Mad Dog 1999
Top: The lean-to barn
Middle: Checking the screenshots
Bottom: The Monsal tunnel entrance
Right: Deep in the Monsal valley
Organising a second Mad Dog trip, in May 1999, seemed like the natural thing to do: the previous year's Mad Dog had been a great success; and there were still elusive locations to be found. Looking back, the trip benefited greatly from two things – a new clutch of screen captures, and our meeting with Denis Lill (on tour in Sheffield in a production of Brassed Off) the month before.
As we assembled in the Monsal Hotel car park on Saturday 29 May to survey the valley below, the weather was great, sunny and warm — but not too hot to make the walk and the climbs uncomfortable. Rich Cross introduced the video with a piece to camera, and Steve Brailsford pointed out the sites of special Survivors' interest. Joining them for the day, were myself, Lynne Sweetman, Chris Barker and Mark Truman.
Setting off down hill, we began with a visit to "bicycle cottage" — Riversdale Farm in the heart of the Monsal valley. With approval from the owners, we moved onto the lawn area, to scrutinise the route that Charles takes as he approaches the house from the riverside.
Looking at the screen shots, we discussed the possible the location of the shack with the crumbling wall where Charles removes the bullet from him arm. I suggested that it might be found around the back of Fenton's house. As it turned out, on the Mad Dog 2000 trip I was proved wrong, but the real location was only a few yards away, on the other side of the road.
The biggest principal location still 'missing' at that time was probably the farm where Charles finds Sanders and Jim mending the lean-to roof. Having watched the episode that morning, and having pondered on it for some time before, I had an inkling. Further down valley road past "bicycle cottage", there is a house with quite a substantial yard and a set of out-buildings. Peering over the wall into the yard I was certain that this was the location of Sanders' farm. Before making a ground-level visit, we ventured up the stretch of road on which Charles gets a puncture and abandons his useless bicycle.
Getting permission from the owners of Upperdale House, we entered the grounds — and could confirm beyond question that this was the Sanders' lean-to. Between us, we could recall most of the dialogue — although not necessarily in the right order. I did rather a bad impression of Charles arriving on his horse. Steve wanted to complete the scene by getting off the ground, to perform on the now much-dilapidated roof! He was persuaded by everyone that it probably wasn't a good idea!
The Monsal road bridge kept our attention for some time; before we moved off to have a look at the exterior of "Fenton's house", recounting on the way as much of Fenton's famous 'today, Gregory' speech as we could remember between us.
Later, we paused at the barn where Charles meets the young girl — the river footbridge offers a nice place for a breather and a good view of the "rocky outcrop" overhead. We followed the bank of the river, as it bends underneath the viaduct. Chris simply had to have his picture in the exact spot where Charles stood, but couldn't find his footprints! Time for a piece to camera from me: "There are easier ways of committing suicide than carrying fresh meat …" I say whilst pulling Charlie the toy rabbit from my rucksack!
As we moved on towards the weir, we bemoaned the loss of the valley wall seen in the opening scene and passed what we thought was another missing location – the incline down which Charles and Fenton ride in the blizzard. As it turned out, we were mistaken — this location would elude us until April 2003. In the warm sunlight the weir was a magnificent spectacle. We assembled at the spot where Charles collects the water and surveyed the hillside down which Charles, Sanders and Jim flee from Fenton.
Our way onto the viaduct was by climbing the hill the dogs run down. Once atop, Chris checked out the spot where the camera would have been positioned for the riders' shot – the view of the rocks now partially obscured by trees. Picking up the opening shot of Charles on horseback we once again wondered about that shot of the water Fenton sees whilst standing on the wall. Perhaps it was the river beneath us — perhaps we will never know! After a group shot at the tunnel entrance, we hauled ourselves back up the hill to break for lunch.
Heading off to Ilam, we navigated the bone-shaker driveway from the main road to arrive at Air Cottage — Fenton's "halfway house". Leaning against a fence, Steve spotted the badly-weathered remains of the mangle seen as Charles searches the house for the missing Fenton — a genuine Mad Dog prop! We moved to the back of the house, to view the fields where the horse chase begins; and the steep incline down which Charles flees on foot. I had an idea that the scene of Charles hiding in the trees after he had been shot was at the bottom of this steep hillside. I ventured down but was finally put off by the sheer incline to negotiate. Above me, Rich was being encouraged to follow through on his plan to re-enact Charles' downhill flight. Steve provided a comedic version of the descent; then Rich successfully attempted it for real. During Mad Dog 2003 we would finally locate Charles' hiding place — very close by, behind and beneath Air Cottage itself.
Looking for the possible location of the wall over which the riders jump, we walked through into the next field. With no screen shot we decided that it was probably in the area, although we could not say exactly where. Subsequently, this location was discovered many miles away — back in the Monsal valley. Having found a suitable bit of farm machinery we posed for a group photo before heading back to the house.
Next we meandered down the avenue of trees where Ron first finds Charles, but, again, without a screen shot, the exact spot was impossible to identify. We made our final stop of the day outside the gate of "Ellen and Ron's farm" — where the better weather; the absence of livestock; and the lack of barking dogs, encouraged a longer stay than on the previous year's expedition.
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