A classic Doctor Who location – Winspit Quarry, Dorset.
Being a child of the 80s and the younger sister of a child of the 70s, I have fortunately had a strong upbringing (or brainwashing – depending on your point of view) on what is now considered classic British sci-fi. We’re talking Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, Sapphire and Steel, Space 1999, The Prisoner, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, The Tripods to name a few – shows which are fondly (and for the most part – wrongly) remembered for the wobbly sets, silver painted wellies and the imaginative use of quarries as alien landscapes. The last of which is even a TV trope.
One summer I was down in Dorset and staying a tiny town called Wareham. My main reason to be down there was to visit Bovington Tank Museum and also Clouds Hill, the last home of T.E. Lawrence (I may do a future blog about visits to sites related to Lawrence of Arabia).
When planning my trip I had remembered a reference to Wareham in a book by Bob Fischer called “Wiffle Leaver to Full”. He’d spent a year travelling the country attending all manner of geeky events and conventions. One such event was an annual water pistol fight between Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy fans and Blake’s 7 fans. They’d met members of the group at Wareham Station and headed to a quarry which was used as filming location in the seventies. http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/dorset/hi/people_and_places/arts_and_culture/newsid_8159000/8159280.stm
I found this excellent site http://www.doctorwholocations.net/locations/winspitquarry which confirmed my theory that I could sneak a trip to an actual quarry used in the original, classic Doctor Who. My brother has never been jealous of my travels until I told him I was going to be visiting Winspit Quarry – he knew instantly of the place and I had to promise to take a lot of pictures (and I even ended up taking a 360 degree panoramic film!).
I got the bus to the tiny village of Worth Matravers. There’s a pub, a village green and pond…and that’s it. There wasn’t even a bus back – I had an OS map and sturdy walking boots – I would have to walk a mile or so towards Swanage to get on a main bus route back to civilisation.
But it was worth it. I never though you could have sentimental attachment to quarry but when the new series of Doctor Who finally filmed in one in 2005 – for ‘The Impossible Planet / Satan Pit’ – fans rejoiced – it felt like it was finally ‘proper Who’.
Winspit Quarry was used for two Doctor Who episodes and also an episode of Blake’s 7. The most famous and memorable of these was the 1979 story ‘Destiny of the Daleks’ where it is used as Skaro – planet of the Daleks.
Only a short walk from the green the quarry is easy to find, perched right on the edge of the coast (it’s just along the coast line from the rather more famous Durdell Door and Lulworth Cove). The quarry has been disused since the 1940s and there are remains of industrial buildings that were derelict when the BBC were filming. They’re in an even worse state now, through time and exposure to the elements (and no doubt a bit of vandalism as well). You can go into the caves should you wish but frankly they looked either too unsafe or too dirty to make it worth venturing into the darkness. The iconic pile of fallen rocks is easy to find, with the large plinth the TARDIS once perched upon easily climbed up on. So unchanged it’s not hard to imagination the Doctor and Romana stumbling over rocks and Daleks appearing around corners…
I saw only two other people as I was leaving, it’s not a tourist trap by any means. But with the blue sea, blue sky and stark exposed rock it’s quite a lovely place. It was probably the closest experience I’ve had to visiting Skellig Michael in a sense – it’s somewhere I wouldn’t even have considered going to had it not been a filming location, and it’s a more rewarding an experience because of its remoteness.
After taking probably more photos than necessary, I returned up the path and paid a visit to the lovely pub back in Worth Matravers – The Square & Compass Pub – famous for its real ales and fossil museum. (My kind of pub!) I like to think the fourth Doctor, Tom Baker would no doubt have enjoyed a pint or two while filming Destiny of the Daleks. As I enjoyed my pint in the sunshine I was pleased that I had made the trip to such an unexpectedly beautiful place purely because it was used in an old TV show as an alien planet.