Are you in Berkshire or Buckinghamshire? Here’s why you might actually live in Midsomer…
PUBLISHED: 12:42 24 April 2017 | UPDATED: 12:42 24 April 2017
Â© Maureen McLean. All Rights Reserved
Never mind all those often bizarre murders Barnaby gets to the bottom of, there’s still a killing to be made here
Perish the thought that you are in Berkshire or Buckinghamshire. The odds are good that you actually live in Midsomer, surrounded by picturesque scenery, plenty of gossip and, of course hundreds of sometimes bizarre murders over the past two decades.
Indeed, Bray, Crowthorne, Cookham, Dorney, Englefield, Eton, Hurley, Littlewick Green, Maidenhead, Mapledurham, Remenham, Sonning, Swallowfield, Taplow, Twyford, Windsor, and Wokingham have all appeared in Midsomer Murders since the ITV series started in 1997. Please don’t kill us if we’ve left you out.
And then there’s Henley where the counties meet, and handy for all kinds of dastardly mayhem to be filmed, plus those Chilterns villages in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire harbouring grudges and dastardly doings for DCI Tom Barnaby to investigate. At the centre of all this is Causton, the market town where he is based, and over the years Wallingford, Henley and Thame have all provided the backdrop.
Nice as it is to be in Midsomer much of the time, what many of us actual residents fail to spot is that we are joined every year by thousands of tourists from both the UK and right across the world, following trails through favourite episodes or simply taking in the sights and sounds of their special ‘county’.
A quick search online reveals that there are driving and walking tours, both guided and do-it-yourself, themed events at filming locations and a host of deals for those who live and breathe Midsomer Murders.
All of this was brought into focus when we joined a Midsomer seminar and workshop hosted by Henley Town Council in New Street’s Hotel du Vin. It was mostly aimed at the businesses there, and one of the clear messages was that while you might not ‘make a killing’ out of the Midsomer experience, there’s undoubtedly money to be made. Town centre manager Helen Barnett introduced Sarah Osborne from Tourism Angles, a business which assists with growing visitor potential, and she was quickly reeling off some astounding facts and figures.
For instance, in South Oxfordshire alone, Midsomer attracts somewhere between 25,000 and 40,000 visitors each year – spending around £2m there. Add in the Berkshire locations and the mass of opportunities in Buckinghamshire and the Chilterns and we are talking a lot of people spending loads of money.
One pub alone has reported a £30,000 business boost courtesy of Midsomer, while a hotel reckons an additional £55,000 has come in. Around half of the visitors come from the UK, the rest mainly from northern Europe and English-speaking countries such as the US and Australia, and it’s now been translated into five other languages.
And we need to get ready for a new set of Midsomer tourists. While the series may have begun 20 years ago, and lead actor John Nettles passed on Barnaby’s baton to Neil Dudgeon, it’s only just started showing in China, where it has been translated into Mandarin. There they are seeing the very first episodes and, of course, are already providing a chunk of Britain’s existing tourism boost. So however long Midsomer lasts here, there are countries all over the planet discovering it for the first time or still years behind us in the story.
Here some six million Brits watch every new episode. Meanwhile, around 1.65m of Sweden’s nine million population join us on the sofas. They can never get enough murder on their screens there it seems, and Nordic visitors can often be found following the Midsomer trails.
What they are all seeking is what Midsomer sells beyond the plots: a vision of historic, quintessential England, populated by quirky townspeople and villagers. Now, stuck on the M4 in a rainy, rush hour jam with the Heathrow-bound planes swooping overhead, we may feel a long way from all this – but it’s there. We take for granted village fetes, market days, the old buildings and characters.
But our Midsomer tourists are seeking it all out. The pubs serving traditional beers, character B&Bs and hotels, local produce and quirky shops. Some plan their own little tours and route maps to wander at will, while others want to include a visit to Midsomer in a UK-wide tour which is also taking in perhaps Windsor and London, collecting souvenirs along the way.
Then there are those with a tour theme of Vicar of Dibley, Morse and Midsomer… think of this as our region, if you like.
For businesses looking to make the most of all this, Sarah starts with a big reminder: you don’t actually have to like Midsomer as a viewer to take advantage of the phenomenon… and actually we met one or two people already offering services who admitted: “Can’t stand it” or “Never watched more than the episodes we are in”. The trick, you see, is to know what your customers like, do the research and then enjoy the results.
One of the best ways to discover the magic of Midsomer is to join a walking tour of ‘Causton’… Henley in our case. Led, by Anthea Osborn-Jones, we set off on a shortened version of the hour-long tours held at 11am every Saturday (until 28 October this year) following in the footsteps of Barnaby.
The tour of locations handily starts in the Argyll pub (midweek or driving tours and guided full day coach tours available by arrangement) where two episodes have been filmed. You might start with a coffee, or have a go at pulling a pint of Midsomer ale before setting off for a gentle amble round the locations, finishing off at The Market Place, another setting.
In between we took a look at Gabriel Machin butchers, in business since 1861 and with a traditional façade which would always appeal to the Midsomer Murders team. The Hotel du Vin is another location, as is the bow-fronted La Bodega restaurant and tapas bar (renamed as Café Vintners for its Midsomer ‘part’) and, not surprisingly, Tudor House Antiques with its perfect setting and contents. Plus of course, Henley Bridge and the Thames regularly feature.
Further out there are Midsomer finds such as Loddon Brewery at Dunsden Green, first used for filming in 2011 and now offering a beer called ‘Night of the Stag’ (the name of the episode they first appeared in).
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