Has Broadchurch turned West Dorset into a cultural haven?

Award-winning television crime drama Broadchurch has gripped the nation since its conception in 2013. Over three series, viewers have been enraptured by the fictional town and its gripping mysteries. Despite the dark and mysterious narrative of each series, the West Coastline of Dorset where much of the drama was filmed has been dubbed the star of the show. The majority of outdoor shots were filmed in Clevedon, near Bristol, and West Bay, near Bridport in Dorset. In particular, the glorious golden cliff infamous for where the body of Danny Latimer was found in series one is along the Jurassic Coast in West Bay and has become an iconic landmark. The coast itself offers guided walks, tours and fossil hunts and boasts a unique ‘walk through time’ feature which showcases three Dinosaur periods: the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous.

“The production’s trump card is clearly the extraordinary Jurassic Coast. I hope we’ve captured the beauty, magic and mystery of the Dorset landscape.” – Chris Chibnall, Writer of Broadchurch, 2013

Searches for accommodation in Bridport went up by 67% after the series one finale and rose again by 161% during season two, the increase being dubbed the “Broadchurch effect”. East Dorset, home to cities Bournemouth and Poole, is arguably where one would assume to be the heart of Dorset’s culture. The popularity of Broadchurch has helped to redefine this notion.

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West Bay Beach courtesy of Visit Dorset

So what is about the idyllic beach location that has proved a hit with tourists? Other than the evident beauty of the scenery, of course.

Only a stone’s throw away from Bridport is the picturesque seaside town of Lyme Regis which offers multiple water sports. Alongside various boat tours, when the sea is calm it is recommended to try a paddle boat tour or hire a kayak. The town also features a 700-year-old working mill centred on a medieval courtyard alongside art galleries and creative artisanal businesses. A charitable organisation assists in preserving the ancient building for future generations as it stands as an asset to West Dorset’s heritage.

Here you can also find the Lyme Regis Museum, built on the site of former home of fossilist Mary Anning, and features information and artefacts regarding the town’s maritime history and geology. The wonderful Sir David Attenborough referred to the latter as “a delightful and remarkable museum, a jewel.” If it’s good enough for David Attenborough then it’s good enough for me. Although the museum is currently closed for refurbishment until July 2017, they are still running fossil walks, town walks, and multiple other events to keep the spirit alive until it reopens.

West Dorset features multiple historical houses, churches and gardens, so it’s unsurprising that it sees a lot of filming for periodic dramas and films (‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’, ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’, and the major film adaptation of ‘Emma’, to name a few). From Sherborne Castle and its 400 years of history, to the 15th century Athelhampton House and its Grade I listed garden, or Sherborne Abbey which was developed from a Saxon Cathedral in AD 705. There are a multitude of sites to choose from which help to maintain the county’s prevalence in British historical culture, including many linked with the National Trust.

An activity that particularly caught my eye is the opportunity to walk with llamas in Beaminster. The pursuit allows children and adults alike to venture through West Dorset’s countryside alongside the creatures – a slightly different experience than walking alone. It’s certainly not an activity I have come across elsewhere, nor is it anything I noticed when watching Broadchurch, but I’d definitely give it a go.

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Photo courtesy of Visit Dorset

Personally, I think West Dorset was already a cultural haven. Thanks to the attention it has received from Broadchurch, the picturesque location has seen a huge spike in tourism and now many more visitors are appreciating the beauty and culture of the place, whether as a day trip or a holiday destination.