The Day we bumped into James Herriot in Arncliffe
With the new series of All Creatures Great and Small proving so popular, not just in the UK but also across the globe, I have been conducting lots of All Creatures Great & Small Tours in my day job as a driver guide.
Interestingly, I took out an American gentleman a couple of months ago who ran British TV & Film Location Coach Tours for US guests. He wanted to recce the area to add an All Creatures Great & Small onto his itinerary along with his existing stops for Downton Abbey, Doc Martin, Endeavour and other English classics. He explained that in the US, that All Creatures Great and Small season 3 had gained larger viewing figures than Downton Abbey – so he was sure Channel 5 and PBS/Masterpiece in the States would continue commissioning seasons.
I had to explain to him that there is no way he would be able to get a coach to a lot of the locations and after our day out he agreed. But for me driving a 4x4 and taking mainly couples it means that I get to access the remote locations and it was on one of these tours that I really “lucked out”.
I had taken my guests to see Broughton Hall, the home of Mrs Pumphrey and then to Malham to see locations such as where James Herriot was dropped off in the middle of nowhere in series 1 and the Tarn Road where James and Helen drive after their wedding. Whilst in Malhamdale we had nipped in to see my old pal Chris Wildman, a 5th generation Yorkshire butcher who runs Town End Farm Shop in Airton. The shop and tearoom also does wonderful tea and cakes!
I explained to Chris we were on an All Creatures Great and Small Tour and were heading over into the remote village of Arncliffe next. Chris who is Chair of Kirkby Malham Parish Council has his ear to the ground on all things in the Dales and gave me a tip off that they were actually filming in Arncliffe that very day.
Excitedly, I headed off with my US guests Chip and Yvonne up over the wild Malham moors, climbing out of Malhamdale and descending into a little remote Dale called Littondale. The view down into the village from the fell tops is stunning.
We parked up just outside the village and walked over the little packhorse bridge into the village. Incidently, Arncliffe plays the outside back of Skeldale House/Darrowby in the TV series (Grassington playing the front)
Immediately we came across the Falcon Inn which is often shown in the series. Some of the animal handlers were grazing their horses on the green outside the pub.
There were also old carts which had appeared in earlier filming left outside the pub.
Without realising the pub was closed, my guest nipped in to use the toilet and found the bar wasn’t open and one of the production team let us use the toilet. The pub was being used for storing costumes and for hair & make up.
And there was a hay cart outside one of the stone cottages too.
We walked down towards the back yard at the end of the village green which is the location for the back of the veterinary surgery. Parked outside was the green vintage car used by Seigfried and a number of the production team milling around.
Not being a car person myself , I was informed it was a 1940’s Rover Sports Tourer!
As we hung around, gradually a number of extras came walking down the street in 1940’s dress. The women all had bright pink hairnets! These were not to be taken off until the actual filming started to keep their hair in the 1940’s style that the hairdressing team had styled for them.
Then out of nowhere Nicholas Ralph and Rachel Shenton (who play James Herriot and his wife Helen) appeared. The Director gave everyone a pep talk and thanked all the team for their hard work that morning and they started filming a scene where the married couples were shaking their wellies outside the back door.
My guests were in their element, but things were going to get better..
There were no other people watching apart from us as it was a Tuesday just after May Day Bank Holiday. After a few rehearsal takes with Rachel still with her pink hairnet, lunch was called and as they finished Rachel Shenton put on a camouflage patterned dry robe and started to walk off set.
I stood taking a picture from a far and I got a lovely smile back. As she walked over I thought I would be cheeky and ask if I could have a photo to which she was so accommodating and we managed to get one with my guests too.
Then finding my guests were American fans of the show she started chatting away, she was absolutely delightful and so warm and friendly.
She then shouted over to where Nicholas Ralph was and called him over to meet the couple. This was unbelievable, again like Rachel, he was so down to earth and chatting with his gentle Scottish accent.
They posed for pictures, thanked my guests for watching the show and Nicholas Ralph spent time talking to them for 10 minutes about his time visiting the States.
I think we could have chatted for longer but a couple of the production ladies came and dragged them away for their lunch and to have hair and make-up touched up.
We had a stroll around to the local church of St. Oswald where the external scenes were shot for James and Helen’s wedding in series 3. We came across signs instructing people not to park because of filming - these were actually fixed onto the old medieval stocks!.
We also saw an old vintage car, which was later brought around to the back of Skeldale House for the actual filming of the scene they were rehearsing pre-lunch.
Filming re-started and it was interesting seeing just how many people were involved in different capacities. It was also fascinating seeing how all the extras in period costume, all fit into their roles to give the filming a sense of 1940’s Yorkshire, with people walking down the street or pushing bikes who will appear in the background.
Eventually we decided to leave as we still needed to head up to Yockenthwaite to see the farm which plays the Alderson's farm in the series – so we left.
What an amazing piece of luck, but also what lovely people. It was a shame Samuel West, Callum Woodhouse or Anna Madeley, were not there but I’ll take meeting Rachel Shenton and Nicholas Ralph any day of the week!.
Sadly, I don’t get to meet the stars on every All Creatures Great & Small trip I do!
To top things off, my guests on the day gave me a 5 star Trip Advisor review too….