We caught up with Margaret Mitchell, the show’s producer, who’s as fond of the drama’s dramatic Northumberland backdrop as she is of Blethyn’s detective.
“I think there’s a real appetite to see dramas set in areas other than London,” explains Mitchell. “I absolutely love Northumberland. I think it’s beautiful.”
The series also uses Newcastle as a character in the drama. “The backdrop in the series informs the choice of colour palette we use,” explains Mitchell.
“Vera’s costume colours and the autumnal tones are influenced by the countryside. There are blues and grays in her overall costume palette. Vera is a very large character and performs in a large, rugged landscape. It’s great to see the countryside and the actors play out their characters.”
Below Mitchell shares her five favourite locations…
1. Blyth and Whitley Bay
The small town of Blyth, south of the river on the east coast, is real Vera territory. “This section of the coastline has these amazing turbines out to sea,” explains Mitchell. “It’s a very angular, metallic world out there with a desolate landscape. It’s quite moody. The turbines are pretty striking with the landscape. It’s harsh coastal countryside”.
The Rendezvous Café, at nearby Whitley Bay, is also regularly used as a filming location. “The place has distinctive windows”, explains Mitchell, “It’s a timeless area, there’s a big statue just behind the priory where we shot the episode Sandancers [series 2] and that’s a well-known landmark too.”
Well known locally, this stretch of coastline runs south from Newcastle to Hartlepool. The beaches contain huge rock stacks that have been separated from the mainland and appeared in episode two of this series. “The mainland has broken away and eroded,” says Mitchell, “you’re left with coastline and these big monolithic stacks of rocks that you can walk right up to, just 50 metres away. It’s very dramatic.
3. Rothbury, Northumberland
Recognisable from the Silent Voices episode in series two, this quaint little town was chosen for its natural beauty and river. “This is where we filmed the wild water swimmer,” explains Mitchell, “We arrived very early in the morning, on an October day when it was very misty. The sun was rising and shone through the water – that was particularly beautiful. It’s a great place for walking. When you’re here, you’re completely struck by the expansive land, the light and the skies. You can see the vast panorama of countryside, the light just fills your eyes. It’s incredible.”
Here visitors will find pure open countryside, wilderness and moorlands as far as the eye can see. “This village is more on the wild side,” says Mitchell, who filmed scenes from episode Young Gods [series 3] here. “We were there on a frosty morning and there was a smattering of snow overnight, it was so bleak and so cold. That was just a minor amount of snow, so in the wintertime the roads must be impassable. But what we got out of it was amazing.”
5. Newcastle city centre
This northern town has a strong identity and is a mixture of old and new, and it’s where Vera carries out many of her investigations. “The city has got great bridges that span across the river,” says Mitchell. “We have used the Sage building, which is an amazing-looking structure, and the Millennium Bridge in the background of shots, as well as the Victorian buildings in the older parts of Newcastle.”
This article was first published in 2015