Over the last couple of days I’ve been all about Poldark. Reading Poldark, watching Poldark, discovering Poldark documentaries, finding out about writer Winston Graham and writing about Poldark. It’s all in aid of a feature marking the anniversary of Graham’s death, but it has also got me wondering about the link between the countryside and TV.
Obviously, Cornwall was a popular destination before the TV show that attracted 15 million views every Sunday night in the mid 70s and caused vicars to move around their services to suit the congregations’ small screen habits. But the BBC show sort out ragged landscapes, picturesque bays, dramatic churches, beaming them into our homes and make some go out and look for themselves.
Last of the Summer Wine is another good example. Holmfirth in West Yorkshire has souvenirs aplenty about the programme featuring aged northern residents acting like well-behaved but slightly rebelious teenagers. How many people would have heard of Holmfirth in the south of England if it had not been for this show? And similar things could be said of Heartbeat, Monarch of the Glen and classic films such as Withnail And I.
Is the portrayal of the countryside a positive thing, though. Is it good that we are inspired to get out there and seek these places out thanks to our flatscreen marvels? Or does featuring in a popular show change the nature of a rural place and attract far too much attention?
It’s difficult to say, of course, how many tourists go on holiday after being inspired by a TV show. But my family went to Tobymory, the setting for Cbeebies classic Ballamory, a few years ago. And without the like of Archie the Inventor and Josie Jump, it’s difficult to imagine as many familes with young children heading up to Mull just to look at the different coloured houses sitting by the sea.