to ship coal from the Durham and Darlington coal fields.  Now teaming with wild life and the seals have returned to Seal Sands at the mouth of the Tees.  The water spirit Peg Powler is said to inhabit the river!

Middlesbrough was the first major British town to be bombed in the second world war due to the steel and ship building industries.  A bit ironic that 100 years earlier the first mayor of Middlesbrough was German born Henry Bolkow.

Middlesbrough people are referred to as Smoggies which was initially a derogatory term but now is embraced by residents and has resulted in a Smoggie dictionary.  There are many words which cover multiple northern towns and areas but some that are unique. Parmo, Mallon, Lemon Top and Oggy Raiding to name a few.

Everybody wants Middlesbrough! Yes, I do mean it, part of Yorkshire, Cleveland, North Riding, Teesside, who will be next to claim this great town?

Writing this article is done knowing that I have a family connection to the building of the dams.  My grandmother was born in the navies village in 1900 and her grandmother ran a lodging house for the workers assisted by her mother. 

The valley is a thing of beauty and the dams now look just as much part of the scenic beauty as the rolling high hills and winding roads. Obviously at one-time nature prevailed and the valleys would have been small settlements, farm and wood land with very people surviving month to month if not day to day.  The number of permanent residents today is probably not too dissimilar as to those of 120 years ago.

The reason for the article is to consider whether the project nature and size is something that today we could deliver as a country, and should we? With Crossrail and HS2 as multi-billion-pound infrastructure projects commenced or in the pipeline the delivery of these are machine intensive and new technology plays a major part in their delivery.  One thing that always astounds me is the Victorian civil engineers used the natural surroundings to achieve truly amazing results.  Elan Valley was a construction project that was required to improve the lives and health of the residents of Birmingham bringing much needed fresh water to the city which ultimately supported the growth brought on by the industrial revolution but allowed continued expansion.

The Elan Valley project cost £6M over hundred years ago which means that at today’s value it would be around the £700M level. If considering the distance from Elan Valley to Birmingham as just over 70 miles, it is a nice easy calculation of £10M per mile of the adjusted inflationary cost today. If you then consider the estimated cost of HS2 £55bn then at a per mile it is over £400M but this could be closer to the £500M with recent cost estimates.  These costs are for the London to Birmingham section only. 

Employment is also another factor with some of the best economic minds saying that when in recession national capital projects are the way forward, i.e. build your way out of recession.  The Elan Valley dam project employed around 50,000 men.  HS2 talks of creating jobs but the actual labour required is a fraction of the workforce needed 120 years ago.  So now, building out of recession is the perceived benefit of job creation once the infrastructure is complete.  As for the Elan Valley project how many jobs were created in Birmingham because fresh, clean water was being brought to the city? Guessing significantly more than the 25,000 estimated from HS2.

The third point to consider is the time to build. The Valleys Project was fundamentally started and completed in 8-years.  HS2 has an initial first phase build of 13 years which is significantly higher and obviously any project will be impacted by delays, cost increases and new deliverables. So the actual might be somewhat different to the planned.

So, if we stick to the comparison of the two projects I think the answer is no we can’t deliver sizeable infrastructure projects in the same way.  There will be some beneficial differences in relation to safety and wellbeing of the workers, fair pay and living conditions but it will always leave a question of, “could we deliver the same project more cost effectively?”

Returning to Elan Valley though I think there are many other questions that are raised about the use of nature to fuel and serve our country looking forward.  The depletion of hydrocarbons as fossil fuels and the actual true return of wind power generation and its long-term effectiveness. It raises the question on the use of hydroelectric as a more economic and a logistical fuel source.  It also has the question of mining and/or wind farms versus dams based on the visual impact on the landscape for differing projects.  We often hear the argument of greater house building is required and it should be affordable, and investment made away from the capital making a northern powerhouse.  If these agendas are to be followed through then it is not the movement of people that becomes the issue it is the utilities, infrastructure and the economic opportunities required that will take Britain forward.

Elan Valley is phenomenal in terms of its natural beauty, wildlife and importantly now the dams.  The project within 10 years of its completion was blending back in with nature and has protected commercialisation of an area of outstanding natural beauty.

We honestly need to look back and learn lessons from our Victorian ancestors and start planning long term on how we fuel and support the UK as a whole, both from an economic perspective but also from a natural and cultural perspective.  Learning to work with nature and not against it, making some tough decisions along the way, but ones that can be on a par with the long-term blend of infrastructure and nature which is Elan Valley.

Elan Valley, a wonderful place for so many reasons!

Someone recently asked me about Newcastle and what to do in the city.  It started me thinking of what we associate with various places, apologies for the many bars and nightclubs in the 12 but probably apt for this city.  A combination of drink associated venues, TV programmes and adverts paint a picture of the city.  So, in no particular order 12 memories associated with Newcastle;

  1. Newcastle Brown Ale, poured from the bottle never on draught.
  2. The Tyne Bridge
  3. A “Canny bag of Tudor”, for those not around in the 70’s this was “you would do anything for a bag of Tudor crisps”.
  4. Auf Wiedersehen Pet, still one of the best series on TV although not really set in the city.
  5. Terry and Bob, aka the Likely Lads.
  6. The Tuxedo nightclubs moored beneath the Tyne Bridge.
  7. The Angel of the North.
  8. The Quayside and pub crawls and the dress code – next to nothing.
  9. The Tyne Tunnel.
  10. St James’ Park
  11. When the Boat Comes In, another James Bolam series
  12. Buffalo Joes, and ending up there on most nights out. Often frequented by the Newcastle United players.

We will do some other cities soon!

Tuesday, 23 May 2017 11:48

Top 10 things to do in Scotland.

Written by

Some recommendations for the visitor and residents of Scotland.  Make the most of the events and activities on your doorstep.

Walking

Whether a leisurely walk or a more strenuous hill walk or even tackling a Munro the scenery is spectacular and you can have days of fun filled rambling. It’s also FREE!

Visit a Castle

Whether it is Edinburgh or Stirling or a ruined rural fortress step back in history and immerse yourself in the past.

Time on the Beach

Miles and miles of perfectly sandy beaches with windswept vista perfect for a stroll whether you have a dog to walk or not.  But don’t be fooled they may look like the idyllic Caribbean shoreline but very rarely have the same weather conditions!

Whisky

A distillery tour will open your mind and taste buds to an experience that will tantalise all the senses. If you have a dedicated driver why not sample a few and take part in a tasting.  Learn and become a connoisseur.

Driving

Whether it is the Ayrshire coastline, the rolling border hills, picturesque Glencoe or the Scotland “route 66” around Caithness and Sutherland the panorama, the moody skies and the atmospheric landscapes will keep you mesmerised.

Golf

Everyone has heard of the likes of St Andrews, Turnberry, Troon and Gleneagles but Scotland is blessed with many a course that will challenge even the most accomplished golfer and those that will not break the bank for a round.

Culture

Whether it is the Edinburgh Festival and the Fringe, or just the developing café culture Scotland has something for everyone.  Watch the world go by or actively get involved there is fun, entertainment and culturally enhancing events inside and out, Edinburgh, Glasgow and beyond.

Highland Games

Time your visit right and experience the Gathering! Whether it is Braemar or not events like tossing the caber at the small highland village games is a new experience for most.  You will experience the hammer, highland dancing and running races.  You might be able to take part in some of the invitational events.

Sporting Events

Experiencing an Old Firm game or sitting in the Stand at Murrayfield watching the passionate fan support are places to tick off on that sporting bucket list. Yet there are others to consider, what about the Chris Hoy velodrome and a cycling event, a local curling meet or even a mountain biking event that has competitors hurtling down mountain and woodland tracks.   

Screen Set and Location Spotting

Over the years, several blockbusting films have been made in Scotland and whether it is an organised tour or you are on a mission to be photographed where the famous Hollywood actor stood you won’t be disappointed with the choice but remember backdrops are often studio or post production enhanced.  Films such as Highlander, Local Hero, Trainspotting, Forty Nine Steps to name a few or maybe TV Series like Outlander, Taggart and Monarch of the Glen might take your fancy.

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