The Solitary Rambler

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Filmed 10th May 2018
Post-production completed 22nd June 2018

Running time 20 minutes

I explore a little of Usk , a delightful small town I visited many times in the past. I often came here before or after a visit to a very special location a few miles away, so I decide to return to this place, which happens to be 25 years since my last visit. Whilst here I think back to that particular day all those years ago when I had unexpectedly encountered a friend walking around here and how I came to call myself “The Solitary Rambler” …..

Filmed in Wentwood in the county of Monmouthshire . Locations include Usk , Cadira Beeches, the Five Paths, Foresters’ Oaks, Gray Hill and Wentwood Reservoir . This is the 100th film and anniversary special marking 25 years of “The Solitary Rambler”.
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Background and production details

Although I would be making several films in 2018 to celebrate the 25th anniversary, I decided one of these films would be an anniversary “special”. My idea was for this 25th anniversary special to be a homage to the very first Solitary Rambler film, the “ Pilot Episode ” shot in 1993, so I would go back to one of the main locations from that first film, which would be Wentwood in Monmouthshire . I decided to also film in the nearby town of Usk which, although didn’t actually feature in the very first film, was referenced several times in that film, so I thought it would make a nice “teaser” before moving on to Wentwood. There would also be direct references to the pilot episode in this new film, which would also include some flashback footage from that first film.
I also wanted to celebrate the first Solitary Rambler film by dressing as I did back then, which was all in black clothing, along with the fedora hat, albeit only for one scene. I bought myself a new pair of black jeans and although I had some black T shirts I decided to buy a new one to wear in this film. Unfortunately I no longer had my old leather jacket, and I wasn’t prepared to pay a fortune for a new one just for the sake of wearing it in one scene, so I decided to make do without it. The most important item of clothing was, of course, the black fedora. Like the jacket, I no longer had the hat, but I managed to buy a cheap one that would be more than suitable just to wear for this one film.
Another idea that came to me at the last minute was that, by sheer coincidence, I knew I would be shooting my 100th film sometime in 2018 and, although I hadn’t planned specifically what I would be making for film number 100, I decided that the 25th anniversary special should be the 100th film, just to make it that much more of a celebration.
On Wednesday 10th May, the day after I had been filming back in the Forest of Dean , I left my Mum’s home in Somerset where I had been staying, and drove over the Second Severn Crossing to make my way to Usk. After parking my car in Maryport Street North car park, the first scenes for the 25th anniversary special were shot at Usk Bridge . I then walked around the town to take shots of Twyn Square, St Mary’s Church, the castle ruins , the prison and the Rural Life Museum. Once all that was in the can I drove off to the day’s main location.
Parking at Cadira Beeches at Wentwood I took some shots here and walked along the track to the Five Paths. Reaching this particular spot and taking the necessary shots I decided to retrace my steps to Cadira Beeches and take a few more shots near there and drive to the last location, which was the car park at Foresters’ Oaks. From there I did the day’s best filming as I walked around the foot of Gray Hill before eventually climbing up onto the top. I tried to recreate similar shots from the pilot episode, i.e. the opening shot of that first film with the slow pan from Wentwood Reservoir around the views of Wentwood Forest, and the scene where I stand on the summit of Gray Hill with my hands on my hips, although on this occasion I was shooting in daylight as opposed to dusk as I had done in that 1993 film.  I also found an opportunity to film a scene where I make a subtle reference to my 1999 film “ Sentiments of Severnside .
Walking down from Gray Hill I made my way to the reservoir, which I was rather shocked to see that there was no water in the reservoir! There was nothing I could do about this of course, so I just carried on filming and tried to get the best shots of the control tower despite there being no water. Walking back to the car I needed to change into my black clothing for the final few shots of the filming, which I did and put on my fedora. I then walked back down towards the reservoir to get these last scenes done, which I managed to do without anyone else being around as I would have felt quite embarrassed had other walkers been there whilst I was wearing all this gear! Once everything was in the can I walked back to my car and rested for a while as I knew I would be driving back home to Derbyshire . After a quick rest I drove back to Usk and decided to have my tea in a local pub before making the long journey home, so I went into the Castle Inn on Twyn Square, which was a very nice place to eat. Once I had some food inside me I felt refreshed enough to start heading home.

I had filmed some of the scenes in a way where I could insert flashbacks, so when I started editing “Usk and Wentwood” I knew I wanted to use a few clips from the “Pilot Episode” as flashback sequences. I also wanted to create a short montage before the beginning titles to highlight this film as being the 25th anniversary special and the 100th film. This montage consisted of a two second clip from each of the following films: “ Tintern, Brockweir and Devil’s Pulpit ”, “ Milestone in Matlock ”, “ Perspectives in Pembrokeshire ”, “ Saunter in Soudley ” and “ The Mysterious Forest ”. I used one final clip from the “ Pilot Episode ”, the scene where I say my very first line in a Solitary Rambler film. I faded this into a still image of the clip with the captions showing the 25th anniversary of the series.

Editing the film itself was the normal routine for me, the only difference being the scenes where I would be inserting the clips as flashbacks. There were four scenes in “Usk and Wentwood” where flashbacks were seen, which was achieved by overlaying short clips from the “Pilot Episode” and reducing the picture size so that they could be seen in the same frame as the new material. Another reason for reducing the size of the picture for the flashbacks was because the quality of the footage from the very first film is not good compared with the HD footage, so if this film is viewed on larger screens this will hopefully not show too much! For the end titles I also wanted to end with an iconic image from my first film, which I had anticipated during the filming in June 2018. Therefore, I used a still image of the shot I had taken of myself on Gray Hill with my hands on my hips and faded it into a similar image from the 1993 film.

I knew a long time before filming what music I would be recording for the 25th anniversary special, and that would be recreations of some of the music I composed for the very first film back in 1993. In the “Pilot Episode” I created a theme for the scenes where I walk though Bayfield, Mounton and on towards Shirenewton , so this would be my main score for “Usk and Wentwood”, albeit an updated version. I also wanted to re-record the theme I used in the Wentwood scenes from the 1993 film for the scenes in the same location 25 years later. Michael had his own theme in the “Pilot”, so I recorded a new, short section of this score in one of the flashback scenes. The only new pieces of music were composed for the Usk scenes, although these themes were very reminiscent of some of the music from the 1993 film, which was deliberate on my part .

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