When we were filming the sequence, where the young Shepherd Lord is walking through the woods to the voiceovers of Anne. St.John and Lénaïg, I wanted a really iconic shot for the opening sequence.
As location scout, I had my eye on a tree in Skipton Woods that was growing from a large rock face. It had exposed, majestic, twisting roots and it mirrored the scene in the book where young Henry Clifford first meets Anne St.John, the Nut Brown Maid of the poem fame.
What I hadn’t considered was the sheer height, as I had only viewed it from the opposite side of the stream.
On the day of filming, I got Howard (The Shepherd) and Chris the cameraman across the stream without any problems but Chris approached the tree with some trepidation. “We’ll never get up there” he said, as he looked up thirty foot in the air, to the tree trunk, growing out of what was a pretty shear cliff face.
I really wanted the shot, so I snorted and proceeded to clamber up towards the tree, hanging on to bits of protruding rock and dangling roots.
“Easy” I said, “I’ll come down and get you.”
As you can see we got the shot we wanted but I had not contemplated how hard the descent would be. Chris, understandably was growing more and more worried about his precious camera equipment. I opted to go down first the same way as I had come up but it soon became evident that it was far too dangerous, as I slithered down leaving half my fingernails in the mud and rock of the cliff face.
I then had the brilliant idea that we should go down sliding on our backs with arms folded. At least you could see where you were going as you picked up acceleration and hurtled towards your doom.
The only way I can describe the sensation is like abseiling without a rope. As I bounced and skidded towards the bottom, my clothing was torn and my back scratched with little chunks taken out of my flesh. “It’s fine” I lied, through gritted teeth, trying not to show the pain.
Howard was next and his thick sheepskin jerkin saved him from the battering and bruising that I had encountered.
“Yup, it’s fine” he said, looking up towards Chris.
Chris was not convinced.
“Look, I’ll come up and get the camera, it will be fine” I cajoled.
Another ascent followed by a swift descent, camera held in the air. Some more scratches and bruising. I would look like a scourged penitent next morning.
Chris was still not convinced. He tried to scale down using his hands and feet but aborted that after he slipped, as I knew he would. He braced himself, turned over onto his back and hurtled down towards the stream where he stopped short of the water by inches.
The funny thing was that this was witnessed by lots of Sunday afternoon strollers. As they walked along the path, they could see Howard’s civvie clothes hung from a tree and some weird guys dangling from tree roots. Like the opening scene in The Full Monty, where the two guys are trying to carry a steel girder across the canal, the most we got out of them was a ‘Ow do or a turned out fine again, hasn’t it?
it takes a lot to faze Yorkshire folk, obviously.