Friday, 12 July 2013


I have a confession to make.  For the first thirty years of my life I hardly ventured north of Birmingham.  I grew up in Cornwall, and as far as I was concerned "oop north" was a cold, dark place with sooty, industrial cities and little to tempt me there.  Then, two years into my marriage my husband and I decided to drive to Scotland.  On the way up we stopped in Wharfedale in the Yorkshire Dales, and as we wound our way up the dale with its vast, rolling green meadows with flocks of sheep being rounded up by spirited sheepdogs and its quaint little villages nestling in the folds of the countryside on the banks of the River Wharfe I started mentally kicking myself.  What had I been missing all these years?  This was wonderful.  And so the Yorkshire Dales came to be one of my favourite parts of Britain.  This stunning part of the country is the backdrop to the film Calendar Girls, based on a true story about a group of "women of a certain age" from a local Women's Institute who wanted to create a best-selling calendar to raise money for a hospital in memory of a friend's late husband and who decided to produce a series of tasteful images of themselves in the altogether.

The village where the W.I. held their meetings was called Knapely in the film, but in reality many of the scenes representing Knapely were filmed in Kettlewell in Upper Wharfedale.  For example, the hillside where the ladies did their tai chi was at Leyburn Road in Kettlewell, while John and Angela's house was at Cam Lodge.  Kettlewell lies on the banks of the River Wharfe and the mountains of Great Whernside and Buckden Pike tower over this idyllic scene.  The village was once a thriving market centre, and later grew rich on textiles and lead mining.  The remains of a smelting mill are still visible above the village.  Nowadays, agriculture is the economic mainstay, together with tourism of course, especially with the number of visitors coming to see where the film was made.  Once a year in August the village hosts a scarecrow festival, with scarecrows dotted around the place dressed in different costumes.

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Kettlewell. Photo by John Illingworth, via Wikimedia Commons
Another location in Wharfedale which featured in the film is Burnsall, where the annual village show, referred to as the "Kilnsey Show" was filmed.  We made a lunch stop at a riverside pub in Burnsall on my "voyage of discovery" en route to Scotland, actually an alfresco lunch even though it was October - so much for the North being cold!  Burnsall is very popular for walking and fishing, and there is a path by the river between here and Hebden dating from Viking times.  There is a handsome five-arched bridge in the village which forms part of the Dales Way long-distance trail.  On our way through the dale, we made an overnight stop at the Tennant Arms in Kilnsey, not knowing at the time that it was to be used in a future film - the hotel featured in the press conference scenes.  Towering over this small village is a prominent local geographical feature called Kilnsey Crag, a large limestone cliff.  Another beautiful Wharfedale location used in the film is Buckden, towards the north end of the dale.

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Burnsall. Photo by Doug Elliot, via Wikimedia Commons

The film used a number of other Yorkshire locations besides Wharfedale:  Coniston, North Yorkshire (not to be confused with the Coniston in the Lake District); Cow and Calf rocks which overlook the town of Ilkley; Settle - southern terminus of the Settle-Carlisle Railway - where Chris (Helen Mirren) goes to the pharmacy to collect the photographs; Ingleton, famous for its WaterfallsTrail and for Ingleborough, the second highest mountain in the Yorkshire Dales; Malham with its spectacular "Cove"; Skipton, where the Calendar Girls try to get sponsorship; and White Abbey, Linton, where the photo shoot took place at Celia's house.  So anyone visiting the area who enjoyed the film can easily fill a week discovering the filming locations while making the most of all this wonderful part of the country has to offer.

Cow and  Calf rocks, Ilkley. Photo by Jon Farman, via Wikimedia Commons

For information about the Yorkshire Dales, visit the National Park website.

Map of the Kettlewell area.

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