Unlike most crime dramas, Vera makes you want to visit DCI Stanhope’s patch.
That’s because viewers are often treated to the sight of lovely scenery as well as the grisly stuff. While going about her business, Brenda Blethyn’s detective likes to get out into the great outdoors and enjoy the rugged beauty of the Northumberland coast and countryside.
For series seven, she also needed her sea legs. In episode one, DCI Stanhope is called in to investigate the mysterious death of a wildlife ranger whose body is discovered on the shore of a remote island, a bird sanctuary. This island is one of the Farne Islands, which lie two or three miles off the Northumberland coast.
“It was beautiful on the Farne Islands, even though we were bombed by the birds who pooped on us,” says Brenda Blethyn. “But we must consider that lucky because there was quite a lot of it! It was lovely seeing the seals close up.
“We also got to visit the Longstone Lighthouse, which is where Grace Darling saved the shipwrecked sailors by making several journeys out in a rowing boat. Vera would probably have attempted that. And most likely would have perished. But she would have had a go.”
So how are her sea legs? “I’ve got good sea legs. Like Vera, I grew up at the seaside. But unlike Vera’s dad, my dad didn’t go pinching eggs out on a boat in the middle of the night. So Vera would be used to that.
“The crossing to the Farne Islands can be quite choppy. Our first assistant director Natalie was like a Bond girl, riding pillion on a high-speed jet ski. Flying across the bay.”
The Farne Islands are home to many species of seabird including puffins and grey seals. There are 28 rocky isles altogether but many of them are submerged at high tide. The National Trust looks after them and boat trips sailing round the islands run all year (weather-permitting) from the village of Seahouses. From April to October, visitors can land on one or two of the islands.
Blethyn believes Vera owes its success to Northumberland and the wider North East. “The North East is the best-kept secret in the country. It’s absolutely beautiful.
“And when you know the history of the place with the loss of shipbuilding and the coal mining industries. Imagine the heartache that went with losing all of that. We’ve been experiencing it with the steel industry more recently. There was an episode in the last series where we were filming at Redcar on the day they pulled the plugs on a steel plant. It was heartbreaking.
“So it’s nice there is lots of film and television being made in the North East now, giving the area a much higher profile. I’m told tourism has increased by 25 per cent since Vera was aired. It also gives many local people work. A lot of the crew on Vera are local.”
For more information on the Farne Islands, go to: nationaltrust.org.uk/farne-islands
Radio Times Travel holidays
Beamish, Whitby and the North York Moors Railway, three nights from £279pp. Discover a region of stunning scenery and fascinating history. On this wonderful, great-value weekend break you’ll visit Whitby, step back in time at Beamish Open Air Museum, and ride the steam-hauled North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Click here for more details and to book
Autumn Gold in the English Lakes, two nights from £185pp. From the historic streets of Chester to the awesome beauty of the Lakes clothed in their autumnal splendour, there really is something for everyone on this ever-popular weekend break. A cruise on Lake Windermere and a trip on the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway are just two highlights awaiting you. Click here for more details and to book