More than once I have asserted that Oxfordshire is, in fact, murder central of the UK.
You wouldn’t think it to look at us. Everywhere you go there’s chocolate box houses, cutesy market towns, even our ‘capital’ is known as the town of the dreaming spires, yet many of its most famous vistas have played their part as a backdrop to the most gruesome crimes.
No! Wait! Don’t call the police yet. I’m talking fictional crime here. You might think London had it sewn up, or maybe Glasgow with it’s grim urban outlook, but actually the rolling hills of the home counties seem to inspire authors and TV producers to think about gory ways to kill off their characters. From Morse to Midsomer we’re surrounded by easily recognisable landscapes.
Thanks as much to Inspector Morse as to its own inimitable beauty, Oxford itself is landmark after landmark; from the rotund, domed Bodelian to one of the many bridges with punts drifting gently underneath. Perhaps we should dedicate a whole post to the landmarks of Morse?
Midsomer Murders are a little less easily identifiable, portraying a generalised bucolic rural idyll of English countryside, only lightly marred by the horrific death rate. If you know what you’re looking for, though, you can easily spot a few gems. Head to the South of our lovely county, mostly, as Dorchester-on-Thames hosts a number of favoured filming locations, notably The George Inn – AKA ‘The Maid in Splendour’ in the episode of the same name.
Wallingford, just five minutes down the road, is the fictional town of ‘Causton’ and Henley-on-Thames, 15 minutes further on from Wallingford, appears in no fewer than nine episodes (and that route, incidentally, will take you through Nettlebed which appears in seven episodes). If Midsomer Murders is just your cup of tea (and do check for arsenic first, if it is) then we’ve found this a wonderful website for identifying film locations: http://midsomermurders.org/locationsindex.htm – so plan yourself a scenic tour!
And if those weren’t enough, perhaps a pilgrimage to the Murder Queen herself, Agatha Christie might be in order? I last visited her grave on a frosty January when I was trying to walk off my 40 weeks-pregnant belly. It didn’t work, but was a lovely walk in the pretty town of Cholsey, just round the corner from above-mentioned Wallingford – and itself yet another Midsomer location!
Thank you for following me around this grim and grisly fictional tour of our county. Perhaps we can do it again some time with a different theme – I quite fancy a fantasy fiction tour and with CS Lewis and Terry Pratchett connections it should yield some results. TTFN