Country diary: a Welsh noir film set, with the weather to match
The growing bank of cloud to the west edged closer, further dimming the afternoon light and bringing the threat of rain. Returning from a long walk, I paused by the crossroads to decide the final part of my route. On a whim, I took a shortcut past the old house I used to rent, many years ago. One of a small cluster of farm cottages, it had been empty for some years – a relic of the time when workers lived closer to the land. Sitting low in a frost hollow near the river, it remains the coldest house I’ve ever lived in.
As I approached it, I noticed that – against all reason – a telephone box had been installed on the bank between the house and the old ford. Rural phone boxes have long been a threatened species, but turning the corner I saw the explanation: this one was fake.
The house next door, once home to Mr Price the shepherd, was being used to film a drama in the darkly iconic “Welsh noir” tradition. Rain was clearly called for, so a framework of hoses had been installed to simulate a good old Ceredigion downpour, which was, unaccountably, absent. I slowed my pace in case some desperate assistant producer might cast me in the role of Old Bloke With Beard – but sudden fame was not lurking here.
These epic dramas demand a palette of stark tones and dour contrast, which are amply provided by the early spring landscape of west Wales, still drained of colour by the long winter. It will be interesting to view the finished product through the lens of local knowledge. This landscape is often presented as threadbare and barren, scattered with abandoned petrol stations and rutted tracks, but the reality is infinitely more subtle.
There is a historical cinematic habit of layering the fashionable on top of the actual – the Romantics did it when they rebranded this area as a “Little Switzerland” – and the next few months will usher in a very different scene, a landscape brimming with colour, light and movement. By June, the high summer meadows along the coast of Ceredigion will have few equals.