Mad Dog 2006
Top: Charles' bridge
Middle: The Monsal viaduct
Bottom: The Monsal weir
Right: On top of the rocky outcrop
When the BBC filmed Mad Dog in January 1977 they had to contend with a proper English winter, forcing a notably snow free re-shoot that March, mainly of the river crossing scene. On Saturday 29 April 2006, a group of Survivors fans again crossed the same river — but, unlike Charles, on rather than under the road bridge, in spring weather very reminiscent of the March 1977 re-mount.
A chill wind whipped at the coats and Sanders-style woolly hats as the assembled fans clambered down the escarpment onto the viaduct by the sealed shut mouth of the railway tunnel.
For all of them this was a return visit to familiar sites, and — having been there, bought the T-shirt and ran away like a rabid animal — the trip was a chance for friends to gather, catch up on news and discuss Survivors. But Mad Dog valley still had some secrets to give up.
At the end of the viaduct there is a short climb up to a couple of very important fields. These contain the much-argued-about scenes of Fenton and Charles talking in the blizzard on horseback and Charles escaping on his horse, vaulting a wall and losing his ride. The arguments about just where these scenes were filmed had gone on for years — mainly because we could never find them! However, their location was confirmed the last time we were here for Mad Dog 2003.
In April 2003 the weather had closed in and it was the end of the day. This time the sun shone, but the Sanders hat was kept for authenticity as we replayed the horse vaulting scenes. None of the 2006 cast being with horse, or that athletic, we were heartened to discover that the specific stretch of wall had become a specific stretch of rubble (easier to jump and climb over) — but still saddened to see another location in such a state of disrepair. There were still enough rocks to hide behind.
The bottom of the field provided a steep "shortcut" to Fenton's falls — the always magnificent Monsal weir — where the obligatory photo-shoot and break for snacks and drinks took place. Just time for a re-enactment of the running away from Fenton scene (although this year minus a Jim), before we set off back towards the viaduct.
We paused underneath before picking our way further along the river bank to the footbridge near Netherdale Farm, leaving the echoes of dogs that seem to haunt the valley behind for a while. The last interior location from Mad Dog yet to be visited — the inside of the stone barn at the farm, where Charles meets the girl — remained unvisited on Mad Dog 2006: one for another day.
Taking to the road we passed Sanders' place and the house where Charles nicks the bike. The shack that Charles bicycles past is now more derelict than ever, but it was still good to see in the warm sunshine.
A debate then took place about whether or not the exact tree that Charles hides behind outside Fenton's house has been felled or not. The jury is perhaps still out on that one. Then along came a bicycle — down the very road Charles pedals. A tad annoying that we were outside Fenton's at the time.
The road bridge always seems a great place for a breather and we took time to check out the fish in the river that were worthy of a Tom Price exaggeration.
If you continue up the road Monsal Dale station appears on your left and you can nip back onto the railway line and along the Monsal Trail back toward the viaduct — which was the new route we took. At the top, the pub beckoned for a light bite and ale.
Aside from the aforementioned barn one place had never been physically visited by a Reunion crew — the rocky outcrop atop the hill where the riders are seen in long-shot. Although the afternoon was by now wearing on we just had to go.
The rocks are accessible and provide an excellent and refreshingly different viewpoint of Mad Dog valley and the birds of prey that make it their home. Don't go too close to the edge though — one sheep obviously had: its corpse was noticed lying towards the bottom of the drop.
Then it was back to the ice cream van for a well deserved cornet and to say our goodbyes. A happy day well spent.
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