Mad Dog 2019
Top: The wall where Charles falls from his horse
Middle: The bridge beneath which Charles hides from the hunters
Bottom: The track behind Air Cottage along which Charles flees on horseback
Right: Gathering outside Ilam Tops Farm at the end of day two of Mad Dog 2019
IT WAS EXACTLY twenty one years after the BBC outside broadcast unit spent five days recording Mad Dog that the first organised Survivors reunion focusing on the episode's memorable filming locations was held. The BBC's cameras rolled in 1977, Survivors fans returned as a group in 1998. Twenty one years on from that first Mad Dog reunion, participants in the latest location trip to explore the sites of the series three classic assembled at Kidderminster train station, the southern terminus of the Severn Valley Railway, on Saturday 4 May 2019.
Five fans joined the day one foray: Colin Wilks, John Usher, Steve Clutterbuck, Darren Coleman and Rich Cross. Heading out on the 11.10 steam service the first port of call, some forty minutes later, was Hampton Loade, the station at which the injured Charles is nursed back to health after escaping the Peak District as a stowaway in an engine truck. After taking many photos from both platforms, and visiting the various carriage shops, the group then headed back down the line to the Country Park Halt, for an impromptu picnic lunch, before walking down to the site of Brod's bridge from Law of the Jungle. In 2006, the original structure seen in the episode back in 1977, was replaced by a more modern construction, but the area in which the episode's riverside scenes were shot is still clearly identifiable.
An enjoyable riverside stroll led the group back to Highley station, used extensively in Bridgehead. Close questioning of several train and station staff by Steve led us to explore the adjacent train museum, a far more substantial and well stocked building than we had appreciated.
The steam locomotive used in Mad Dog (number 8233) had enjoyed a long and eventful history before its appearance in that episode and Bridgehead, and was subsequently reassigned its original service number (48773). After several years service on the SVR, it was withdrawn for a full overhaul and refurbishment, which is ongoing. Now on display in the museum, fans were pleased to take photos of the "Mad Dog Express" from close up and from the balcony above (despite the cab itself being out of bounds). It was an excellent, impromptu addition to the day's explorations, following which the group headed back from Highley to Kidderminster.
After the drive to Chesterfield for our overnight stop, our hotel and its car park proved trickier to find than some of the locations. Once checked in and fed, the Mad Dog quiz proved to be a tough task, with Adrian Hulme (joining the group in Chesterfield) emerging as the clear winner and claiming the prize: a copy of the Mad Dog rehearsal script kindly provided by fellow fan Kenneth Tilley to assist with on site re-enactments.
On Sunday 5 May, the group assembled at Monsal Head. After peering out across the valley from the now-traditional vantage point to the side of the Monsal Head pub, we made our way to the even-better viewing platform on top of the rocky outcrop along which the three riders pursue Charles ahead of his fall from a horse. We then headed back into the valley to check out the exterior of Netherdale Farm (where Charles is discovered by the young girl), and, armed with the advance permission of the Chatsworth Estate, the grounds of Riversdale Farm (from which Charles purloines the bike).
Next it was time for welcome coffee and cake refreshments courtesy of our accommodating host Richard at Dean Cottage (the location used for Fenton's house). We were able to view the larder (now a loo) and the living room (where Charles reads from Fenton's notes). After a quick peek inside the cottage's garage block (where Charles tends to his wounds), and a visit to bicycle cottage, we surveyed the now ‘gone away’ lean-to roof at Upperdale House (where Charles meets Sanders and Jim), and took in the river bridge (which Charles hides underneath) before heading up onto the viaduct.
A steep climb to the hillside above led us to the locations for the Charles’ and Fenton's horse ride in the snow and Charles’ later tumble from his horse mid jump.Then it was time to visit the always-impressive weir (from which Charles collects water and the group flee the rabid Fenton), before wandering back along the valley floor to the viaduct (where the episode’s first encounter was re-enacted, with gusto, using twin copies of the rehearsal script). Climbing back to the top of the viaduct, we soaked up the sight of the episode’s opening vistas, the camera position from which the rocky outcrop was shot, and the area around the tunnel entrance where Charles and Fenton first debate the fate of humanity and see off the dog attack. With the entire of the Monsal Trail now re-opened to walkers, cyclists (and the occasional horse rider), the viaduct has become a busier place than it was at the time of the first Mad Dog location trips, but the area still retains its evocative atmosphere, even at its more populated moments. We could easily have lingered longer, but with the clock ticking on it was time to grab a sandwich en route as we headed south towards llam in a five-car convoy.
The potholed track to Ilam Tops Farm has certainly not got any smoother over the years, but traversing its tyre traps is worth it to arrive in the unmistakable surroundings of Ellen’s farm. With Mr Bruton about to head out, what had been planned as a guided tour became a self-guided tour of the farm’s barn interiors. It took a few moments to remind ourselves which was the correct barn, and slightly longer to find the right light switch, but with that done there was no mistaking that we were in the place where the kindly Ellen hid Charles from the hunters. After checking out the farm courtyard (where Sanders warns Ron to look out for their quarry), we headed down to Air Cottage. We had been in touch with the Wains in advance, but with no-one seemingly at home, we instead meandered around the cottage environs, checking out numerous locations in front, to the side and to the rear of the property. Steve took on the challenge of Charles’ hillside descent, while we all enjoyed the peace and quiet of the striking rural setting.
As the day drew towards a close, we walked slowly back down the avenue of trees where Ron taunts the prone and injured Charles (before running off to “tell Ellen”), finding ourselves unable to resist the lure of reenactment. We then reassembled in front of Ilam Tops Farm to say our goodbyes at the end of what had been a thoroughly enjoyable and absorbing weekend, touring evocative locations from a classic episode in the good company of fellow Survivors devotees.
Thanks go to Adrian Hulme for providing the group shot above
Hampton Loade station, where Charles is discovered unconscious in a train wagon
Brod (replacement) bridge from Law of the Jungle
Engine 8233, now reverted to its original number 48773, on display in the museum at Highley Station
Highley Station, as seen in Bridgehead
Riversdale Farm, where Charles nabs a puncture-prone bike
Upperdale House, where Charles encounters Sanders and Jim (on a now demolished lean-to roof)
The avenue of trees near Ilam Tops Farm where Ron discovers the collapsed Charles
Buying platform tickets at Highley Station
Appreciating the weir in the heart of the Monsal valley
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