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On the trail of David Tennant and Olivia Colman on Dorset's stunning Jurassic Coast
Ali Wood went in search of DI Hardy's blue chalet and the cast's favourite ice cream kiosk in West Bay
By Ali Wood / RadioTimes / Travel / 2017.02.27
The show's writer, Chris Chibnall, describes Broadchurch as a "love letter to the scenery of the Jurassic Coast". The cliffs, the sea and the beach all play key roles in the story.
Here's how to relive the drama while exploring Dorset's dramatic scenery.
Bridport – where the cast stayed
Most of the cast stayed in the arty market town of Bridport in a 16th century hotel called The Bull while filming series two, including David Tenant, Olivia Colman and – as I discovered from housekeeping – Will Mellor, who stayed in my very room (203).
Matthew Gravelle, who played Joe Miller, stayed elsewhere: he couldn’t be seen in the same hotel as the cast, as people would realise he’d be returning for series two.
The hotel hosted wrap parties in the ballroom, laid on early breakfasts and late-night deli boards for the cast, and fended off fans who snuck into the courtyard. While all the cast were approachable, and happy to share a drink with staff and guests, it was Olivia Colman who seemed to win everyone over.
“She was so friendly, and just like her on-screen character,” said receptionist Katy Laver. “Ditsy in a way, but clever, too.”
“They were all really nice,” added waitress Katherine. “Olivia was friendly, and so was David, although he tended to wear a cap and keep himself to himself a bit more.”
One of the highlights of Dorset's social calendar is Bridport Carnival in August. Local Di Thomas explained that when the mayor dropped out of the evening torchlit procession, Olivia Colman jumped in, together with James D’Arcy, who played villain Lee Ashworth. The actors led thousands of people down from Bridport to West Bay, where they lit a bonfire to mark the end of the Bridport Carnival.
“She was just wonderful. She loved it,” said Di. “None of us could believe it when we saw who was leading it.”
Although the historical market town doesn’t actually feature in Broadchurch, writer Chris Chibnall is from Bridport, and has gone from being a likeable ordinary guy to a local hero (I met his plumber and waitress, among others). His homage to the Dorset Coast includes subtle references to the county’s most famous author novelist and poet, Thomas Hardy. For example, Tennant’s character is called DI Hardy.
I asked Di Thomas whether Chibnall took inspiration for the plot from the residents of Bridport. “Gosh, no. Not at all," she exclaimed. "We’re a really happy community. What the show did do for the town is illustrate just how beautiful this part of the coast is. We feel really proud.”
West Bay – the beach scenes
Half an hour's walk from Bridport is the fishing village of West Bay, where most of Broadchurch’s beach scenes were filmed. In series two, it's the location of Jocelyn Knight’s house, the beach where Jocelyn meets defence lawyer Sharon Bishop, and the blue chalet by the water where DI Hardy lives. In series one, it’s where Danny’s body is found and where Beth Latimer goes jogging.
West Bay is tiny – just a handful of shops, cafés and hotels. It was mostly used for exteriors. The high street and many of the interior shots were actually filmed in Clevedon near Bristol.
The newsagents and the Sea Brigade Hall
West Bay's Harbour News doubles for the newsagents in series one and business has been booming ever since the show aired. Tim Attrill, whose father owns the shop, explained that they’d had customers from New Zealand, Germany, Holland and Denmark – quite a contrast from the newsagents in Broadchurch, which was run into the ground when he became a murder suspect.
Seeing the nearby Old Methodist Church, which was dressed as the Sea Brigade Hall for the show, reminded me of the frightening mob scene in series one,
Jocelyn's clifftop home
After taking a picture of the blue chalet where DI Hardy lives in series two, I climbed the coastal path to the home of lawyer Jocelyn, played by Charlotte Rampling and stopped at the bench where eccentric psychic Steve Connelly, played by Will Mellor, sat. The views were breathtaking. Why on earth did Jocelyn keep her curtains shut?
Back down on the seafront, I stopped at this kiosk, which has run by the same lady for 43 years. Charlotte Rampling bought tea here and other cast and crew almost ate her out of ice cream. They’re made in the New Forest and appear in the first episode of series two.
I passed the Ellipse Café, whose interior featured in series one, and stopped to look at the Folly, which provided the exterior for the police station. I then walked along the pretty East Pier, where, in the final episode of series one, Hardy and Miller discussed their future with the memorable "former detective club" line.
From here, there is a superb view of Harbour Cliff Beach – but don't get too close to the cliff-edge, there's a stomach-churning drop and the grass grows right to the edge.
I noticed two coastguards having a coffee at the kiosk. "Once you go over there, there’s no coming back,” one of them said. It turned out he was Chris Chibnall’s plumber, and the other was the son of the film producer who made the Nick Berry series Harbour Lights, also filmed in West Bay. “It’s just one of those parts of the coast that there’s so much natural beauty it lends itself to film."
The beach where Danny’s body was found
The carpark for Harbour Cliff Beach, where Danny Latimer’s body was found, was used as the production headquarters for Broadchurch, and the little café nearby, The Seagull, did a roaring trade serving the crew and onlookers.
“We were running at capacity,” said the owner Christina. “We could only just cope. It wasn’t just the crew but all the tourists who kept coming down here to watch the filming!”
Christina met quite a few of the cast and told me Pauline Quirke was lovely. She’d often meet her walking her dog, which was the actual dog in the show. Apparently Pauline fell in love with West Bay so much she’s bought a flat on the seafront. I can understand why: the beach is breathtaking, as are the spectacular burnt sienna-coloured cliffs.
East along the beach sits the Freshwater Beach Holiday Park, the setting of the caravan owned by creepy Susan Wright (Pauline Quirke).
Last, but not least… the murder hut!
During my day spent pestering the good people of West Bay, I hadn’t once come across the murder hut. This was baffling, as it was surely just up on the clifftop where DI Hardy went walking, and Pauline did the cleaning?
But when I reached the top (calves aching), the hut wasn’t there. I returned to my favourite ice cream kiosk and discovered its location was Eype, a mile to the west.
As promised, there was the pretty blue hut where Danny spent his last moments in the company of evil Joe Miller. It’s also the backdrop of the final cast photo – everyone alive again and smiling.