Britain 2013 on the Big Screen

Cinema goers have been treated to a stunning array of epic battle scenes, sweeping vistas and ancient forests in this year’s big movie releases. Hollywood movie directors have the technology to sweep us away from the banality of our modern day existence to other worlds or places in time, but look a little closer and you may notice that your movie hero is nearer to home than you realise. Britain is a favourite choice for many major movies, and this year’s blockbusters show how filming has moved out of the Hollywood backlot, and into some real locations around Britain. Spend a few days in these areas and it’s easy to see why the diversity, history and beauty of the British landscape makes for such a popular choice with filmmakers and tourists alike.

Sunrise at Pendennis Head

Pendennis Head, Falmouth

Falmouth, Cornwall

No one would have imagined that a popular British holiday resort would be the chosen destination for a big budget blockbuster, until a film crew turned up for the filming of Brad Pitt’s apocalyptic zombie movie World War Z. Falmouth in Cornwall was chosen by the film’s producers as one of the film’s major filming locations around the world. In particular, the film makers came to Falmouth for the helicopter ship, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Argus which served as the American aircraft carrier, USS Harry S Truman in the movie. Much of Falmouth’s maritime history is still in evidence today, as the town is the biggest port in Cornwall. Although Falmouth is now primarily a seaside resort, tourists can learn much about the maritime heritage of Cornwall by visiting the National Maritime Museum at Falmouth Harbour.

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Cromer Pier, Norfolk

The distinctive, unspoilt landscape of the Norfolk countryside led film producers to choose the seaside town of Cromer, in Norfolk, as the location for some of the most dramatic scenes in the film Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa. Locals witnessed gunfire and a large fictional police presence on Cromer Pier whilst filming took place. The pier was pivotal to the film’s action sequences, chosen for its distinctive architecture and history. In fact, it is a particularly popular filming location, having been used in a number of films and television series. Tourists can visit the famous pier, enjoy the beautiful beaches and explore some of the medieval and Victorian architecture around the town, which still stands today.

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Portloe, Cornwall

The sleepy fishing village of Portloe in Cornwall is not only popular for its walks, scenery and history, but surprisingly for its filming potential. The village has featured in various television series, and this year, cinema goers will see it as the main village setting in the Richard Curtis film, About Time. Nestled in a tiny cove, this Cornish fishing village is a timeless beauty, filled with a jumble of houses and streets, and surrounded by wonderful coastal walks and gorgeous views of the harbour. Portloe also makes a great base for visiting many other attractions in the area, such as the Eden Project and The Lost Gardens of Heligan.

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Norwich Cathedral: a fairytale location

Norwich Cathedral, Norfolk

Norwich Cathedral in Norfolk became the centre of attention, when it was transformed into a fairy tale castle for the movie, Jack the Giant Slayer. The producers needed a beautiful, large building that could accommodate the movie’s giants, and Norwich Cathedral had the space and grandeur to deliver this. The film, starring Ewan McGregor, involved transforming the interior of the cathedral with fake stone before film crews began filming sequences in between the cathedral’s programme of daily worship. Norwich Cathedral Quarter had already been a popular choice for filmmakers, having been featured in several other films and television series, including Stardust and Alan Partridge. The historic architecture and heritage of Norwich is only one of the many reasons why tourists flock here every year. Tourists can explore the wealth of medieval architecture here, visit Norwich Cathedral, or making a trip to the Norman Castle. The Cathedral Quarter in particular, features many interesting heritage sites worth visiting, including Tombland, an ancient Saxon marketplace, and Elm Hill, the city’s most famous medieval street.

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Box Hill, Surrey

Filming of The World’s End, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, caught the attention of local residents, when Box Hill in Surrey began to glow orange. Despite the initial alarm, locals discovered that film crews were in the process of filming a scene here that involved setting a car on fire. However, Surrey residents are not unused to the sight of a film crew in their midst. Surrey has been a favourite filming location for many big blockbusters. Box Hill, on the North Downs, is itself a popular attraction for thousands of visitors every year, who come to enjoy the superb panoramic views and natural wildlife. Its footpaths also make it a great place for long distance walking. Box Hill was made famous in 2012 for the Olympic Road Races that took place here.

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Bourne Wood, Surrey

Fire and explosions could be seen on location in Bourne Wood in Surrey, during the filming of epic superhero movie, Thor 2: The Dark World. Film crews, horses and hundreds of extras took over the site of this woodland to film a great battle scene between two fictional kingdoms. Bourne Wood is situated near Farnham and has been frequently used as a filming location over the last decade, for films such as Gladiator, and also for television series and commercials. Farnham itself is a beautiful historic town, which also deserves special attention for its history, which dates back tens of thousands of years. The town features in the Domesday Book and throughout its long history has suffered plague and civil war. Tourists can visit Farnham Castle, a Norman castle which dates back over a thousand years, or stroll through the narrow streets to explore the town’s beautiful Georgian architecture. The local area also offers many places of interest, including Waverley Abbey, the first Cisterian abbey in England, which was founded in 1128, and Moor Park House, which dates to 1630.

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Comic book locations

The Man of Steel...in plastic

As it’s National Comic Book Day this weekend, we thought we’d take a look at some real-world locations that have hosted film adaptations of our favourite superheroes.

Like the books themselves, there’s everything from billionaires’ mansions to villains’ lairs and heroic hideaways. If you’d like to pay any of them a visit, please stop off at the cottages4you website first. We feature a range of accommodation all over the UK – secret caves not usually included!

Batman

You may think the reason the Welsh tourist board aren’t crowing about their latest celebrity resident is because he’s a sociopathic vigilante who spends his nights beating up individuals with low moral fibre. But it’s probably because the latest (and last?) Batman film is shrouded in secrecy. Still, it’s obviously not so secret that Wales Online didn’t uncover the plot. According to their website, The Dark Knight Rises film crew recently visited Henrhyd Waterfall in the Brecon Beacons for a few days’ filming.

The new Batcave?

Considering the waterfall in question offers a stunning 30 metre drop and covers a cavern, it’s not too hard to guess what they were filming. So if you fancy posing by the entrance to the Batcave before anyone else, lace up your walking boots, strap on your utility belt and take a trip to the beautiful Beacons!

Batman’s other home, a revamped Wayne Manor, is said to be Woolaton Hall in Nottingham – as evidenced by the crew spending a few days there over the summer. And unlike Wayne Manor, Woolaton welcomes curious visitors for most of the year.

 

Superman

Not to be outdone, the Man of Steel has also visited these shores – or at least his villains did. Superman II featured Kryptonian villain General Zod and his band of merry misfits landing of Earth to cause trouble for our under-panted hero. And while the film attempted to convince you that the villains’ arrived in the American mid-west, the reality was closer to home.

Black Park in Buckinghamshire featured as the first location the villains visit (it’s opposite Pinewood Studios, so has hosted many more films including Bond, Dracula and Batman) and the small American town they invade was actually Chobham Common in Surrey!

Captain America

We already pointed out the irony of Captain America filming pretty much everywhere but the USA before its release this summer. Still, US film tourism’s loss is our gain, as there are plenty of places to follow in “The First Avenger’s” footsteps – including the site of his first proper action scene.

The villainous HYDRA base in the film was located in an old army base in the Caerwent countryside. And while ‘old army base’ doesn’t sound like an ideal place to visit (nor indeed does ‘villainous HYDRA base’), we are assured that Caerwent village is lovely.

Captain Manchester

Early scenes of the good Captain chasing a villain through Brooklyn were actually filmed in the very hip Northern Quarter of Manchester, which makes it more ‘Coronation Street’ than ‘Mean Streets’. Still, there’s plenty of trendy bars and equally trendy beards on display if you fancy exploring the area.

The X-Men

Set in the swinging sixties, the recent X-Men First Class featured much setting of jets, but a significant portion of its running time was spent on UK shores. The iconic Xavier Mansion was actually Englefield House in Berkshire and although it’s a private residence you can still take a walk through the gardens from 1 April until the end of October.

Bodleian Library

A large amount of filming took place at Oxford to mark the scenes where Charles Xavier received his second superpower: a professorship. Oxford’s historic Catte Street hosted the majority of filming, including exteriors of the Bodleian Library. Hertford College also doubled as a pub – though, obviously, the reality is a different story!

Can you recommend any UK filming locations? Leave a comment below!