The campaign to Save Home Fires was more than a week old. Having spent a week immersed in thinking, tweeting and talking about this excellent series I made a decision. I would visit Great Paxford to gauge local opinion, take photos and raise awareness of all the wonderful things so many of the #savehomefires community were doing on the programme’s behalf.
And also (if I’m honest) I know there are two rather nice ice-cream farms in the local area so I wasn’t being entirely selfless. And cake would be involved.
I’m a Cheshire girl, pretty much born and bred, so I know the area surrounding Bunbury fairly well. I hadn’t, however, visited Bunbury itself before. The online petition to save the show (started by Kerryn Groves on change.org) had reached a party-popping 21,000 that very morning. So with the noble aim of having an ice-cream – no hang on, sorry- raising awareness of the fantastic campaign to #savehomefires I set off with a fellow Home Fires watcher to visit Great Paxford.
St. Boniface Church
Our first stop was at the beautiful pinky red stone built church on the edge of the village. I felt superior in my historical knowledge that it is pronounced “Bonny Fass” and not “Bony Face” (following an embarrassing moment when I was loudly corrected many years ago). As we approached we could hear the organ being played inside which added to the atmosphere.
The inside of the church is very impressive. We had unwittingly arrived the morning of a wedding and preparations were in full swing to ready the church for the ceremony. I spoke to David (one of the church wardens) who welcomed us and I explained the reason for our visit.
“It’s very disappointing,” he said. “It was left on a bit of a cliffhanger. I’d be happy for it to return and of course it involved a lot of the village as extras as well.”
David described how the crew filmed from the church tower to obtain aerial shots for series 1 and how they were “hanging out of the tower with cameras!” He said that on one occasion one of the roads in the village was closed for a few days to set up and film a scene.
The Wing Commander wedding scene had been filmed over a day and tracking had been laid down one side of the church to allow the cameras to smoothly glide up and down.
Shortly afterwards another David from the village arrived and he kindly allowed me to take his photograph with my Bunbury #savehomefires sign.
“Both series were great fun. In the last series I was working with stunt actors for the fight scene with Marek and Pat. All the clothes were provided and they were all original items from the time. They were very good with their attention to detail. I was given an old tweed coat and I was one of the villagers who had to drag the soldier off.”
Apparently the stunt actors were very good and really went for it in the scene! I asked David how he felt about the proposed axing of Home Fires.
“Extremely disappointed that there’s no renewal.”
I asked whether this was the case for all of the villagers, bearing in mind that roads are closed etc.
“As with everything there is a small group of people in the village who don’t like the disruption. Some were unhappy with the cherry pickers and things but the production team learnt from that. The first series closed down more but it was much better the second series.”
David also told me that he and his band were the ringers in the bell ringing scenes as the crew were keen that the programme was as authentically local as it could have been.
We left them to the wedding preparations and paused on the way out to look at some of the literature the church displays for visitors to Bunbury. It includes a map to the filming locations and a folder about the series.
Outside in the churchyard and this is the grave where Pat and Marek left their notes (and sneaky Bob hid behind a memorial!) We didn’t look to see if Marek had left one more note before he boarded the troop truck, but we did find this note instead…
The Campbell residence and Pat and Bob’s cottage (the Dysart Arms)
Just over the road from the church is the Dysart Arms pub, also known as Dr. Campbell’s house and surgery. The pub is actually home to two locations for filming – the front is used as the Doctor’s house and the side entrance of the pub is used as the exterior for Pat and Bob’s cottage.
On the day of our visit the wedding party were in the garden of the pub in their finery. Squint your eyes shut a bit and use your imagination and you could almost imagine it was the Wing Commander and friends before tying the knot with Teresa!
The building itself had scrubbed up marvellously and only the faintest hint of engine oil and petrol in the air gave any indication to the recent traumatic events…
I popped into the Dysart Arms to have a quick word with the pub staff. Despite being busy with the wedding party, Dot very kindly found a moment to tell me her views on the non-renewal of Home Fires:
“I think it’s disgusting,” she said vehemently. “When it was cancelled it was such a shock.”
I asked if they were aware of the online petition started by Kerryn and that it had reached 21,000 in just over a week. Yes, she said, she’d signed it through Facebook.
I left by the side door (Pat and Bob’s front door!) I know Bob is suspicious and paranoid but I hadn’t realised he had wired in a CCTV camera #BlameItOnBob.
Just over the road by the church is another location from Home Fires: Spencer’s family home:
Tilly’s Coffee Shop
By now my friend was demanding her fee for holding the sign in several pictures so we headed through the village to Tilly’s, Bunbury’s award-winning coffee shop. The minute we walked in we were greeted very pleasantly and made to feel very welcome. It was busy with local villagers, mums and tots, visitors like us and cyclists.
Despite this the members of staff were friendly and helpful. I can recommend the coffee, hot chocolate and cakes (which we had to sample for journalistic reasons naturally). It has a vintage feel to it and lovely touches like the patterned napkins and crockery.
I asked Melanie for her thoughts about Home Fires’ cancellation.
“We were really disappointed. It’s a good programme and it brought revenue to the village and also the coffee shop. We have lots of people coming in to see where it was filmed. I want to know what happens next!”
Melanie, Tilly’s Coffee Shop, Bunbury. Unofficial office to the cast and crew of Home Fires (I can see why!)
I had read that the cast and crew were regulars at Tilly’s during filming.
“Oh they were lovely, they used here as an unofficial office as we have free WiFi!”
Melanie took a promotional sign to display in the window and we headed back through the village.
The centre of the village
A number of the filming locations are clustered around the centre of the village. I looked for Bryn at the bus stop and tried to catch a glimpse of the staff at the Telephone Exchange:
The house next door to the telephone exchange is used as the Great Paxford post office, complete with fake front to cover the window.
And just over the road I saw some victory rolls bobbing and bandages being flourished through the window of the Great Paxford Village Hall…
The Brindsley’s butcher shop (R. F. Burrows & Sons)
Also in the centre of the village is the location of our favourite butchers, the Brindsleys. We love Bryn and Mim!
R. F. Burrows is an award-winning butcher shop in Bunbury and it stocks an array of meats, preserves (including JAM!) and the Tracklements range which also includes the SPITFIRE chilli mustard which made me chuckle.
After detangling myself from the hanging chain screen (embarrassing!) we went inside to make our purchases and spoke to Tony who is the father of the owner.
“Yes, it’s very disappointing. We would definitely want it to continue. We’ve signed the petition!”
We bought my jam (to stock up since I sent a jar to ITV) and some marinated meat, left a poster and went down the lane to the next location.
The Horse and Groom pub (the Nags Head)
This is the filming location for the Horse and Groom pub (where Pat and Marek Novotny first met!) Spot that they have left the sign up saying ‘Horse and Groom’ and also that over the road you can see windows still taped up as they were for filming.
This is the scene of David the extra’s starring role in the scuffle and also where Annie locked eyes with Teresa on her bicycle…
I popped inside with a poster and spoke to Henry.
“Oh yes, I’d be keen to have the series recommissioned. Was I filmed? No, they wouldn’t pay me enough!”
I left him looking for some sellotape to stick the poster in the window.
Pat and Marek’s canal lock location
The canal location is a 5 minute drive away from the centre of the village. It was quite touching to see it as I looked down from sneaky Bob’s vantage point on the bridge. (Was that the end of one of his cigarettes discarded nearby?)
I re-traced Pat’s steps down the path below and stood where the pair had their meetings.
It’s a beautiful spot, very quiet and peaceful.
Other village locations
The school is located away from the centre of the village, but I didn’t go to see it or take photographs as it is the village school and I visited on a school day.
The Vicarage is on the edge of the village but is away from the main road.
I’m fairly certain I drove past the farm setting, but again it is on private property away from the main road.
The Bunbury village website has a Home Fires section (and a link to the petition on their home page!) which can be found here:
One more encounter
On the outskirts of the village was the Anglo Welsh Narrowboat Holiday Company. I took the opportunity of dropping in to see if they could display a poster. As I explained what I was doing and handed over the poster the member of staff said loudly “It’s not RIGHT!”
I waited nervously, eyeing up the exit thinking that she didn’t agree with the campaign, but she carried on to say with feeling that it’s not right that the series will not continue. I firmly agreed – the poster will be going up in the window!
I’ll be back…
Bunbury is a lovely village with real character and appeal. I left having really enjoyed my visit and I will definitely return, especially to visit Tilly’s Coffee Shop again!
The overwhelming response I had from the people I spoke to was that they were proud of the Home Fires series and their association with it and were sorely disappointed that it has not yet been recommissioned. Home Fires is good for tourism and helps with revenue for local businesses.
To renew it would delight the fans and benefit the village. So I’ll say it again to the powers that be:
Please recommission Home Fires!
And if you haven’t signed the petition yet, please do so and spread the word!
Disclaimer: I am not a trained journalist so any errors or omissions are entirely down to me and not intentional!