Saturday, 13 September 2014

Locations from 'The Snowmen' - 2012 Doctor Who Christmas Special

Its been way too long since I went out and about exploring locations from my favourite television series of all time, so I thought I'd better set this right, for all our sakes. The truth is, me and Luke had planned and prepared a weekend in Cardiff back in February this year for a little valentines getaway, but the horrendous flooding which hit the UK hard during the early part of 2014 threw a stone in the works, and I was forced to turn the car around and drive back home barely 8 miles or so down the road.

 So we re-booked our trip for an early weekend in April which luckily turned out to be a sunny and dry few days. I decided to visit a few locations from the latest series of Doctor Who, due to the fact that I had followed a lot of the set reports on Twitter during the weeks of filming, so I had a good idea where a lot of the filming had taken place. After mapping out a few locations, me and Luke mutually decided to visit Bristol, which was used primarily in the 2012 Christmas special  The Snowmen. I had wanted to visit Bristol since I found out this episode was filmed here, so I could finally now tick it off my list of places to see.

 Since then I have been extremely busy with moving house (very stressful) and going away on holiday. So I have finally got round to writing this post for you.

 We arrived in Cardiff Friday afternoon, got changed and went for a meal at the lovely Italian restaurant Zizzis in Cardiff Bay. Luke had won a meal of up to £50 so he treated us both to a starter, main course and we shared a bottle of chilled white wine. We went for a wonder around the bay once we had finished and took some lovely photos of the sun setting and topped off the evening with a cocktail in Eddies Diner. It was a lovely way to spend our delayed valentines getaway together.

  Anyway, back on track, we were up Saturday morning a bit groggy from the previous nights drinks and headed down to the trainstation to catch the train to Bristol. We bought tickets for Bristol Temple Meads station after I googled the city map and highlighted the areas/location spots I wished to visit.

 We exited Bristol Temple Meads and immediately ran into trouble. You see, we aren’t the best couple at reading maps, and neither of us had been to the city before, so trying to find our way to the right locations was pretty difficult. Plus, I have never known a city to have so many traffic lights/pedestrian crossings. There are like four crossings just to get to the other side of a ring road taking about 10minutes! Anyway, we headed to what turned out to be my favourite place in the city, recommended by many of the locals; the docks. Unfortunately we picked a bit of a grey day, otherwise I’m sure the scenery particularly around this area would have been very pretty, plus Victoria Square looked like a lovely place to stop for lunch on a sunny day.

 However we headed over the footbridge and were greeted by a range of restaurants, but of course, we stuck to good old Weatherspoons! After re-energising, we went on the hunt for Bristol’s Cathedral, which only happened to be around the corner, and took some photos. A few minutes’ walk down the road we were heading to find some of the notorious graffiti artist Banksy’s work. We had a typical silly moment of looking left and right and on the sides of buildings, when the whole time the graffiti was pictured right behind us! Before heading to Bristol, I did a bit of research and looked into all the right places to visit, and a tour of Banksys art work was highly recommended. However, due to our lack of time, we opted to just look for any graffiti on foot during our mission around the city, but we did agree that if we went back to Bristol again, it is definitely something we would think about doing.
 Anyway, now for the real reason I’m blogging about Bristol: The Doctor Who location visits. As an avid viewer of any behind the scenes content the BBC Doctor Who team broadcast and an interest in any filming reports, I was aware the Doctor Who 2012 Christmas special was to be filmed in the city of Bristol.
First we headed up to St Nicholas Market on Corn Street to find the first Doctor Who location of the day. This location was chosen because of its Victorian streets which fit in perfectly with the story-line set in Victorian London, so it was easy to spot when walking through the city centre. The market was up and running once we got there, and it was as busy as ever, so I tried to take as many pictures as I could of the surroundings. 
From watching the behind the scenes extra show, I was aware that some of the alleyway shots taken near where we first saw Clara working in the Rose and Crown were located near the market. Me and Luke walked up and down a few different alleys in the area until we settled on one which I looked familiar. I had the episode downloaded onto my iphone, so I had a quick check, and although it was hard to tell at first because the ground wasn’t covered in *fake* snow, it was soon pretty obvious it was the right place. I think its pretty interesting that the show manages to find the smallest, insignificant spaces, and make them magical. If I didn’t realise Doctor Who was filmed in the city, I wouldn’t have looked twice at this little spot.

You can really see the added props and hidden shop signs which helps to bring a little hideaway alleyway to life, creating the look and feel of Victorian London. Luckily, this alleyway already contained a few features of old England - The historic buildings, iron gates and Victorian Lamp posts, for example. Oh, and here's me trying to recreate the scene where Clara decides to follow the Doctor on foot... cringe! :-
There were quite a few decent looking market stalls on the market, a lot selling Banksy memorabilia, Bristol are obviously very fond of their infamous graffiti artist, but we only got to purchase a drink each and we were off to find the next location.

Merging our 'fantastic' map reading skills together, and Luke yelling ‘Banksy!’ at everyone walking past to see their reaction (he was adamant that he wanted to unmask the artist himself), we took the 20 minute walk or so to Portland Square. 

Nestled away from the busy streets of the city centre, Portland Square is a small park area with greenery, trees and benches, located in the middle of very rich, tall buildings. A real little gem hidden away from the bustling streets of Bristol, I can see why this spot was chosen for filming, not just for Doctor Who, but also as a location for the Series 3 opener of BBC Sherlock, 'The Empty Hearse', where John Watson is trapped under a lit bonfire.

Back to Doctor Who, this location was used as the spot beneath where The Doctor has landed his TARDIS in the clouds. From here, the Doctor takes one big leap and pulls down a ladder to which he can then ascend the spiral staircase to his time machine. However, unbeknownst to him, Clara has secretly followed him every step of the way.

Five points if you can spot me in the photograph below! Yes, there were people in the park at the time, they must've wondered what on earth I was doing!

 Anyway, we had fun recreating these poses to try and match the episode as much as possible. Luke laughed a lot and made me jump in the air more than I needed to so he could ‘get the best shot’. I hope you enjoy looking through them as much as I enjoyed recreating them J Next time I’ll have to hire a period costume for the added ‘Clara’ effect.

 So that was pretty much is for our time in Bristol, as we navigated our way back to the station before the heavens opened, and left Cardiff by car before evening fell.

I hope you are enjoying the new series with our new Doctor. They seem to be reusing a lot of the locations I have been to previously for the new episodes, so I may have to use this as a valid excuse to revisit some of my favourites. I do, however, miss Matt Smith a lot. He was such a genius actor and a credit to the show. However, Peter is growing on me with every episode, last Saturdays Robot of Sherwood being my favourite so far. Jenna is still a perfect, witty, strong companion and I am excited to see how Danny Pink fits into the storyline. The story arc for this season also looks very interesting; I am keen to know who Missy is and what this so-called ‘promised land’ is. The Christmas episode is currently filming, so please keep me updated if you see any locations on the set reports you may think is worth a visit.

My next planned trip to South Wales falls in October, so I’m hoping to head to some of the more rural locations then as I stay in a lodge for my birthday in the middle of the Welsh hills. Hopefully then, my next post won’t take as long to put together, but with working such long hours right now it is hard to fit any time in for blogging unfortunately. If you have any good locations you would like me to visit, please let me know.

In the meantime, I will be updating my locations page with all the latest episodes as I go along. Feel free to have a nose:-)

Blog to you soon