TV towns cash in on couch potatoes: Scenic locations for small-screen dramas prove a magnet for curious tourists

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The Independent Online
PLUCKLEY IS ONE. So is Goathland, and so is Duckmore Road in Bristol.

All three belong to the exclusive club of places featured in television programmes. Pluckley in Kent is the setting for The Darling Buds of May, Goathland on the North Yorkshire moors is home to Heartbeat, and Duckmore Road is the location of Del Boy Trotter's 'Peckham' des res from Only Fools and Horses.

The club will soon have a new member - Beverley on Humberside is tipped as the setting for a BBC series to be written by Roy Clarke, creator of Last of the Summer Wine.

Towns on television receive astonishing attention from the viewing public. More than a decade since Castle Howard appeared in Brideshead Revisited, a third of the 200,000 annual visitors to the North Yorkshire stately home cite the programme as the reason for their trip. In Oxford, Inspector Morse tours show fans where the cerebral detective drinks and where victims met their end.

Steve Clark, author of the British Television Location Guide which lists 51 spots couch potatoes can visit on their holidays, said the impact of such shows was benign. Locals benefited from the money spent by film crews and by viewers subsequently drawn there.

'Holmfirth, where Last of the Summer Wine is set, has managed to use the television connection to great advantage. There is no reason why people would have visited it otherwise.'

In Summer Wine country, however, residents are divided over whether the programme has been the making of the community or damned it to a slow death at the hands of day trippers.

The West Yorkshire town declined after the Second World War as demand for its textiles fell. People moved away and by the 1960s many buildings stood empty. A few years later, researchers for a comedy about three ageing Yorkshiremen seized on its faded industrial feel and position on the edge of the Pennines.

The pilot for Last of the Summer Wine was screened in 1972, since when tourists have been converging on Holmfirth. About 250,000 visit annually, funding souvenir shops selling Summer Wine badges, coasters and toby jugs.

Holmfirth is little more than a village and can barely cope if two coaches arrive at once. In summer disgruntled locals say they cannot walk, drive or shop there, while the lack of parking places has led to stickers saying 'Try parking somewhere else - like Surrey'.

Sonia Whitehead's house beside the river Holme is a 'must-see' for Summer Wine fans who know it as Nora Batty's residence. 'I've seen them here on Christmas morning. When my children used to bring their friends home it was surprising how many people followed them in,' she said.

Though Ms Whitehead has little time for visitors who order her off her property so they can take photographs, she said: 'There are a lot of things wrong with Holmfirth that are blamed on them, but whether the town would still be here without them I don't know.'

Andrew Ainley, a mechanic, is less welcoming. 'Holmfirth hasn't benefited. Everything is more expensive because of the tourists - houses, even sandwiches. There's nothing here to see but some of them come back year after year.'

In Goathland, long-standing residents welcomed the prosperity filming would bring, though a couple who had lived there a few months objected. They subsequently left the village, apparently frozen out.

Beverley has a pedigree in showbusiness - during the 1970s parts of the historical drama series South Riding were shot there - but it is better-known for its 770-year-old minster, one of the main attractions for the 400,000 annual visitors.

The market town is clearly prosperous. Among its 500 listed buildings are elegant boutiques and well- maintained Georgian homes decorated with hanging baskets. Women wear pearls, men tailored jackets.

Though such affluence suggests the vulgarity of a television series would be resented, Linda Berry, owner of the Classix shopping emporium, believes the reverse is true. 'They are very snobby here, anything that promotes the town they will love. And it will be good for trade.'

Margaret Richardson, a shopper, agreed. 'When I heard about the programme I thought it would be rather nice because I would audition as an extra. It won't spoil the town, I would be quite proud to see Beverley on the television.'

Another resident, Arthur Oliver, was appalled at the prospect. 'I used to go to Holmfirth and it was lovely. They have ruined it and I won't go back now. I don't want the hazards that go with a television programme. Mind you, whatever it is, it's got to be 10,000 per cent better than A Year In Provence.'

(Photographs omitted)

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