Riding

Maggie Smith in a sidecar?

Now Downton Abbey’s finished its first season, I can spill the beans.  You probably noticed lots of splendid vintage machinery running around the village of Downton – Model A Fords, the odd Rolls Royce. But one vehicle that never made the screen was a certain Ural 650 motorcycle and sidecar combination. It didn’t even get as far as the cutting room floor, poor old thing.

That’s probably because it’s rather too new and, despite living right in the middle of Bampton, (the place where the village scenes of Downton Abbey are shot) it doesn’t really fit with the Granthams’ automotive proclivities. It’s not posh enough to ferry the Dowager Countess but not as reassuringly bourgeois as Matthew Crawley’s bicycle either. In fact, the only person it would – perhaps – appeal to is the new chauffeur up at the Big House, who seems to have left-leaning tendencies. That’s always useful for a bike and sidecar – particularly a Russian one.

There’s been a lot of fuss about the anachronisms in Downton, but I can – categorically – lay one of the accusations to rest. The Daily Mail suggested there were double yellow lines on the set, right outside my cottage. Like hell there are. Bampton is fortunately free of such things. It’s a civilised place, not entirely unlike Downton.

Apparently, no-one’s used Bampton as a filmset before, but now, despite the rumoured historical irregularities, we’re on the map. Already, we’ve had another company around filming a nineteenth century murder mystery. There are rumours of more and bigger productions too, but I’d have to kill you if I told you.

It’s been lovely having the Downton filmcrew in the village. As the series was being filmed I was never quite sure what I’d come home to. It could be Mr Bates rolling a ciggie on the pavement outside, or giving the housemaids hell:

And if it wasn’t the cast hanging around outside the cottage between takes, it was the production crew drinking coffee in the kitchen. Not that we minded – they were lovely.  They really took trouble to get involved in the village – and rumour has it – were planning on entering a team for the village quiz. But I never did manage to persuade anyone out in the outfit.

So, just to let the Downton crew and cast know – if you fancy a ride, just call by.

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