19 November 1999

A DALES VILLAGE – JUST FOR SHOW

NORTH Yorkshire has a new village, complete with Post Office/Shop, obligatory pub and village hall and all set in a lush landscape, writes Michael Edwards.

It is the first traditional village to be put on Yorkshire soil for over 100 years.

However, it could be described as a well populated ghost village. Knowing of its existence is one thing – finding it is another kettle of fish because you wont find it on maps. Officially it doesnt exist. Why? Because this is Emmerdale.

Comprising of 30 buildings, the entire 5.61ha (14 acre) set was built at a cost of over £3.5m in just 22 weeks, despite bad weather, and has everything except a church. The dwellings are not just shells, either. Set on concrete bases and timber-framed, each is finished off with real limestone quarried especially for the task. Whilst some cottages house make-up and other facilities, most are used for filming both exteriors and interiors. Zoe Tates house also has a fully maintained veterinary surgery.

Locally, the project was quite controversial and the company had to explain that the buildings they wanted to erect in the green belt would be attractive and appear as though they had been established for many years. To lessen the visual impact a site opposite their existing location at Stub House Farm, home to the Dingle family, was chosen.

Filming in Esholt, the village where exteriors had been shot for 18 years, had become very difficult – fans literally came by the coach load. A purpose-built location was the only solution.

&#42 Architectural styles

"My producer wanted a Dales village which Esholt is not," explained designer, Michael Long. "I spent weeks going round the Dales looking at architectural styles and I have a filing cabinet full of photographs of windows, doors, walls, chimney pots, gates, weather vanes even TV aerials which I used as reference. We employed various local crafts people to make gates, weather vanes and drystone walls."

Location gardener, Alison Barrie is kept busy tending the 28 front and back gardens. "Everything green has been brought in from the grass to several mature oaks which we imported from Germany because we couldnt find them in the UK."

Emmerdale Farm itself, a typical hill farm and used for exteriors only, is occupied by shepherd Hamish Scott and his family and whenever sheep are required, they are usually his.

All other stock like chickens and the Dingles pigs are provided by a couple of recognised local farmers to reduce contamination risk.

Construction was held up due to the discovery of watermains under the site and the land above the Victorian cast iron pipes was reinforced and a major overhead powerline which serves the nearby estate village was redirected partly underground.

They had a lot of trouble with birds in the early days. The cottage eaves werent sealed and so house sparrows and starlings would enter the buildings looking for nest sites, causing problems with alarms and smoke machines. Chimney smoke is actually produced at the flick of a switch via several theatrical smoke machines.

&#42 Graveyard essential

They have managed without a church on site, but a graveyard was essential, says Michael Long: "The one thing that soaps do very regularly is kill off characters. Our graveyard anchors one side of the village nicely to a belt of trees adjacent to the village hall and war memorial, which has a bridged stream nearby."

There is a conservation aspect in Emmerdale, too. Two large barns at Stub House Farm, which were in a dangerous state were repaired by Yorkshire Television at a cost of £80,000. Two existing derelict cottages, home to the Cairns family for six months, were made habitable and handed back to the estate as a goodwill gesture.

A large wild flower meadow was being cut during my visit and throughout the summer the field attracted several pairs of nesting skylarks as well as providing nectar for visiting butterflies. The graveyard, too, attracts wildlife with breeding partridge and pheasants. Buzzard and even red kite have been seen around Emmerdale.