Mad Dog 2003
Top: Charles' Monsal bridge
Middle: Scouting behind Air Cottage
Bottom: Leaving the viaduct behind
Right: The Monsal weir
A mixture of regular participants and fresh faces assembled in the drizzle of the Eyam Museum carpark on the morning of Friday 25 April, for the first day of the Mad Dog 2003 Derbyshire location visit.
The day began with a video introduction to the story of the plague which devastated the village in 1665-1666 (see here) and a tour around the impressive display at the Museum. The connections between Survivors writer Don Shaw's script for Greater Love and the story of the Eyam plague were hard to miss; and reinforced as fans moved on to view the second display, at Eyam Parish Church. Breaking for lunch — and sheltering from the relentless rain — at the Miners Arms, fans were able to review sections of the episode on a borrowed laptop computer, and debate the merits of possible sites for missing locations.
With the weather clearing, a convoy of cars set off for the village of Ilam, calling first at Ilam Tops Farm — to be met by a warm welcome from James Burton, happy to show fans the barn where the first meeting between Ellen and a chained-up Charles takes place. The site was instantly recognisable and numerous photographs were taken from the various camera positions. The food trough still in position in the barn is the same one that Denis Lill was chained to back in 1977!
Making our way from the farm, fans strolled down the avenue of trees to re-enact Charles' discovery by the clueless Ron in the exact spot seen in the episode. Heading along the public footpath around the back of Air Cottage, fans were able to agree that the rocky gully, behind and below the house, was the spot where Charles hides from Sanders and Jim after abandoning his horse. This was the first confimed 'new location find' of the weekend. After visiting other known locations in the area, fans gathered at Air Cottage for a welcome pot of tea, and a tour around the interior locations used in the episode — including the corner of the living room where the rabid Fenton is first discovered; and the room where Charles and Fenton rest the previous night.
Our numbers swelled for the second day, fans gathered at Monsal Head on Saturday 26 April for what proved to be a pretty comprehensive tour of nearby filming locations. Heading into the valley in car convoy to park, fans first visited the bridge beneath which Charles hides as he evades his pursuers, in glorious Spring sunshine. Fans were then welcomed at Dean Cottage — which served as 'Fenton's house' — by current residents, Mrs and Mrs Isherwood, who provided refreshments and a wealth of information about the rennovation of the property — which was derelict at the time of filming, and for many years afterwards. In an incredible co-incidence, we learnt of a long-standing connection between Mr Isherwood and Mad Dog actor Bernard Kay. Inspired by a taped copy of the episode, Mr Isherwood had re-established contact with Bernard, through his agent. Had he not been contracted to rehearse a new play in Liverpool that week, he might well have been persuaded by his old friend to pay us a surprise visit!
Fans were still able to relish the chance to watch, on video, the segment of the programme in which Charles' discovers and recites from Fenton's notebook in the very room where the sequence was filmed.
We were then able to view the interior of the 'bullet barn', where Charles tends to his gunshot wound — a building which now serves as a garage and storeroom for Dean Cottage. Both of these interior locations were being viewed by fans for the first time.
After a tour around other known locations on the same side of the valley, fans broke for lunch back at Monsal Head. In the afternoon, we descended on foot to the viaduct to begin the second component of the Monsal tour. At this point, Andy and Marisa Priestner spotted what they were convinced was the location for one of the 'missing' locations, high up on the hillside above the far side of the viaduct. After an exhaustive tour of locations on this side of the valley, fans loitered in the restful setting of the Monsal weir for a series of group photographs, before heading back to the viaduct.
With the 'official' portion of the weekend complete, goodbyes were said, before a smaller group of fans headed off to 'location scout', following up on Andy and Marisa's hunch. It soon became apparent that this hillside was not only the location for Charles wall jump, but also the place where he and Fenton ride on horseback together — debating humanity's fate in a worsening snow storm. The discovery of two more previously 'missing' locations provided an excellent conclusion to the weekend's events. These new finds mean that there is now only one shot left in the entire episode that we do not yet know the exact location of!
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