Freelance writer and journalist based in west London.
Published February 5th 2014
See the Vicar of Dibley's Village
It's easy to see why Turville is one of Britain's most popular television and film locations. Nestled in the Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire and around an hour's drive from London, the village is postcard pretty, with many of its cottages dating back to the 16th century. In addition, the surrounding countryside is breathtaking, with myriad well-signposted paths and sections of the Chiltern Way to keep walkers, ramblers, day-trippers and horses and riders happy for hours.
Turville Village, nestling in the Turville Valley, Buckinghamshire
'Goodnight, Mr.Tom', 'Midsomer Murders', 'Went the Day Well', 'Little Britain', 'Lewis', 'Marple', 'Foyles War', 'Jonathan Creek', 'An Education' and the 2009 adaptation of 'The Day of the Triffids' all contain outdoor scenes that were shot in Turville. But perhaps the most notable is the sitcom 'The Vicar of Dibley'. Turville plays the part of the fictional village of Dibley, and the church that Dawn French's vicar looks after is Turville's church of St Mary the Virgin. It's simply renamed St Barnabus for the show.
Church of St Mary the Virgin, or St Barnabus on 'Dibley' filming days
In the series, the tiny cottage by the entrance to the church doubles as the vicar's home. On my visit, the sun was just in the wrong place for me to get a decent picture of it, so that's an incentive for you to go and have a look for yourself! But all the cottages around the church and churchyard are delightful.
The cast of 'The Vicar of Dibley' reportedly enjoyed cups of tea and chats with the villagers in breaks during filming, and some of the locals have been extras in various productions that have been made in Turville over the years. Some former residents remember moving props around in handcarts for 'Went the Day Well'. Generally, they don't get that excited when a film crew drops by as they're so used to it, but I'm assured they're always friendly.
More of the village cottages and behind them on Cobstone Hill, Cobstone Windmill
If you look above the houses behind the village of Turville, you'll see Cobstone Hill and atop it, the 18th century Cobstone Windmill. This is another building that has had starring roles on the big screen. Most famously, it was used in the 1968 film 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang', as the home of Caractacus Potts and his family. It was this film that saw the mill be cosmetically restored, as it had suffered vandalism for some years before. In 1971 it was purchased by actress Hayley Mills and her first husband Roy Boulting, who fully restored it. Since then the windmill has been privately owned and used as a location for the likes of 'The New Avengers' starring Joanna Lumley and the 1996 film '101 Dalmatians'.
The windmill really belongs to the neighbouring village of Ibstone, but everyone seems happy for it to be shared. However, because it's privately owned, you can't get close to it. Bear this in mind if you decide to climb from Turville village to the top of Cobstone Hill in the hope of seeing where Dick Van Dyke et al drove their fine four-fendered friend. The most direct route to the property is extremely steep and can be slippery underfoot if it's been raining. There is an alternative, slightly more user-friendly path, which curves around and back to the house. You won't see much if any of the house, but the hike is definitely worth doing as the views over Turville and the Chilterns are spectacular, no matter what the light is like. If you don't choose to ascend the hill, do take the time to walk any of the paths that start and finish in Turville. You'll be rewarded with rolling hills, quaint farms, charming woods and lungs full of fresh air.
Some of the stunning countryside surrounding Turville Village
After your exertions, the Bull and Butcher Inn in Turville gives you another chance to follow in the steps of many an actor who's dropped in to this historic pub for a pint as part of a real take, in between takes or after a take! Built in 1550, it's a listed grade II building. The menu has been known to boast the likes of a Midsomer Burger and a Dibley pudding.
Turville is without doubt beautiful. It is also an extremely popular place to visit, so you won't have it to yourself unless you visit midweek on a dreary, wet day; moreover don't expect to see the village as purely as you've seen it on screen. In fine weather, in every season, cars will be parked all the way along the roads, right in front of the lovely houses and you'll be one of hundreds of visitors. But that's because they know what you do - it's worth the trip and an excellent day out.