And still they come!

1992-05-18 - 002 (Public)
The Lizard, Cornwall. WikiCommons

Cornwall’s currently overrun with tourists, or so the county’s official Tourist Board tells us. If you are down there right now, crushed between other curious holiday-makers, we can only thank you for choosing somewhere to go for your holidays which is at the other extreme of the country from us, up here in the far north east.  Folk are apparently flocking in unsustainable numbers to the extreme south west of England drawn by their obsession to see the very spots on the Lizard where Poldark, the country’s favourite screen adaptation, is set but not exclusively filmed. The fourth, most recent, series has just finished on BBC1, but there are five more novels to adapt, so plenty more opportunity awaits for even more to get caught up in the Cornwall craze. Well, locals of the Lizard, you have our sympathies though, to put it bluntly, you are doing us a favour by focusing the nation’s collective imagination for a few years. Recent newspapers have been full of articles lately detailing the strains placed on the infrastructure of Cornwall by the seasonal influx – water shortages, intensely crowded beaches, bulging litter bins, non-existent parking spaces, over-inflated house prices and ironic dismay over the tourist board’s call to bring visitors to the county.  We know what you mean!

Daily pooh removed by us: one dog’s holiday

Imagine, therefore, our dismay and incredulous amusement when on what was intended as a comic pitch from alternative destinations, on yesterday’s BBC Radio 4 lunchtime news programme, World at One, we heard a spokesperson for Visit Northumberland plugging the beauty of Bamburgh and the sea trips to the Farnes. Oh no, we cried! As though we need any more visitors! Northumberland long ago lost the right to be known as the ‘Secret Kingdom’ or ‘England’s Most Tranquil County’, in large measure thanks to Robson Green and the television programmes which bruited the quiet joys of this historic and magnificent coastline, bringing in tourists in unprecedented numbers and obliterating the off-season more or less entirely.

The problems resulting for a tiny resident community with only a handful of litter bins and one daily collection from them,  two small car parks, a narrow main drag along one side of which drivers still park, despite double yellow lines, and too many selfish holiday makers who take what they want without thinking, are obvious. The detritus on the beach, the out-of-control dogs, careering madly about in an environment most of them are entirely unused to, creating stress for local dogs and their owners alike, the sheer weight of numbers making every instance of anti-social behaviour seem that much worse. We know what it is to be outnumbered; to be treated like a theme park, into and out of which people can drop as their fancy takes them. Sure, some locals make easy money from renting out family property but most have to work tirelessly for longer and longer in keen competition with each other just to make a living, putting out more and more as the visitors’ demands and expectations become ever greater.

We are currently waiting for the day soon when the Scots to go back to school, the first lessening of the tourist load; then the British children begin their academic year. But, most families busy elsewhere, September heralds the influx of older walkers and retired visitors, plus more divers and groups of various sorts. It never stops, and neither does the bagging and/or picking up of other people’s dogs’ pooh, plastic rubbish, barbecues, clothes and tents. So if you fancy swelling the crowds on the Lizard’s beaches, please be our guest; you will find the locations usefully listed here:

But you can look up Northumberland for yourself!




Glamis thou art!

IMG00362-20140222-0743An unexpected and rather disturbing sight greeted us this morning as we approached the inlet in the dunes where once, many many moons ago, the tiny port of Bamburgh  – and access to the castle’s original entrance – used to be. For there, towering over the beach was a platform of punishment, immediately putting us in mind of some medieval horror.  And that is exactly what it is intended to do;  for it, and others planned like it, have been erected by the location joiners working on a new film of Macbeth, scenes from which they are shooting in and beneath Bamburgh Castle this week. A massive marquee fit for a dog show has taken over the village’s car park, halving its capacity, and these wooden instruments of torture and display are being deployed to settle seamlessly alongside the telegraph poles they do remarkably resemble.

As we bound along at daybreak, it is not infrequently that we evade capture on camera, whether in the background to something ecological or ornithological. Only a fortnight ago there were delightful discarded breakfast baps to be had as we burst through a crush of trailers, parked for a good couple of days in order to capture in ‘the can’ precisely three minutes of action for  Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.

Pieter Breughel the Elder, from 'The Triumph of Death'
Pieter Breughel the Elder, from ‘The Triumph of Death’

Encouraging the villagers to embrace the arrival of the butcher and his fiend-like queen this coming week – for whom our little family, as enthusiastic Shakespeareans, have always had a lot of time anyway (there but for the grace of God, and all that) – the production team begged indulgence for any inconvenience caused, commending the fact that they’d be using Shakespeare’s original text: much mirth indeed! Let’s hope it’s as powerful a film version as good old Polanski’s, in which a friend of ours as a sixth former decades ago enjoyed an exciting week’s work as an extra. A play it’s incredibly easy to do badly, on stage or film, let’s hope the glories of the castle and its outlook over the North Sea lend the director and players a hand, as they did when we gathered within the precincts of the keep for a touring version with a very small cast. That night the rooks stood in for ravens but the temple-haunting martlets played themselves, transforming a theatrical challenge on a chill late August night with moments of pure and emotive theatre, darting around and about us, punctuating and endorsing dear old Duncan’s reflection upon arrival that:

This castle hath a pleasant seat; the air
Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself
Unto our gentle senses.

And both he, and Banquo – who agrees – are right:  for the horrors that unfold are of mankind’s making, like the scaffolds now springing up around and about an ancient capital, where Oswald ruled and Aidan served, and to which folk increasingly turn when wanting to evoke another world, another place.