5 June 2015

South Lakes on Screen

Rangers are fairly accustomed to strange requests, and we pride ourselves on our can-do attitude - but it still came as something of a shock when we were asked, ‘Can we do a high speed car crash in Tilberthwaite?’ This isn’t the only unusual one we’ve had over the past eighteen months – there’s also been ‘Can we take plaster casts of the quarry walls?’ ‘Can we build an enormous waterslide that chucks people into Tarn Hows?’ and ‘Can we zoom a huge drone above your woods?’ Contrary to what you might expect, we only said no to one of these requests (guess which one!), and they all came from one group of people – film-makers. With such a spectacular and characterful patch, it’s perhaps no surprise that lots of people making film and TV want to shoot here, and you can spot South Lakes in big budget feature films like Miss Potter and Snow White and the Huntsman, TV dramas like Safe House, the opening credits of Countryfile, and even a toilet paper advert!

Blea Tarn Film Location
A scene from Snow White and the Huntsman in Little Langdale - Universal Pictures
Paying our way

This summer we’re busy working with a film company making a new adaptation of Swallows and Amazons, another TV drama, and lots of smaller documentaries. Sometimes it’s almost a full time job. So why do we do it? The simple answer is that, as a charity, the money the film makers pay is absolutely essential to the National Trust, and allows us to do even more of our important conservation work. Every day film-makers spend using our land and buildings pays for woodland management, watercourse protection, visitor access routes, and all the other work we do to protect and look after South Lakes ‘forever, for everyone’. Filming is also a really important source of income for the Trust on a national scale – find out more here. These films also create great publicity - sometimes globally - and attract more visitors to experience our inspirational places.

Accommodation Traditional Lake District
Renee Zellweger at Yewtree Farm in Miss Potter - Phoenix Pictures
 Protecting our patch

We work closely with our tenant farmers and the films' location managers to ensure that nothing the film units do damages the land or buildings – sometimes this means placing restrictions on where they can work, or asking that they lay temporary tracks before driving vehicles across fields. For Swallows and Amazons, the crew will have to leave their trucks at the road and carry their gear by hand into woodlands, in order to protect and preserve these special places. We usually supervise filming to ensure all the conditions are being met, sometimes long into the night, and places are often left better than when filming began because of repairs to walls or improvements to farm infrastructure. 

And naturally, we’re not afraid to say no to those requests that we think are going to cause damage or degradation, or are otherwise inappropriate. So if you haven’t guessed already, the one we refused recently was the giant waterslide at Tarn Hows – although it did look like fun!

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