Mad Dog 2007
Top: On top of Charles' bridge
Middle: The far river bank
Bottom: Charles' point of view as he enters the river
Right: The hillside above the viaduct
The weather closed in ahead of the 30th Anniversary of the first shooting day of Mad Dog. Luckily, if a little sadly, by Saturday 27 January 2007 the recent snow had cleared from the Derbyshire hills. Four Mad Dog reunion stalwarts — Hulme, Wilks, Harris and Rome — were joined by Monsal newbies Darren and Mary. Suitably kitted out, they set off for adventure amidst the faint echoes of the BBC's visit to Mad Dog valley.
To the trained Mad Dog enthusiast, the valley has changed substantially. However, the only real absentee from the time of the original shoot is the wooden shack where Charles and Fenton cooked the rabbit.
Crossing the viaduct we headed uphill onto the plateau where Charles loses his horse. The exact spot where he fell is now marked with but a few scattered remnants of the wall the horses vaulted.
The plateau is also the location where Charles and Fenton discuss matters on horseback in a snow storm. The key to finding this location is a certain bendy tree. Thankfully the recent storms had left the bendy tree intact — though a few of its older compatriots have not survived.
We paused for a laugh and a recreation of the vaulting scene before recklessly heading down a sludgy incline, bordered by barbed wire, nettles and thorns to our next location. The park authorities have placed a gate on the way to 'Fenton's falls' (the Monsal weir), which if nothing else is good for cleaning sludgy boots.
The recent rainfall had swelled the river so that it was impossible to get onto the rocks for the traditional group photo without flippers or a call to the RNLI.
It was similarly impossible not to gape in awe at the marvel of the thundering falls.
We paused again, for a quick snack, before the annual re-creation of the trio running through the trees to the sanctuary of the riverbank before beginning the hike back to the viaduct; spotting many a potential 'mad dog', mostly held in check on their owners' leads, along the way.
Underneath the viaduct, we took time to emulate Charles' ill-fated decision to stop and swig water from his flask — though, this time round, no dog pack took this as a cue to attack.
After this ideal photo opportunity, we walked on along the riverbank and towards Netherdale Farm. The barn where Charles meets the little girl is the most elusive of Mad Dog locations — yes it's definitely the place; but nobody has actually been inside to record the photographic evidence.
Nevertheless, chief make-up artist Darren applied mud as appropriate to Mary for a scene recreation as near as possible to the actual spot. Adrian once again stepped in with 'Am-Dram' — donning an appropriate stunt beard.
Cries of 'There's a car coming, Greg!' echoed down the road as we marched to the bike house and Sanders' residence.
The Sanders lean-to barn now leans more toward the floor than towards the adjacent farm building, and is unlikely to survive much longer without some urgent remedial care.
Likewise, the stone hut Charles rides by on the bike is now looking rather emaciated and is becoming ever more derelict as the years pass.
Neither time nor the axe man had yet felled the tree Charles hides behind outside Fenton's home, despite the thinning out of much of the that section of woodland. Adrian climbed the banking for a Vaughan's eye view of Fenton's estate.
By the time we reached the famous river bridge, the wintry sun was losing its strength and the day had all-too-quickly flown by. There was just time for an impromptu recreation of Sanders' hunting party's crossing of the bridge, before the group headed, via the Monsal Trail shortcut, back onto the viaduct.
As the sun set over the valley vista revealed in the Mad Dog opening titles, we headed reluctantly back up the hill, towards the welcome shelter of the local pub to enjoy a blazing log fire; a bite to eat; and, for one or two of the gang, something a bit more refreshing than milk.
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