Years ago, I found a newspaper article about Turville. (The village is a very old hand at being mentioned in print, having made it into the Anglo-Saxon chronicles in 796.) That piece of paper became something like a science-fiction movie prop, glowing in my drawer, pulling my eyes and mind and resources to it.
On this current trip to England, time and proximity tilted in my favour. A visit date was set, the hiking boots laid out, the camera emptied of photos. I thrummed with excitement because, for me, and many other people, Turville is Dibley, (as well as other villages from an array of movies and TV shows).
Generally, I do not give two hoots about film venues. So why did Turville capture me? For a conglomeration of vague reasons, none of which is strong enough on its own to invoke such desire to visit. The Vicar of Dibley is one of the rare programmes I can watch more than once, mainly due to the eccentric characters, the overall tone and the jokes that I still find amusing even when I remember them. Therefore, I feel some sort of affinity or fondness for the cast and the setting in which they operate. I thought it would be fun to work out the camera crew positions – almost like being on set. When re-watching episodes, I would have a fuller idea of the town layout. The village is quaint and the countryside, occasionally seen on screen, is lovely. But, ultimately, I jotted Turville down on my mental ‘love to do list’ simply because it presented itself to me, plump with detail and possibility. Then, as a science-fiction alien might, it gradually exerted a hold over me so that I eventually found myself standing right in it.
There’s not an ugly brick in that village. (And only one gay, according to Daffyd from Little Britain). I stood in the church listening to Geraldine; watching Alice walk up the aisle in her outrageous bridal gown; waiting for one congregation member, say a dog, to consume another, say a guinea pig. The BB and I wandered around, enjoying the countryside (not much of the ‘dry, open field’ which its name means), cottages and gardens and searching for the vicar’s. No doubt we saw it but it’s a long time since I’ve seen an episode and none matched my memory. I’ll do it the other way around when I get home – overlay my experiences on the show. So the pleasure of that little place will continue.
The article mentioned a hike to Hambledon – an excellent way to savour the Buckinghamshire countryside – but although there were many paths, none mentioned Hambledon. We drove there instead.
Another very beautiful village greeted us. We soon accidentally parted from the designated hiking route and emerged from a wood to find ourselves on a path through a view-eclipsing paddock of maize. But all things end and eventually we passed a hamlet and were directed into a meadow.
And this piece of land, verdant and gently undulating, brought my competing factions to the fore. Clad appropriately as I was in hiking boots, light yet sturdy hiking pants, tee-shirt and brimmed cotton hat, I secretly envisaged a much more BBC-Sunday-night-production sort of stroll featuring a long, white, billowy dress with my bosoms pushed up enticingly. But when The BB held his hand up for me as I clambered – no, as I stepped daintily – over a stile, those factions coalesced into one. I was treading the fields and woods of England with my beloved. Romantic clothes aside, that’s one thing that I and the women of narrative wanted.
The Dog and Badger, circa 1390, at Medmenham served a delicious lunch – parsnip and leek soup (me) plus a locally made sausage containing what looked like mustard seeds, accompanied by black pudding and fried egg, all on a bread roll (BB). It sounds weird and it looked it, but cultural immersion by food is one of the treats of travel.
A wander along the river where picnickers, equipped with beanbags and windbreaking apparatus, mingled with sheep, and boats sporting tanned middle-aged couples rubbed against the bank, returned us to Hambleden. We bought a cup of homemade elderflower cordial (delicate and fragrant) from the folks at the Churchof St Mary the Virgin, then popped inside. A quartet, having a final practice for their afternoon concert, provided the perfect accompaniment for our tour of this lovely chalk and flint building. One of the many interesting features is a doorway, now blocked, which allowed the Devil to exit during baptism.
As far as the casual visitor is concerned, he may well have exited the entire English countryside and left us free to ramble through idyllic vistas, living our own movies.
See Whadda Bewdy and Tales of a Travelling Porridge for further activities and sightings of the day.