Friday, 26 February 2010

The Real Vicar of Dibley

When a new comedy television series called The Vicar of Dibley hit British television screens in 1994, Dawn French, the actress who played the part of the vicar, was already a familiar and much loved face. Less well known, was the situation of the village of Dibley. Was it even a real place for surely nowhere could be that idyllic and unspoilt? Well, yes, it is real.

Turville, is a tiny village, hidden deep in a valley in the Chiltern Hills and is close to where I was born and spent the greatest part of my life (I only came to the secret valley nine years ago). The Chilterns is a place of steep hills, thick with beechwoods that seem to hang onto their very sides - many use the word in their names: Old Hanging Wood near Hughenden, for example. The villages, as a consequence, seem tucked away and forgotten, yet they lie only some 30 miles west of London.
Chalk and flint are the geological features that make the Chiltern Hills what they are and you are never far from them for the topsoil is thin, as all Chiltern children soon learn. Childhood games need chalk for drawing hopscotch and the flint cuts deep into knees when falling over. Flint also is, or was, the favoured building material for houses and Turville has plenty of fine examples, even the church is made from it.


No English village is complete without its pub and Turville is no exception. The Bull and Butcher stands almost in the road. Less common are windmills and Turville lays claim to Cobstone Mill (which really 'belongs' to the neighbouring village of Ibstone), standing high above on a steep hilltop. The windmill, like the village has been used in many films such as Chitty, Chitty, Bang Bang and the 101 Dalmatians. In the latter, when the road outside became covered in machine made 'snow' I drove past confused - for there were still traces of the snow and it was midsummer. We also had no water for several hours as the filming had used up the village supply in the making of it.

Turville is popular both with the film crews and visitors because it is so ancient and unspoilt. To get photos like these you have to visit on a grey, winter's weekday as weekends, especially fine, summer ones, find the narrow lanes choked with cars. The village is so unchanged that even the warning roadsigns, like this old schoolchildren one are decades out-of-date!



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13 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for this enjoyable visit ... what a charming old-world corner of the UK! Loved the photo showing the Chiltern Hills and the one showing the old windmill ... and that old street sign is a classic! How lucky you are to have experienced life in this wonderful spot.

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  2. Thank you Bernie for visiting and welcome. I have been fortunate in always living in beautiful countryside. I've never yearned for city life!

    I very much enjoyed paying a visit to your blog and shall return often. Your area is certainly very different to mine. I've never understood how Australians garden amongst all those poisonous snakes and spiders!

    Johnson

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  3. Beautiful, Johnson. So close to London, but yet so far away.

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  4. Dear Johnson, Although I do not have a television and have not, therefore, seen the comedy programme, 'The Vicar of Dibley', I was fascinated with your tour and commentary on a totally unspoilt village which, as you say, remains very close to London. I was particularly intrigued to see the 'School' sign which of course I remember from being commonplace when I was a child and which I have not seen [obviously] nor thought about for years. A little like the AA men who always in the 1950s saluted members!

    I have friends with a house close to the gates of Chequers and so do know how very chalky and flinty the whole area is. A most enjoyable posting which revived memories of childhood.

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  5. Yet another spot to add to our (far too short) itinerary! I may need to spend two months in England to see all that I want to see!

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  6. I used to watch reruns of this show !!

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  7. Thanks, all, and glad you enjoyed this post.

    Tim - there are an amazing number of unspoilt villages left in England, each with it's own unique character. You will be spoilt for choice!

    Edith - The Chilterns around Chequers is especially beautiful and dramatic and pleased that the post revived happy childhood memories. I shall shortly be visiting Exmoor again where there is still an old AA box (where the AA man used to telephone for help before the days of radio). It is now a protected monument to an age gone by. I'll try to take a photo of it to feature in a later post!

    Johnson

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  8. I can only imagine how wonderful it would be to visit this charming area. Ah, perhaps someday ... Thank you for sharing and to Edith for finding you :)

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  9. Thank you, Joey, for visiting and for the kind words. At the risk of regulars tiring of hearing me say it, I rarely forget how fortunate I have been to have always lived in such special places.

    Johnson

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  10. My goodness, that school sign brought back some memories :-) Interesting post. I had no idea where 'Dibley' really was. One of our favourites, still love the classic splashing in the puddles :-)

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  11. Lovely pictures. The Cotswolds were a favorite place when we visited England. Not sure we made it to this town, however. We do tend to go to the villages rather than the big cities. For we both love villages.

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  12. Thanks Chris & Martha. That puddle one was one of the best as was Alice's wedding!

    Martha, it is doubtful that you would have visited this village as quite an effort is needed despite it being near London. If you had, I'm sure you would remember it - make sure you do next time!

    Johnson

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