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ACT Location Walk, Chilham, 26th August 2012
Well that was fun. A good crowd turned out, I didn't actually count the heads but would guesstimate at close to 50 (to the nearest 50 :) )
I introduced my "glamorous assistant", Michael Eyers, thanks for your help Michael.
A lot of regulars but a few newbies as well. Most had actually seen the film - which helps, but as is often the case, there were a few who were encouraged to come by partners or friends even though they'd never seen the film before - but they promised to watch it as soon as they could.
The weather was very kind to us. Warmer than the forecast 21°C, but not too hot, and the forecast light showers didn't materialise. Ideal weather for a Sunday afternoon walk in the Kent countryside.
I made apologies on behalf of Paul Tritton, who is suffering from gout in his foot. Also from Len Smith (General Leslie) who is also suffering from gout, although with him it's in his knee. I suggested that there's too much vintage port being quaffed in East Kent :)
But we wish them both well and hope they recover soon.
As for the walk itself, we started at Chilham station ("Chillingbourne, this is Chillingbourne. Next stop Canterbury" which would have confused the passengers because it wasn't Chillingbourne and the next stop isn't Canterbury :) )
I welcomed them all to "Chillingbourne" and gave a bit of background about Micky growing up in the Canterbury area and this film showing a lot of the places he knew as a young boy. How it's also very unusual for the time because it has so much location work. Also that so many of the leading actors were amateurs and/or had never acted in a film before.
We led the horde back to the main road and round to Chilham Mill, one of two mills in the film. This one is the boys' HQ and is where they sort out the salvage (waste paper) for Bob to discover the proof that Colpeper is the glueman. The bridge by the mill is also where the boys had their river battle and it was good to see that there were still plenty of small apples on the ground - it was apples like that which were the main form of ammunition in the battle.
Up into the hills to stop by a field where we talked about Alison & Colpeper's "roll in the grass". It wasn't actually the field where they filmed the start of that scene, but a field is a field, especially when they're just full of corn stubble. The close-ups in that scene were all filmed in the studio anyway so we used our imagination and imagined "Alison" & "Colpeper" playing that scene there as a couple of volunteers read out their lines from that scene.
Onwards to Old Wye Lane where Alison was intercepted by the carriers. I described the scene, pointing out the different parts of it. How one of the cameras was at the top of the old Rye field and showed Alison driving the cart along the lane and two of the carriers heading down the field towards her, with another carrier bursting through from the fields on the other side.
Another playlet, reading out the scene between Alison and Peter - "Why don't you keep your beastly carriers off the pilgrim's road?"
Retrace our steps a way and then on to Juliberrie's Grave - aka "pow-wow hill". A 3,000 (approx) year old Iron Age burial mound where Bob, Terry & Leslie had their "pow-wow". From there you would be able to see the mill and the river if it wasn't for the trees that are now in the way. They had a clear sight of the mill in 1943.
Another playlet, reading out the scene where Bob tells the boys about his plane to catch the glueman. I neglected to say that that scene is one of the things I really like about John Sweet's performance. When he's working with the boys he shows that he really understood how to get on with young boys (he was a teacher before the war). In this scene he crouches down to their height. After he & "Peter" have got the information about the glueman, Bob nods to Peter and they stand to attention and salute the boys - just the sort of thing that young boys like.
Back down to the mill, and then in to Chilham - with a pause for refreshment at The Woolpack.
Then into Chilham Square to show people where Polly Finn drives her bus into the square to be met by Alison, short playlet as Alison asks Polly about the glueman.
Down School Hill a short way to show where they filmed that odd scene - after Bob & Peter get the proof about the glueman from the boys, at the mill which we had just visited, they are suddenly on School Hill and Bob throws something (a ball? an apple?) for Peter to catch. We did it with a tennis ball. I wonder how many takes it took them to make the scene for the film? We had to have a few goes at it :)
Back to the Square and down Taylor's Hill a short way to look back up towards the square and see what was almost certainly the inspiration for "Charing Street" where Alison, Bob & Peter chase the glueman at the start of the film. The buildings with over-hanging upper stories are just the same although what we see on screen was re-created in the studio with a small boy running away to make it look like he was an adult further away from the pilgrims.
Into the churchyard of Chilham Church. The church has no connection with the film but it's a nice church, well worth looking around, and I finished the proceedings by reading out Colpeper's speech from his lecture:
"Well there are more ways than one of getting close to your ancestors. Follow the old road and as you walk, think of them, and the old England. They climbed Chillingbourne Hill, just as you did, they sweated and paused for breath, just as you did today. And when you see the bluebells in the spring and the wild thyme, the broom and the heather, you're only seeing what their eyes saw. Ford the same rivers, the same birds are singing. When you lie flat on your back, and rest, and watch the clouds sailing as I often do, you're so close to those other people, that you can hear the thrumming of the hoofs of their horses, the sound of the wheels on the road, and their laughter, and talk, and the music of the instruments they carried. And when I turn the bend in the road, where they too, saw the towers of Canterbury, I feel I've only to turn my head, to see them on the road behind me."
Most appropriate I thought.
A few more questions answered, a lot of thanks from people who were informed and entertained (I hope). Goodbyes were said, promises to meet up again next year, probably in Canterbury itself, and then the road home.
A great day, I certainly enjoyed it
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