The Summer of 1974 followed my first year at university. Together with two friends I had planned a camping and hiking trip that would start in Yorkshire and go on to the Lake district. Our first stop before the higher Dales was to be Hollin Hall.
I had worked out on the map some time before that these buildings on the Harewood Eastate were the most likely choice for the Follyfoot location but I didn't know for sure. I had simply written to the Harewood Estate asking for permission to camp at Hollin Hall on our way through. My friends (one within a few years to pass selection for the SAS, the other the youngest Archers
fan I have ever known) were tolerant of my desire to see the place, as we wouldn't be there for long.
We got a train to Leeds. My memory is that we arrived very late and slinging the rucsacs walked through the night.? We took the lane and then the path from Wike arriving at Spring Wood and crossed Keswick Beck. It was by then dawn, and I could see already it was the right place. I must have sprinted the last couple of hundred yards.
We actually set up our tents adjacent to the wall in front of the house and got a few hours of much needed sleep.
Waking in the full light of day I went for a look round. The yard was already overgrown from a year of neglect, but it was still clearly recognisable. Across the road the house looked from the outside as it ever did.
Closer examination however showed a great square hole in back wall. This was highly convenient, since it enabled us to explore the inside.
I suppose it must have looked like that from the day the YTV film crew finally left a year before. Just like a house someone has just moved out of. Empty, bare, with stuff they couldn't be bothered to take with them strewn across the floor.
What was odd was to discover how a film set creates a solid illusion. The room which was "the Colonel's study" was a good example. There was that familiar fireplace with those solid wooden mouldings. Very little imagination was required to put a warm fire in the grate and Dora's Uncle sitting in the armchair. Until you actually touched those solid wooden mouldings and discovered they were made of painted polystyrene. The damp let in by the hole in the wall was already acting on the Colonel's wallpaper, which was falling off in long strips. A first souvenir.
Access to the house was actually quite useful, since it gave us running water and a place to have a proper wash in the next few mornings.
In the yard what seemed like the remains of the horse oats had burst into a green sward. The Lightning Tree was still there, looking much as expected except a loss of bark around the lower levels. It looked quite fragile however, and my guess was that it wouldn't be there for much longer. This justified my obtaining another souvenir. Just a small projecting branch. I could do with some of the luck.
We explored the empty stables and got up the rickety wooden stairs to "Steve's room". I remember looking out of the window there and allowing my imagination to run away.? In what I think was Copper's stable I found a? door wedge. Another sounvenir.
In what had been clearly the film set car park over the back of the stables was a sign which gave a reality check. The sign read in weather faded 12-inch letters: "Silence: Filming in Progress". This should have been another souvenir, but frankly we couldn't figure out how to carry it with us on the rest of the holiday!
I had with me my dad's old Exacta 35mm camera with which I took series of colour slides of The Farm and the surroundings. Though I have been able to find almost everything else from those times, the slides infuriatingly remain missing.
We had to go into the village for supplies, and part of the way down the track we were overtaken by Lord Lascelles' Land Rover, and he was kind enough to give us a lift. I remember him asking with a grin "Do you spend your holidays visiting old film sites?"
Oh yes. The rest of the trip unravelled. One of my friends discovered he couldn't bear to be away from his fiance. So instead of going on to the uplands, we went back to Leeds to get a train. Feckless youth eh? What would you do with them??