BBC | Merlin Locations

I’ve long been a fan of the BBC’s Merlin and have had many a happy time hunting down filming locations. My hunt is always guided by Merlin Locations, a fantastic website ran by my friend, Julie Bozza.

Two locations have always evaded me – King Arthur’s cave and the small stone hut above Clearwell Caves.

King Arthur’s cave, near Symonds Yat, was used in episode 5/04 Another’s Sorrow and in episode 4/13 The Sword in the Stone part 2.

The stone hut in fields above the caves was used in episode 4/03 The Wicked Day and 4/12 The Sword in the Stone part 1,



King Arthur’s Cave near Symonds Yat Rock.

Wikipedia entry for the cave here.

It took us a while to find the location but when we did we discovered it was on a delightful walk through an autumnal forest. In The Sword in the Stone part 2, Arthur, Merlin, Gwen, Tristan, and Isolde, emerge from the caves where they’ve been perused by Agravaine and his men. They ‘appear’ at the mouth of King Arthur’s Cave.

As you can see from the screenshots the final shots were heavily CGI’d and colour changed.

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Screenshots from The Sword in the Stone part 2. Borrowed respectfully from the BBC.

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You can see from this section of my photo the part of the cave wall that matches the above screenshot – my angle is different though.

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Screenshots from Another’s Sorrow. Borrowed respectfully from the BBC.

In episode 5/04 Another’s Sorrow the caves were used as a Mausoleum where Odin held Princess Mithian’s father captive.




The hut above Clearwell Caves.

Wikipedia entry for Clearwell Caves here.

We found the hut above Clearwell Caves after some getting-lost meandering. The hut is at the end of field which is accessed through a metal gate. It has a new door, which I think needs staining, but appears to be falling into disrepair. It’s heavily overgrown with weeds and brambles which cover the wall which Merlin propped against and which behind Arthur changed in The Sword in the Stone part 1.

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Screenshots from The Sword in the Stone part 1. Borrowed respectfully from the BBC.


The nice clean wall in the screenshot above is now overgrown.

Below, the hut dressed and as used in The Wicked Day. The interior scenes of the hut were studio sets as the hut itself is rundown and actually not deep enough for the interiors you see on screen.


Screenshots from The Wicked Day. Borrowed respectfully from the BBC.


Lastly, this is the path where Merlin says goodbye to Alator in episode 4/07 The Secret Sharer, I came across this quite by accident. I overshot the metal gate for the ‘hut field’ and walked down this path, it rang a bell so I took a photo.

Shot respectfully borrowed from Merlin Locations.


Official site for the Forest of Dean.



Romeo and Juliet ] Alex Vlahos




I recently had the pleasure of visiting the pop-up Rose Theatre in York. Along with my friend, Julie Bozza, we went to see Romeo and Juliet starring Merlin’s Alex Vlahos and Alexandra Dowling.


“For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”

The most famous love story ever written, Romeo and Juliet is a tale of young love, grand passion, feuding families, street violence and the cruelties of fate.

A long-standing feud between two noble families, the Montagues and the Capulets, means that when Romeo Montague and the Capulets’ only daughter Juliet, meet and fall passionately in love, they know that their love is forbidden. Soon after marrying in secret, another brawl between the warring sides erupts on the streets, and in revenge for the killing of his friend, Romeo kills Tybalt, a Capulet cousin, and is exiled.

Attempts to unite the ‘star-crossed lovers’ lead to tragic consequences.


Julie’s Merlin Locations post puts the experience beautifully so, with your permission, Julie, I have pulled some quotes. Thus.


Alex Vlahos is starring as Romeo in this production, opposite Alexandra Dowling as Juliet. As you’d remember, Alexandra was Mordred’s love Kara in Merlin (as well as Lancelot’s love Queen Anne in The Musketeers.


The venue is an interesting one, being a pop-up replica of the Rose Theatre, built in York – similar to Shakespeare’s Globe in London, but with the seating structure constructed from modern-day scaffolding. The stage and the tiring house facade is all wood, and there are three levels – allowing for a musician’s gallery atop the ‘Juliet balcony’ – as well as two sets of stairs down to the stage. As with productions at the Globe, the players also made use of the groundlings’ space, making entrances and exits through the main doors to either side.


A very interesting piece of staging was that the play starts with the fight scene (“Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?”) with the action freezing just before the Prince is due to appear. Instead, the central doors at the back of the stage open, and Romeo and Juliet appear (dressed, as we realise later, in the clothes they wear in the final scene) – and they speak the Prologue, taking turns with each line, perhaps half in character and half as the actors themselves. But foretelling their own doom, as indeed they each glimpse at times even in the lighter first half of the play. I thought that was rather good! Once they’re done with the Prologue, they walk back inside, and the scene resumes as we are used to.


Julie’s observations about Mercutio were spot on and I was thinking the same thoughts.


Also, it seems to be the fashion these days to have a woman playing Mercutio. I don’t have any problems with the notion, but this was my third and I have yet to see one that I felt really worked. This production seemed promising, but as the WOS review suggests, Shanaya Rafaat’s playing style was a bit too in-your-face and irritating. We are, IMO, meant to feel as fond of Mercutio as Romeo is. Mercutio is a troubled and troublesome person, but when he is killed we are meant to understand and forgive Romeo’s devastated impulse to seek vengeance (even though that means killing his new wife’s cousin). I’d love to see Shanaya Rafaat in the role again, as she was terrific in other ways, but next time emphasising Mercutio’s intelligence and charisma. He’s a tragic hero, too, you know?


The Merlin Locations website is a cornucopia of information about the Merlin cast and other Merlin treats. It’s well worth a visit.


You can visit the Rose Theatre website to find information about other productions and for more details.


Translations ] National Theatre

Translations by Brian Friel and performed at the National Theatre, is set in a hedge school* in the early 19th century amongst the bleak landscape of the Irish countryside.



I had the pleasure of seeing Translations at the Olivier Theatre last week with my friend, Julie. We had excellent seats with a cracking uninterrupted view of the actors and the set.

Translations is a first and foremost an observation of language and how we communicate either through verbal language or body language. The writer, Brian Friel, very cleverly differentiates between the Gaelic language of the locals and the English of the surrounding soldiers with tone and the words chosen. English was spoken throughout the play but it was easy to understand who was an Irish speaker and who was an English speaker.

Adetomiwa Edun (Sir Elyan, BBCs Merlin) plays a soldier called Yolland who falls in love with the wild landscape of the Irish peat fells and a local called Marie. They talk to each other in their native tongue and neither can understand a single word the other says but their relationship is fervent and intense regardless of this barrier.

Colin Morgan (Merlin, BBCs Merlin) plays Owen, the son of a school teacher, and the translator between the Gaelic speakers and the English soldiers. This is played to comic affect, Owen has control over the situation and can basically tell each side whatever he wants – and he does.

I enjoyed the scene where the soldier, Yolland, and translator, Owen, are re-naming and mapping the local villages, rivers, and roads. Solely because it was a delight to Colin and Adetomiwa in a scene together again.

I also enjoyed Michelle Fox’s (A Very English Scandal) brilliantly observed character of Sarah who is unable to speak any language.

The set was fantastic. I’m involved with set design within the team of my local am-dram Adel Players so I always enjoy seeing other designs and constructions. The stage at the Olivier Theatre is massive so  I liked the way they took it right down to a small claustrophobic space within the stone barn. Surrounding the schoolroom was the muddy wilds of the Irish country.


*A hedge school  is the name given to an educational practice, particularly in 18th and 19th century Ireland, so called due to its rural nature rather than being held outdoors. Classes were normally held in a barn.

Adel Players presents “Accolade”

My friend, Julie Bozza, wrote this review for a recent production with my am-dram society Adel Players.


The set of Accolade.

A young friend of mine, Harry Peart, is making his stage debut in this play produced by am-dram group Adel Players, so I did hie me to the Yorkshire moors to catch this evening’s performance.

Adel Players are named for Adel, the town in which they are based near Leeds, and they produce plays in the hall belonging to the local War Memorial Association. The company was founded in 1945. For the past few years, Harry’s mother, Shell Peart, has been part of the team, helping put on three shows a year. Shell has acted in various roles, and also helps behind the scenes, especially in set design, props, and publicity.

Accolade was a new play for me, so I was thrilled to watch it unfold through all its twists and turns. It was written by Welsh playwright Emlyn Williams, and first performed in 1950. Accolade tells the story of the Trenting family. The father, Will Trenting (David Lancaster), is about to be knighted, but that of course shines a spotlight on his double life, and a scandal emerges that surprises everyone.

I thought David Lancaster did a splendid job as Trenting, as did Dianne Newby as his wife Rona, and Harry Peart as their son Ian. The whole cast were terrific, but these three – as the family at the heart of it all, with the most to lose – gave particularly genuine and moving performances.

The story was interesting to me as a writer, because Trenting is a published writer – and one of the other characters we meet is desperate to be one, too. The other half of Trenting’s double life has provided him with a great deal of material for his books, and yet it is clear that the life and the choices he has made reflect on himself as a person rather than as a writer. I liked his honesty and sense of responsibility, as well as his love for his family.

Rona was also sympathetic. She has a very clear-eyed view of her husband, and has loved him unconditionally, with no regrets. As a result, they have built a life and a home and a family together – but when it’s all about to come tumbling down around your ears, it’s inevitable that you start to question your own choices.

Meanwhile, Ian is young and innocent, and all the adult characters care for him enough to protect him from what they can. But his perspective can also cut through to the heart of the matter, if they let it.

I can’t say any more about the story or characterisations without revealing too much. It’s an interesting play to watch, and I think the Adel Players and director Beth Duce have done a superb job in bringing it to full life. Unfortunately there’s only one more show in this short run, and it’s been sold out for a while. But if you’re anywhere near Leeds, you might like to keep an eye on the company. I believe their next show is a murder mystery called A Murder of Crows – and our Harry will once again be treading the boards!

Source: Julie Bozza | fancies bright and dark

Ice-cube Tray Hacks. Random Post 3

Here are my favourite ice-cube tray hacks:

  • Freeze fruit juice and add it to sparkling water.
  • Freeze greens to add to smoothies.
  • Freeze homemade stock for future use.
  • Freeze homemade pesto for future use.
  • Freeze leftover wine in portions – I use these in risotto.
  • Freeze homemade sauces.
  • Freeze chopped herbs in olive oil.
  • Freeze yogurt to add to smoothies
  • Freeze fruit in yogurt and add a stick for instant mini ice-lollies

Hot chocolate on a stick –

16 oz. chocolate (melted) and 1.5 oz cocoa

In a bowl, mix together cocoa and melted chocolate. Spoon into an ice cube tray then insert a lolly stick. Place in the fridge to set.

Heat a cup of milk, or nut milk, and stir in the chocolate on a stick until dissolved.


Just eat it off the stick!


No Holds Bard

Modern LGBTQ+ fiction inspired by the works of William Shakespeare

I’m delighted that I have a short story in the No Holds Bard anthology published by Manifold Press.

My contribution is called Lost in which Jonas has given up everything in his relentless search for William Shakespeare’s lost plays. Now, in the tunnels under the Kremlin, they are within his grasp. Or are they?

Cup of espresso and coffee beans on a Shabby background, top vie

 From a novel solution to the Plantagenet succession crisis to revelations about the private lives of Prince Hal and – separately! – Brutus and Cassius, plus a surprise ending for Twelfth Night, no play is safe. We have marriage proposals and murder; subtle scheming villainy; a missing manuscript; a haunting… Whether set within the framework of a play, or spotlighting actors, characters, or the Bard himself, these stories will have you viewing Shakespeare in a whole new light. It’s definitely not the kind of thing they taught us in school…

Take a deep breath. Dive in. Prepare to be astonished!

An anthology edited by Fiona Pickles and featuring authors:

  • Julie Bozza
  • Siobhan Dunlop
  • Adam Fitzroy
  • Bryn Hammond
  • Erin Horáková
  • Molly Katz
  • Vanessa Mulberry
  • Eleanor Musgrove
  • Michelle Peart
  • Jay Lewis Taylor

67000 words/TBC pages

Publication 1 May 2018

Amazon US pre-order link

Amazon UK pre-order link 

Smashwords link

Barnes & Noble pre-order link

Kobo pre-order link

20 small things that make me happy…

In Fearne Cotton’s book, Happy, she writes that jotting down the small things that make you happy focuses the mind on embracing the joy in everyday life.

Here are my 20 small things:

Freshly brewed coffee

Bright Colours

The smell of wild garlic


History programmes

Clean bedding

Cookery books

Arthur’s smile (my dog)

Lola’s purr (my dog)

My camera

The wind in the trees

The view from my living room

Harry’s music

Cold clear days

Our old VW campervan

When words flow

My friends

Listening to rain on the caravan roof

The sound of a waterfall

A clutter-free desk



You’d think, as a writer, I have the ‘Classics’ in this list, but they’ve never appealed to me. And it doesn’t matter, words are words and appeal to many different people on many different levels.

In Alphabetical Order:

A Century of Wisdom: Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the World’s Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor

Caroline Stoessinger (Author)

The pianist Alice Herz-Sommer survived the Theresienstadt concentration camp, attended Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem, and along the way befriended some of the most fascinating historical figures of our time, from Franz Kafka to Gustav Mahler, Leonard Bernstein and Golda Meir.

A Century of Wisdom is her story: a testament to the bonds of friendship, the power of music, and the importance of leading a life of maternal simplicity, intellectual curiosity, and never-ending optimism.


Butterfly Hunter

Julie Bozza (Author)

It started as a simple assignment for Aussie bush guide Dave Taylor – escort a lone Englishman in quest of an unknown species of butterfly. However Nicholas Goring is no ordinary tourist, his search is far from straightforward, and it’s starting to look as if the butterflies don’t want to be found. As Dave teaches Nicholas everything he needs to survive in the Outback he discovers that he too has quite a bit to learn – and that very often the best way to locate something really important is just not to want to find it…


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Adult Edition)

JK Rowling (Author)

As he climbs into the sidecar of Hagrid’s motorbike and takes to the skies, leaving Privet Drive for the last time, Harry Potter knows that Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters are not far behind. The protective charm that has kept Harry safe until now is now broken, but he cannot keep hiding. The Dark Lord is breathing fear into everything Harry loves, and to stop him Harry will have to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes. The final battle must begin – Harry must stand and face his enemy.


The Feast of the Drowned (Doctor Who)

Stephen Cole (Author)

When a naval cruiser sinks in mysterious circumstances in the North Sea, all aboard are lost. Rose is saddened to learn that the brother of her friend, Keisha, was among the dead. And yet he appears to them as a ghostly apparition, begging to be saved from the coming feast… the feast of the drowned.
As the dead crew haunt loved ones all over London, the Doctor and Rose are drawn into a chilling mystery. What sank the ship, and why? When the cruiser’s wreckage was towed up the Thames, what sinister force came with it? The river’s dark waters are hiding an even darker secret, as preparations for the feast near their conclusion.

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The Crystal Cave (Merlin Trilogy)

Mary Stewart (Author)

This is what happened. I saw it, and it is a true tale.

So begins the story of Merlin, born the illegitimate son of a Welsh princess in fifth century Britain, a world ravaged by war. Small and neglected, with his mother unwilling to reveal his father’s identity, Merlin must disguise his intelligence – and hide his occasional ability to know things before they happen – in order to keep himself safe.

One beautiful afternoon, while exploring the countryside near his home, Merlin stumbles across a cave filled with books and papers and hiding a room lined with crystals. It is the home of Galapas, who becomes Merlin’s tutor and friend, and who teaches Merlin to understand the world around him… and to harness the power of the crystal cave to see the future.

Merlin will rise to power and enter history – and legend – as advisor to King Arthur. But all stories must begin somewhere. And this is his.

The Crystal Cave is the first of Mary Stewart’s brilliant Arthurian Saga, telling the story of King Arthur from the perspective of the extraordinary, mysterious Merlin.

Followed by:

The Hollow Hills (Merlin Trilogy 2)

The Last Enchantment (Merlin Trilogy 3)


The King’s Grave: The Search for Richard III

Philippa Langley (Author)

On 22 August 1485 Richard III was killed at Bosworth Field, the last king of England to die in battle. His victorious opponent, Henry Tudor, went on to found one of our most famous ruling dynasties. Richard’s body was hurriedly buried in the church of the Greyfriars. Fifty years later, at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, the king’s grave was lost – its contents believed to be emptied into the river Soar and Richard III’s reputation buried under a mound of Tudor propaganda. Its culmination was Shakespeare’s compelling portrayal of a deformed and murderous villain, written over a hundred years after Richard’s death.

Now – in an incredible find – Richard III’s remains have been uncovered beneath a car park in Leicester. The King’s Grave traces this remarkable journey. In alternate chapters, Philippa Langley, whose years of research and belief that she would find Richard in this exact spot inspired the project, reveals the inside story of the search for the king’s grave, and historian Michael Jones tells of Richard’s fifteenth-century life and death. The result is a compelling portrayal of one of our greatest archaeological discoveries, allowing a complete re-evaluation of our most controversial monarch – one that discards the distortions of later Tudor histories and puts the man firmly back into the context of his times.


Walking Home

Simon Armitage (Author)

In summer 2010, Simon Armitage decided to walk the Pennine Way. The challenging 256-mile route is usually approached from south to north, from Edale in the Peak District to Kirk Yetholm, the other side of the Scottish border. He resolved to tackle it the other way round: through beautiful and bleak terrain, across lonely fells and into the howling wind, he would be walking home, towards the Yorkshire village where he was born.

Travelling as a ‘modern troubadour’ without a penny in his pocket, he stopped along the way to give poetry readings in village halls, churches, pubs, and living rooms. His audiences varied from the passionate to the indifferent, and the clacking of pool balls, the drumming of rain and the bleating of sheep accompanied his readings.

WALKING HOME describes this extraordinary, yet ordinary, journey. It’s a story about Britain’s remote and overlooked interior – the wildness of its landscape and the generosity of the locals who sustained him on his journey. It’s about facing emotional and physical challenges, and sometimes overcoming them. It’s nature writing, but with people at its heart. Contemplative, moving, and droll, it is a unique narrative from one of our most beloved writers.


And number 8 is a little self-indulgent. To the Left of Your North Star by Michelle Peart.

To the Left of Your North Star

Michelle Peart (Author)

My novel is an adventure set on another planet called Abaytor. Edward, son of the famous explorer Herb Kemp, is popular, self-assured, and spoilt. During his time on the notorious Copper River, amongst the perilous lands of Abaytor, Edward discovers he’s not who he thought he was.

Burn, an off-kilter Abaytorian, with hair the colour of polished bronze and a desire for change, is charged with the task of escorting Edward back to civilisation. As they travel the crashing waters on a makeshift raft called the Copper Queen, they are in a constant battle with the river, the unknown, and each other. Edward’s deep-seated problems with his father are laid bare as they are hunted, almost drowned, starved, and face difficult choices. Both men struggle with loss, fear, and themselves. Amongst the star nursery skies, striking landscapes and colourful people of Abaytor, Edward slowly learns about trust, love, and self-acceptance.


My top eight reference books for writers to follow.