Welsh Lorna Doone upsets West Country


Viewers baffled as BBC shuns Exmoor location

THE BBC dramatisation of Lorna Doone is causing considerable confusion to fans of the programme who want to visit the spectacular countryside they saw on their television screens.

The acclaimed novel, written by R D Blackmore, was set in the heart of Exmoor, in Devon, but the television drama was filmed more than 150 miles north on the Brecon Beacons, in Wales, to the anger of many Devonians.

Since it was broadcast at Christmas, tourism officials in Exmoor have had to field a steady stream of inquiries from viewers wishing to visit the landmarks featured in the adaptation. All the tourists have been redirected to Wales and the officials say they are bitterly disappointed that Exmoor, which has long been informally known as "Doone Country", was not the chosen location.

Clare O'Connor, who works for the Exmoor National Park, said: "Visitors to the region will not see what they saw on the television. For instance, that magnificent waterfall doesn't exist and the real church where the couple supposedly married is completely different to the one in the dramatisation."

Nigel Stone, the chief executive at Exmoor National Park, added: "We spent a lot of time and effort showing the programme-makers the real Doone country, with all the landmarks R D Blackmore saw and used in the story. We were very disappointed and unhappy about their decision to film in Wales."

The BBC said that it chose not to film Lorna Doone in Exmoor because shooting was to take place at the height of the summer season and would have disrupted tourism.

Alan Ayres, the BBC publicity commissioner for drama, said: "We're sorry if the tourist board is disappointed that we chose not to film it there but I think the disappointment of thousands of tourists would have been considerably higher had they been denied access to the area while we were filming."

Mr Ayres disclosed that there was a further motive in shunning the traditional location: a lack of waterfalls. "There is certainly a bit of a shortage of waterfalls in Devon," he said. "How can you fall in love if you are not next to a waterfall?"

The location of the church, where Lorna was shot after exchanging wedding vows with John Ridd, has caused further confusion among viewers. In the novel it takes place at Oare Church, in Exmoor, which is still a place of worship. But the BBC opted to film the scene at St Oswald's Church, in Widford, Oxfordshire.

Sue Bingham, of Lynton tourist office, added: "Lorna Doone is Exmoor. It was such a shame it wasn't filmed here. There are so many differences between the two locations."

Lorna Doone, published in 1865, was the third and most popular novel by R D Blackmore, who spent his childhood years in Exmoor. The BBC drama, which was shown on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, starred Amelia Warner as Lorna and Richard Coyle as John Ridd.