Midsomer ‘murder’


IT’S A crime which would tax even the redoubtable Detective Chief Inspector John Barnaby: how to prevent the Chilterns’ picture postcard landscape from being swamped by a tide of unsightly litter.

It’s an open secret that many of the picturesque but deadly villages which feature as backdrops to the long-running detective drama are spread across Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.

Co-creator Brian True-May, who produced more than a dozen series of the show between 1997 and 2011, hails from Great Missenden and one Oxfordshire villages website lists dozens of Chilterns locations where different episodes have been filmed.

Visit Midsomer is a website developed by South Oxfordshire District Council to help visitors to discover the locations filmed for the TV programme. It says: “Fans know Midsomer as the home of traditional pubs, village greens, fetes and Sunday afternoon cricket.

“They watch the improbable number of murders committed in dastardly yet creative ways, and solved by the unflappable Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby of Causton CID. But that’s the fictional Midsomer County.

“The real-life Midsomer Murders locations are spread across Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire where towns and villages have names every bit as wonderful as their fictional counterparts. South Oxfordshire’s villages, stately homes, stone cottages and market towns provide around half of the filming locations.

“This rural English countryside is a short distance outside of London and easily reached for a relaxing short break.”

But visitors taking a tour in the footsteps of Inspector Barnaby might be disappointed to discover the scale of the problem local councils face with fly-tipping and litter pollution. And while councils across the area spend millions keeping the villages and towns as pristine as possible, main roads across the region are harder to clean up.

Beyonder co-editor Andrew Knight said: “You don’t have to drive very far around Buckinghamshire to find roadside verges and laybys which are awash with litter.

“It looks disgusting and it’s totally avoidable. It’s hard to understand the mindset of someone who just throws coffee cups, plastic bottles and half-eaten takeaway meal wrappings out of their car window, but the evidence is there across the Chilterns – and it’s getting worse.

“Our councils do what they can, any many villages, parks and National Trust properties are kept pristine for visitors. But that’s not possible for all the main roads in the area.

“We have to find ways of attacking the problem at source – educating young people about the environment has got to be a long-term solution. But we also want to look at ways of helping to clean up our main roads and stop people dropping their rubbish in the first place.”

Stunning images


Turville, Michael King’s stunning portrait of a red kite featuring in this year’s online exhibition from the Chiltern Society’s Photogroup

The Chiltern Society PhotoGroup’s 2018 online exhibition has just opened, now in its 14th year and featuring nearly 300 photos from Chiltern-based members.

Landscapes are the most popular subjects in the 2018 collection, closely followed by some spectacular flora and fauna. This year’s guest reviewer is Terry Coffey, a judge with the Chiltern Association of Camera Clubs, who particularly liked this wonderful shot of a red kite over smoky Turville by Michael King.

The society will be featuring more submissions from PhotoGroup members on its Twitter, Instagram & Facebook pages. Follow them @chilternsociety.

Create some ‘happy little trees’

bob ross 1

THERE could hardly be a painter whose geographical sources of inspiration are further removed from the gentle landscapes of the Chilterns that the soft-spoken American cult art legend Bob Ross.

But budding artists don’t need to focus on the mountains and log cabins in Ross’s pictures to pick up some handy technical tips from the inspiring host of the US TV program The Joy of Painting, which aired from 1983 to 1994 and still enthrals millions today on Youtube.

There are plenty of “happy little trees” in Black Park, after all, and dozens of Ross’s video tutorials to choose from for anyone tempted to crack out the titanium white and give his trademark wet-on-wet technique a shot.

Perhaps part of Ross’s timeless appeal is the fact he was himself a convert to art after attending a painting class in Anchorage during his 20 years in the US Air Force and honed his own techniques at the feet of another TV artist, the German painter Bill Alexander.

Ross’s enduring appeal stems in part from his distinctive laid-back style, quaint catchphrases and eternal upbeat positivity, and in part from the sheer speed and ease of his quick-painting technique. If you’re ever tempted by the idea of painting but never got round to giving it a try, check out Ross’s official Youtube channel, which has around a million subscribers.

Calling all book lovers


We seem to be living through a golden age of nature writing, which is an encouraging sign – Waterstones list more than 50 titles dealing with nature and natural history, and the bookshop tables were positively groaning with Christmas gift suggestions reflecting this upsurge of interest in wildlife, rambling and untamed places.

Keeping pace with that monthly flurry of new titles is pretty hard, even for avid readers, so we are very keen to hear your recommendations and publish more detailed submissions from guest reviewers, particularly about new books hitting the shelves in 2018 as well as old favourites – like Chris Packham’s Fingers In The Sparkle Jar, which The Guardian’s Stephen Moss named as his book of the year for 2016, or Blue Planet II, the fascinating hardback accompanying David Attenborough’s extraordinary 2017 TV series chronicling the natural history of the oceans.