The Solitary Rambler

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Filmed June 2002
Post-production completed 31st August 2002
Latest revised edition 1st February 2016
Running time 64 minutes
A lovely summer evening walk through the scenic Soudley valley . A drink at a local pub with an old friend in the nearby village of Littledean . What could possibly go wrong with such a pleasant evening? Hungover, dazed and bruised I wander through the Forest of Dean , without much memory of what occurred the previous evening. I have no idea as to how I got there, or where I am meant to be going. Why do I feel so paranoid, and who is the evil looking man constantly appearing in my mind? My anxieties become much stronger as I slowly realise what happened the previous night, and how this terrifying incident is affecting me.....
Filmed in the  Forest of Dean  in the county of  Gloucestershire . Locations include  Whitecroft , Kidnalls Inclosure,  Pillowell Yorkley , Blackpool Bridge, Moseley Green, Mallards Pike Lake, Staple Edge,  Littledean  and  Soudley .
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Background and production details
One Friday night towards the end of 1985, I was out with a friend on our weekly pub-crawl in Bristol . The journey back home after closing time turned out to be the most terrifying experience in my life. We were confronted by a gang of thugs, who for absolutely no reason, decided to chase after us. My friend managed to get away, but I fell over.

I have no more memory of the incident, i.e. whether I was pushed over by the thugs or whether I simply tripped; how I came to be at my friend’s house a little later; how my forehead was bleeding. This incident had a long-lasting effect on me. I was extremely wary of people when I was going out, and I refused to walk home after pub closing time, I would only travel in a taxi.

I wanted to make a “Solitary Rambler” film based on this incident, and the way in which it affected me. The difference would be that the story would take place in the  Forest of Dean  as opposed to Bristol.

The next stage was to find a group of thugs. my friend Steve was cast as the leading thug, and the two other thugs who were cast wore hooded tracksuit tops. This was to conceal their identity because they had both appeared in previous stories! I think it actually adds more impact as a result, especially the cliffhanger ending.

Nigel had shown a tape of an earlier film of “The Solitary Rambler” to his family, including his sister Mandy. She was so impressed with her brother’s role in the story that she asked if she could make an appearance in a new story. Therefore, I cast her in a small role as a barmaid in the  Rising Sun Inn  at Moseley Green. On my first visit to that pub many years ago, I remember a barmaid there being extremely rude and snooty to a group of cyclists. I wanted to create a similar scene where Mandy would be rude to me. In the end I think she is far too nice, so the scene didn’t really turn out like I had visualised it. It ends up instead with me being rude to her! It is still an effective scene though, if you can stomach my hammy acting!!

I worked hard on the post-production for several weeks, and during the process I many times wanted to throw my PC through the window!! Digital video editing is absolutely wonderful, but it is also very frustrating at times. The program is quite often slow to respond, presumably as this type of software with all its downloaded video footage and the music files I have recorded uses most of the PC’s memory.

One of the problems I discovered when I first used digital video editing was some scenes tend to slightly “freeze” or “jump”. This seemed to be a common problem, and I had no way of avoiding with the resources I had originally. However, in later years as technology has advanced this problem seems to have disappeared.

Overall I think the work was well worth it and the results from digital video editing are very impressive. The quality of the finished production looks really polished. It’s hard to imagine going back to how I used to simply edit by copying from VCR to VCR!

I used some sequences of music from Pink Floyd’s 1968 album “ A Saucerful of Secrets ” and Roger Water’s 1970 solo album “ Music from the Body ”. Both these albums remind me of the area in which this story is set, so it was essential to me that some of the music from these records was used in the film.

My own musical soundtrack consists of a variety of styles. Most of it is my newer style of atmospheric and dramatic music, but there are some other sequences of the story which contain more upbeat and jazzy scores. I even created an “eerie” version of “Melody of the Forest of Dean” for one scene of this film!
The filming
Below is a daily log of the filming. It does not include the days where I went out on my own to film scenic cutaways. This log highlights the fun and games we have when we are all out on location together!

Saturday 1st June 2002

I picked Michael up at 10 o'clock from his flat in Clifton in Bristol, and then we drove to Nigel's flat in Ashton . The arrangement was that Scott would call round at 11 o'clock, then we would all drive off to the Forest of Dean.

Whilst we were waiting for Scott to arrive, it was a perfect opportunity to begin recording the interior scenes that were set within Nigel's flat. This took about an hour to do. Therefore, by the time Scott had arrived all the interiors were in the can.

After a cup of tea at Nigel's we all set off at about 11:30 to begin recording all the exterior scenes in the Forest featuring Michael, Nigel and myself. We stopped at the Tesco supermarket in  Lydney  on the way because we all wanted to get some food supplies as we were going to be out all day. Nigel emerged from Tesco with his arms overflowing with food and drink! He was obviously a bit peckish! The funny thing about this was that it had nearly all been eaten by the time we arrived at the first location where we would commence filming!!

Our first location was Mallards Pike Lake, a beautiful spot just off the road halfway between  Blakeney  and  Parkend . As I would normally expect it was heaving with visitors.  Despite this we managed to record the scenes here without much intrusion.

We then drove to  Soudley , where the fun really began!  I wanted to film a scene at Staple-Edge Bungalows, and I warned the other three that we needed to climb a pig of a hill to get there.  Now it had been several years since I had myself walked up this hill from Upper Soudley to Staple-Edge, and I said to the others "oh, it's only a short climb up here!" Of course, the climb was a lot longer than I remembered! Nevertheless, like true professionals(?!) we all gritted our teeth and managed the climb without too much trouble. Nigel suffered badly, though! He took one look at the hill before we even started to climb it and said "I can't do this!" He had to take regular breaks on the way up, as he was panting and sounding like someone who was suffering with an asthma attack!  By the time we all reached the bungalows at the top Nigel looked as though he had been sitting in a sauna from the amount of sweat on him!!

After we had all had a chance to recover from the climb we recorded the scenes at Staple-Edge Bungalows. At this point Nigel had a real go at me for making him climb up an enormous hill just to film one shot outside a bungalow, which when played back on the TV could have been filmed anywhere! I was desperate to do what a man needs to do, so I went off behind a bush, but Scott decided to film me whilst I was doing so! Luckily I managed to put it away before he had filmed too much!!

We made our way back down the long hill into Soudley, filming one or two cutaways en route. At the foot of the hill we recorded some scenes on the road junction at the edge of Upper Soudley village. We then drove to the opposite end of the village to record all the scenes beside the lovely  Soudley Ponds . Like Mallards Pike earlier, there were loads of visitors walking around. This time it was not quite so easy to record our scenes here without intrusion. Firstly, there were several cars parked on the grass verge in front of the pond, so that slightly spoilt one of the scenes I wanted to film here. Secondly, we were recording a shot where I lean on the fence next to a bench beside the water. Here a couple of elderly walkers passed by and decided to sit on this bench for what seemed a very long time! There was no way I was going to say my lines whilst they were sat there!!

Deciding it was best to come back later to record this scene we walked along the path to record some scenes which would take place further on up beside the ponds.  It was near the end of the day by this time, and I was absolutely exhausted. This particular scene I needed to act as though I was dazed, I found I didn't need to act! I must surely get more tired than everyone else. I know all the others get tired as it's a long day when we are out filming, but I have to direct each scene, drive to each location, think about where people have to stand in each shot, work out exactly what lines have to be done in each shot, as well as remembering my own lines! I would willingly let someone else direct the next "Solitary Rambler" story for these reasons!!

After we had recorded all the scenes by the ponds we drove up to  Blaize Bailey  to record the final scenes featuring the three of us together. By this time there was less than five minutes left on the camcorder tape we had been using all day. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to take out a new tape from the boot of my car before we started walking to the Blaise Bailey viewpoint. The tape ran out as Nigel was recording his final line and before Michael could do his last line. As the scene was fairly close-up we all agreed that we could probably get away with doing these couple of shots back at the car, as there were trees there which could provide the background. Unfortunately, when we later played these scenes back though the TV, it was obvious that these final shots were filmed at a different location to Blaize Bailey. Therefore, we agreed we would redo these shots when Michael and Nigel were due to come back out with me two days later.

Sunday 2nd June 2002

I knew today was going to be a lot easier than yesterday as it was only Scott and myself going out today. Therefore, all I had to do today was think about my own lines.

Scott came round to my flat just before 12 o'clock then we set off again for the Forest of Dean. The first location today was the old railway station at  Norchard  near Lydney. I wanted to record a scene there, but it was very busy with visitors and we discovered that entry was only permitted with a pre-purchased ticket. I decided that this was not a problem as I knew I would be coming back on my own at some point to film lots of scenes here that would not require me to be in shot. The one scene where I would need to be in shot could be done later on today further on up the old railway line.

Whilst I had parked my car at the railway station car park I knew I wanted to record some scenes in the immediate area anyway. The first scene we shot was next to an electricity power station near the station. Scott thought this was particularly effective as you could hear the noise of the electricity humming through the power lines, as well as the "danger of death" sign on the railings behind where I was standing in the shot being filmed.

From here we walked up to where the electricity pylons dominate the skyline in the woods on the edge of Kidnalls Inclosure. Again, it had been several years since I had walked through the Kidnalls, and I had discovered that the footpath that climbs the hill in a parallel line with the pylons was now overgrown. Therefore, I had to scramble through brambles and stinging nettles to get the shot I wanted, stinging my arm in the process!

When we finished these scenes we walked back to the car where we drove a little further up the road to film some scenes beside the old railway line. There is a footpath, which crosses the line a short distance from Norchard. I decided we could film at this point, despite the signs saying "no trespassing on the railway"!! We didn't walk on the line anyway, just near it where the path crosses it!

Whitecroft was the next place where I parked the car. This brought back memories for Scott as we had regularly stopped at the local shop here for supplies six years earlier whilst we were recording " Confrontations in Cannop ". We recorded more railway scenes whilst we were here today, as well as featuring the aforementioned local shop in one scene.

We moved on up to  Pillowell  next. There is a football field on the edge of the village where I wanted to record a scene. Unfortunately I had difficulty in finding it whilst I was driving along the extremely narrow lanes in order to find somewhere to park. In the end I decided to record the scene further on up the village where it was easier to park.

After several short scenes in Pillowell we drove to Moseley Green. Here Scott and I had fun trying to shoot a scene outside the  Rising Sun pub  where cars kept driving by followed by two women on horseback on a supposedly quiet lane! We eventually managed to get this scene in the can when it started to rain for the first time since we had been filming over the last couple of days. Luckily it was only a very short shower, so we were able to continue recording the next few scenes before arriving at Mallards Pike again. We had an ice-lolly after we completed the few scenes beside the lake.

With only a few more locations to go to we drove to Wenchford picnic site by Blackpool Bridge. I warned Scott that there was another climb we needed to do, although it was nowhere near as bad as the one we had all undertaken yesterday. It was a steep climb up towards Danby Lodge, levelling out at the junction of paths leading to the Jesus Rock, where I wanted to film the next scene. Once again, it had been several years since I had last visited the Jesus Rock. It was very exposed before, but during our visit today the trees had grown considerably, obscuring some of the view from the rock. Playing it back later through the TV there is not much impression of me standing on a rock. Nevertheless, we still managed to record the required scene to give a good commanding view of the Forest from the rock.

Retracing our steps back down the hill we recorded some scenes at Blackpool Bridge and the stream winding through Wenchford. Before we recorded the shots at the picnic site we could see some young kids having a slash in the running water. That made the next scene really nice to do because the shot required me to splash my face in the stream! Mmm, yum, yum!!

The final scenes of the day were to be recorded in and around Soudley again. The shots here did not take very long to do, so we were home by early evening. Although there were more locations to visit today then there had been the day before, it had been much less tiring, which I believe would prove my earlier point of my getting very tired when trying to co-ordinate everyone else as well as myself during filming.

Monday 3rd June 2002

The people going out today would be Michael, Nigel and myself. Scott wasn't needed today as we were filming the exterior scenes that featured only Michael and Nigel. Therefore, I could be cameraman today!

The weather was more unsettled today. We called at Tesco in Lydney again to buy food supplies before arriving at Phipp's Bottom near  Whitecroft  to start filming. We sat in the car eating our food whilst waiting for the rain to disappear. It was not particularly heavy and the sky was still bright, so we decided to go on with the filming. At one point we did actually hold an umbrella over the camera and a raindrop or two did fall onto the lens! I don't think this has disrupted the overall continuity though, as the sky was quite sunny despite the rain.

The next scene I wanted to do was at both ends of the disused railway tunnel near Moseley Green. The one end proved very difficult to reach as a fence had been put up at the top of a flight of stone steps leading down to the tunnel entrance. The path along the course of the old railway was also very muddy and considerably overgrown. Anyway, we were able to get the shots in the can easily enough, despite these obstacles!

It started to drizzle a little again when I parked the car near the Moseley Green end of the tunnel. I turned to the other two and said "fancy a drink?" It took some persuasion, believe me! Michael and Nigel must have taken all of two seconds to say "yes"!! The  Rising Sun  in Moseley Green, which is featured in the film anyway, is in a lovely quiet location surrounded by woodlands, set back from the lane amongst the few cottages that make up the hamlet. It was quite busy in the pub though. Lots of people having bar meals, so despite its secluded location, the pub always seems popular each time I've been there.

After our drinks we went back to the tunnel to film the scenes at this end of it. These were the last scenes to be done for this day, so I think Michael, and particularly Nigel, were glad of the more leisurely day compared to the long day they were subjected to on Saturday!

At the last minute we remembered we needed to re-shoot both Nigel's and Michael's final lines at Blaize Bailey. Now this is absolutely typical of the type of problems we are faced with when we are out on location filming a "Solitary Rambler" story. We parked the car and walked along to the viewpoint again, where there were no other people about. We only needed to record one line for Michael and Nigel in turn. As soon as I pressed the 'record' button, people started arriving onto the viewpoint, and if they moved on someone else arrived in their place! Luckily we did not have to rush, but it just meant that we had to wait until every bugger had gone before we could do our brief scenes!

Tuesday 4th June 2002

Today marked the introduction of my friend Steve to the "Solitary Rambler". We would be shooting his scenes, which would be the shortest day of location filming in the Forest of Dean. I told Scott we could go out at 3 o'clock today, as the scenes we would be recording today would probably not take very long. There was also one other actor with us, but I will not reveal their identity, you'll just have to watch the completed film! For the purpose of today's report I'll call them "John Smith".

Our first location shoot for this afternoon was on a scenic footpath on a hill near  Yorkley  leading towards Danby Lodge. I was particularly keen on filming a scene here as I remembered that there were wonderful views from this spot over the Forest around Pillowell, Whitecroft and  Bream . When we actually got there to do the filming it was even better than I remembered. The path is very scenic looking upwards as well as looking downwards over the view, and this was helped enormously by the wonderful sunshine we were having at the time. Anyway, Steve, John Smith and myself recorded the scene here after Scott subjected Steve to what he had done to me three days earlier at Staple-Edge Bungalows, he filmed him doing a man's business behind a tree!! The difference here was that Steve was not quite as quick in putting it away as I was!!

The next location was at Soudley Ponds, further up from where we had been filming the previous Saturday, except for one brief shot which intercuts with a scene recorded those three days earlier. The scenes recorded further up were especially interesting for me, as these are some of the most important scenes of the story, so it was a great deal of fun. Steve enjoyed coming out for the afternoon to record his brief shots for the film, so I was hoping to persuade him to reappear in the 10th anniversary story I was planning for the following year.

The day ended with another visit to the Rising Sun in Moseley Green! The evening was lovely and the weather was fantastic, so we all sat out in the beer garden. Now that's what all days of filming should end like!

Thursday 6th June 2002

This evening introduced Nigel's sister Mandy to the series. In my script I had written one very brief scene for a character that Mandy could play. Nigel, Mandy and I went to the Shakespeare pub in the Totterdown area of Bristol, where Mandy once worked, to record a few brief pub scenes. No dialogue was to take place here as neither Mandy or myself were comfortable with acting in front of pub customers! This would also have proved impossible anyway as there was too much noise with the jukebox playing in the background. The strange thing about this is that these interior pub scenes are meant to represent the inside of the Rising Sun in Moseley Green!! Oh well, one has to adapt during the course of filmmaking!!

The scenes where Mandy and I say our lines were recorded back at her flat down the road. We recorded in close-up in order to try to cover up that we were not filming inside the pub, where these scenes are supposed to take place! It does not look too bad since editing these scenes together.

Revised edition
In February 2016 I commenced work on the new edit of “Saunter in Soudley” from the digitized Hi8 footage. This remastered edit would be exactly the same as the original 2002 version expect for cutting down the scenes of me drunk inside the Rising Sun at Moseley Green. My only reason for doing this is because I hate my performance in that particular sequence, so editing it down to a much shorter scene works considerably better for me!
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