If you are considering a trip to Yorkshire to check out some Blake’s 7 filming locations, here’s a guide for those without teleport bracelets that includes the important stuff, like where to park, grab a bite to eat and the nearest toilets. This guide does presume you have access to a car as public transport is limited on Obsidian, Auron and Chenga.
During my viewing of Blake’s 7, I developed a growing fondness for the show’s choices for location filming. While I had gained a strange attachment to quarries and 1970s’ industrial estates, Series C was a breath of fresh air. The production team headed north and used several locations in Yorkshire and beyond.
I live in the West Midlands and hadn’t seen much of Yorkshire, having mainly been there on business trips (plus one trip to Leeds Festival). Bob Fischer was doing a show in Stockton-on-Tees about visiting conventions and other fan events, based on his excellent book Wiffle Lever to Full. It was a long way to go for one evening but I realised I could break up my journey with a few stops at various Blake’s 7 filming locations.
There are a couple of old and not-very-detailed lists of Blake’s 7 filming locations online that had provided me with a starting point to map out my route. There is a Blake’s 7 Locations Facebook group that proved of further use and I’d highly recommend it.
Almscliffe Crag – Obsidian (Volcano)
I set off early on a bright bank holiday weekend for Almscliffe Crag. Google Street View hadn’t offered a great view from the road. My first stop seemed likely to be simply some rocks in a field in the middle of nowhere – but they would be rocks that had been touched by Paul Darrow, Stephen Pacey and Josette Simon!
Food and toilets
This part of Obsidian was 2.5 hours from home and I knew I’d be hungry with a bladder full of coffee by the time I arrived.
The Muddy Boots Café is nearby – just a few minutes away – but Google Street View’s van had never entered its road and hadn’t been along the adjacent road for over a decade. I crossed my fingers and thankfully discovered that the café has its own small car park, which I managed to squeeze onto. It’s near an area that is popular for walking and cycling, so there are signs suggesting a small donation if you’re leaving the car for a while. After making use of some acceptable toilet facilities, I queued up at the counter, then sat outside at a table with a huge sausage bap (brown sauce) and coffee – £7 in total. And the sun was out.
‘Almscliffe Crag parking’ is a marked location on Google Maps, but it would be laughable to call it a carpark. It’s more of a rough layby on a corner, with room for 4-5 vehicles maximum. Fortunately, there is plenty of room to park up on grass verges nearby that were suitable even for my small hatchback. There is no pavement on this road, so be mindful both as a pedestrian and driver.
The filming location
You enter the field through a stile and then head uphill. I realised I didn’t actually know what a crag was, but it was some rocks in a field. And yet… it’s bloody great! You can immediately see why the Blake’s 7 production team chose this place – the different shades and shapes of the rocks clearly resemble something volcanic in appearance. It seems so unusual to have these higgledy piggledy rocks in among fields and countryside. With the strange rocks clustered in the middle, I had a walk around part of the outside, then headed in.
It was a tad more challenging than I expected but I clambered up to a top point around 25-30 foot above the ground to admire the view, cracking open a can of pop as it was now a tad warm. It was also quite windy up there, so I was extra careful when moving about. The rocks are smooth in parts due to years of erosion, yet are also uneven. It means you can use some sections to get a good foothold when climbing, but you need to watch where you’re stepping on flatter, walkable areas.
I’d brought my Liberator teleport bracelet (because why wouldn’t you!), but I didn’t keep it on long in the end because I was worried that I could easily knock it off and lose it down one of the rocks’ narrow crevices. It’s a wonder the crew weren’t all stranded more often really.
I hadn’t done any research to find spots where specific shots were filmed – it just hadn’t occurred to me – although I had quickly saved some screenshots from the Locations Facebook group. I do wish I had done more preparation now as the moment I first recognised a spot felt brilliant!
I decided that the crew would probably have stayed close to ground level to safeguard the equipment as much as the cast. After another wander around, when I thought I recognised an area I started looking for flat, level spaces where I would choose to set up a camera for a good shot.
I shuffled around a bit, got my phone camera out and BINGO! Wow!
Here I was, surrounded by numerous walkers and climbers, and from the looks of it not a single one of them was aware that mere feet from them was the very spot that a BBC cameraman had been stood a little over 40 years ago! Oh, and Paul Darrow.
Although I found one other exact spot that I could match up with Tarrant and Dayna clambering about, I struggled on others, and after almost an hour and a half I felt I’d explored enough. I was also thirsty and peckish so it was time for my next stop.
Thruscross Reservoir – Auron (Children of Auron)
I’d originally planned to go straight to Thruscross Reservoir so had researched several nearby pubs. It’s about 25 minutes from Almscliffe Crag. I ended up at The Sun Inn at Needwood, which was around halfway between the two locations and therefore ideal.
Food, drink and toilets
The pub has a huge car park and several bikers were stood outside drinking around tall wooden tables. Inside is very traditional, with dark wooden furniture and a roaring fire, though I didn’t feel the latter was needed on such a sunny, warm day – I’d put suncream on before climbing Almscliffe Crag!
I like my real ale and was tempted by the Theakston’s, but I also saw that they had Heineken 0% on draft. As I’d never seen this before and I enjoy the bottled version I felt I had to try it. This seemed a good idea for a rural pub off a main road. Like most the other patrons, I took my drink to a table outside. The pub does do its own food, but I had a cool bag full of snacks in the car boot that I didn’t want to waste as I hadn’t planned this as a lunchtime stop. I subtly ate my sarnies while enjoying my cold lager.
Accessing the reservoir
It was around 3 o’clock by the time I was getting to Thruscross Reservoir, where the Liberator crew were filmed running across the dam’s large stone steps while explosions go off around them on Auron.
The area is owned by Yorkshire Water and in the months leading up to my visit it was listed online as closed. There had been storms in the winter that had damaged trees and created muddy ground that had made the path around the reservoir unsafe. It seems likely that this could be an annual occurrence at the reservoir, so it’s worth checking the Yorkshire Water website. I considered risking it anyway, channelling the spirit of my favourite rebels (how ‘unsafe’ could a few branches and a bit of mud be?), but after reading the most recent Trip Adviser reviews I was hesitant; the circular path was a few miles long and it would be hard work to turn back if I found the way completely blocked near the end. I am not expendable, I’m not stupid, but I’d certainly feel so if I got injured alone out there in an area with minimal teleport phone signal. Was I going?
I crossed my fingers and, fortunately, the Spring weather had helped: a couple of weeks beforehand Yorkshire Water listed it as reopened. Wahey! Teleport NOW! I’d printed off an up-to-date route around the reservoir that included a small diversion around one area. View the walking map here.
Yorkshire Water had previously said the car park was closed for refurbishment, so I had looked up alternatives nearby. The car park wasn’t that busy when I arrived but these would also be useful if the open car park was full. There are grass verges along parts of the road leading to the reservoir, but you would be pushed to get a larger vehicle on them. The Stone House Inn is only half a mile away if you wanted to make it a longer walk. As of early 2023 the pub is closed Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, and doesn’t open until 5pm on other days, so of good use if you wanted to park up for an afternoon walk with a visit to the pub afterwards. However, you should note that it doesn’t offer food.
Recently, Yorkshire Water have updated their site to say they are planning to bring in parking charges at Thruscross Reservoir later in 2023. Currently, the proposed tariffs include £3 for 6 hours – more than enough time to explore Thruscross Reservoir, and the money will go towards maintaining the area.
I planned this visit thinking that I could enjoy a long walk around the reservoir while admiring the programme’s filming location from afar. However, stupidly, it didn’t occur to me that the side of the dam the Blake’s 7 production team filmed on was the other side because it’s fairly challenging to float a camera on water.
Nonetheless, even as it became slightly overcast it was still a warm day and I enjoyed my walk around Thruscross Reservoir. I exited the carpark through the entrance and walked along the road a short way to enter the path. I normally take headphones on a solo walk but I’d forgotten them, so it made a change to take in nature.
The route takes in shaded areas through trees, other sections are right along the water’s edge, and most of it varies between being fairly flat and some inclines. I’d definitely recommend sturdy shoes – I took a pair of old boots that coped alright, though I would have liked some proper walking boots with better grip. The map’s diversion took me further from the reservoir, avoiding a forested area where I presumed the path was still blocked, and across fields instead. My map had various markers including small bridges and styes but I was a little unsure once in the fields as the gap between the points was larger than in other sections. Eventually, it brought me to some worn steps, where I chose to walk downhill on the grass instead, across a larger bridge that crossed a stream, before I had some larger hills to climb that would lead me back to the reservoir. There were some muddier sections to avoid here, but there are simple wooden signposts, so just keep spotting them and you’re heading in the right direction. It was all so wonderfully peaceful and I felt I’d properly escaped from the world.
I was surprised how few people I passed: there were a couple of middle-aged dog walkers returning shortly after I set off and about a third of the way around two energetic young people overtook me, but then I saw no one for ages. Eventually I passed a man heading in the other direction with two children, including a teenage girl who was making it clear how utterly miserable she was to have been dragged outside to somewhere you couldn’t reach Instagram.
In contrast, I had fully appreciated being cut off from everything for a couple of hours. I do spend a lot of time flicking through social media and instinctively pick my phone up with every ping, so it was nice to have an enforced pause and live more fully in the moment.
The filming location
My route around the reservoir had brought me back to near the start. I was rather knackered. The light was going to fade soon and the carpark was almost empty. I took another look at my map and headed to some steps that led down from the carpark. Ta-da! There was the right side of the dam i.e. Auron. Even more than at Almscliffe, this was thrilling. It’s such a large location and instantly recognisable. It actually looks like it’s been cleaned-up compared to 40 years ago – the opposite of what I was expecting, so well done Yorkshire Water.
I wanted to access the ‘steps’ of the dam and tread in the actors’ footsteps, plus get closer down on the ground to the spot where the camera would have been. The path to these areas was closed for safety reasons. As far as I can tell, the main reason for any risk is the condition of the steps at the edges and the handrails there – they’re built up with slippery foliage in some areas, while the handrails are starting to look a bit worn and unstable in places. Based on advice from other visitors, I decided it would be safe enough if I avoided the risky areas. I identified the exact step the Liberator crew had used as they fled from Auron and imagined running along as the explosions went off behind me.
Back at ground level, there is a small bridge and I was interested to discover that the camera angle manages to make it look much closer to the dam in Children of Auron. I did my best to line up my photos of the dam with those from 1980, though clearly Auron is a very grey world.
There are many options for accommodation in this area of Yorkshire. Most are pubs or bed and breakfasts, but any choice will depend on your budget. I will point out that I found my own choice limited by the fact several places specify a minimum of two-night stays. I stayed at Talbot House in Pateley Bridge, a traditional B&B ran by a nice couple, which also operates as a tearoom. It’s on the same road as The Oldest Sweet Shop in the World (citation needed), but that was closed by the time I arrived, so I headed to The Crown pub instead and learned that Yorkshire Portions are a thing. Good ale too.
How Stean Gorge – Chenga (Powerplay)
I wanted to make an early start for How Stean Gorge, where Vila was filmed stranded on Chenga for Powerplay. Although I simply wanted to walk around the eponymous gorge, How Stean’s website advertised various activities like abseiling and caving; with it being a bank holiday weekend, I thought it might become busier than usual later on. I did my best to manage the Full English included at the B&B but to be honest I was still stuffed from the ridiculously large meal at the pub.
Access and parking
The website made How Stean Gorge look like a decent tourist attraction, so I expected it to be a little closer to some civilisation. Instead, my 20-minute drive from Pateley Bridge was pretty much entirely along narrow, twisting lanes surrounded by countryside. It was gloriously picturesque. The last section of the route passes a turn-off for a camping site, then consists of a narrow single-track road, darkened by trees on either side. Driving onto the patch that I took for a carpark, I saw that there was camping available onsite, with several tents and vans. Feeling fully energised by now, I resisted the urge to cheerily cry, “Morning campers!” as several bleary-eyed people in wellies trudged towards a toilet block.
I headed to reception where in return for an entry ticket (£7 and valid for return visits over 12 months) I received a map, then was advised to take care and pick up a hard hat on my way in. And that was that. There is no one keeping an eye on visitors – you’re just let off on your own to explore. Good luck.
The filming location
There is a stone edgeway around the gorge’s water. Some parts have a wooden fence along, while others are open, with a few sufficiently slippery and narrow that a length of rope has been attached to the wall so you can hold on and keep your balance. To explore it fully you need to cross a couple of narrow bridges. It’s not a circular route so you have to backtrack on yourself to return. However, you can exit earlier at a couple of points, although one of these is through a small pitch-black cave. They sell torches at the site shop, but a phone light is sufficient to guide you past the resident spiders.
The gorge itself isn’t a particularly big place and I was told it usually took people about 40 minutes to walk around the lot of it. Clearly, these people aren’t usually looking for the exact location the Blake’s 7 production crew placed their cameras. There are information stands placed along the route that explain the history of how the gorge became a tourist destination. You can climb down into one of the lower caves, though signs recommend not to do so if it is wet. I’m not keen on unstable heights and had already found it slippery, so was happy to pass on these.
It took me a while to find what I had christened ‘Vila’s Rock’. Compared to Almscliffe Crag and Thruscross Reservoir’s dam, How Stean Gorge’s environment had changed a lot as plants and algae had grown and been cleared over the decades. Also, despite being relatively small, several areas look similar to one another. Initially I thought I’d identified Vila’s Rock, but putting my director’s hat on again I was sceptical about where the camera could have gone for the wide shots. After exploring another section for a while, I realised I’d struggled to spot the right rock because the edge where the camera would have been placed had started to erode so was roped off. Hurrah! It was slippery pretty much everywhere so I leaned over to get the best wide shot I could, which still wasn’t brilliant, and settled for close-up selfies down on Vila’s Rock.
It’s around here that the map’s guided route ends and directs you to return the way you came. However, I could see that the gorge continued for some way and I wanted to see how much further I could go.
In retrospect, I do not advise this.
By this point, it’s pretty much just smooth rocks poking out of the water. I was wearing my reliable leather boots that had stood up to the weekend’s demands so far. I was alright for a short stretch, but then I reached an area where water was running down across the rocks and into the gorge’s main stream at a right angle.
I decided to continue the slow approach I had undertaken so far, wedging my feet between the rocks to grip myself in place. I took a step, then another, and uh, oh – no! Ouch! Oh, that’s the sky. I got to my feet, stepped back onto the safe edge and prepared to go again. Settling on the opposite approach, I decided I would simply try to leg it across this time. Right. One, t-uh?, thr-EEEXPLETIVE! Oh, blimey, I’m glad I put this hard hat on!
I laughed because I felt such an idiot. In this second attempt, I had fallen flat on my face, almost, except the small peak of the hard hat had prevented me from actually faceplanting the rocks. I was a tad further from the safe edge this time and, now I was far too close to it, I was very aware of how fast the stream was moving. Slowly and carefully, I dragged myself back over until I could stand up. I felt I had sacrificed enough dignity and I had no desire to die alone on Chenga, conscious of the organ donor card in my wallet.
Food, drink and toilets
I was muddy and wet but had come prepared with a spare change of clothes in the car so headed back. After drying off, I warmed myself up in the café. Here, you can sit at tables with a square glass pane below, just in case any slight fear of heights hasn’t been tested enough. The walls consist of floor to ceiling windows, giving you a fantastic view of the gorge. I’d spotted half a stag do abseiling from a bridge on my way back and could now see the other half secured with ropes and harnesses, climbing along a wall.
I’d spent less time at How Stean Gorge than I anticipated. I had planned to go straight from here to my hotel at Stockton-on-Tees, but it wasn’t even midday and I couldn’t check in until 3pm. Maybe I could stop off for lunch at a decent pub on the way? There had to be more than just camping sites and hamlets near here.
Other nearby attractions – more food, drink and toilets
Black Sheep Brewery
Less than half an hour from Chenga is the small town of Masham, which is home to Black Sheep Brewery. They’ve been around for over 30 years and as a real ale drinker I was familiar with them, but I hadn’t realised they were based in such a relatively rural spot.
You can book onto brewery tours or else just enjoy the large open plan visitor centre. It’s industrial feel is slightly more upmarket than anything the Blake’s 7 crew visited. There is a restaurant area, which was very busy with Sunday lunches on my visit, a brewery shop where you can grab beers and Black Sheep merchandise, plus a bar area with additional seating above on a balcony.
I’ve visited a fair few breweries over the years and one is much like another, so I was happy to sit in the bar with a copy of Trevor Hoyle’s Blake’s 7 novelisation. I dearly wished I wasn’t driving because I wanted to try every beer they had on. Fortunately, they offered measures in thirds, which was some consolation, and I enjoyed mine with a packet of crisps. I headed back to the car afterwards with a bag full of beers from the shop, and a new shaggy sheep friend who has since been christened Frank, with whom I continued my journey to Stockton-on-Tees.
More Northern Blake’s 7 locations
Greenhow Hill – Obsidian and Keezarn (Volcano and The City at the Edge of the World)
Near to Thruscross Reservoir and Pateley Bridge is Greenhow Hill, which features several locations from Volcano and some from City at the Edge of the World too. I passed on it for my visit because I was really doubtful that I was going to be able to match them up. I knew from the Blake’s 7 Locations group that the whole area looked fairly similar and I couldn’t see much from Google Maps or Street View, except that it looked like Greenhow Hill could be a large area. I wasn’t at all sure whereabouts I would be going so it might take a while to find anything, and I decided I didn’t have the time. I’d welcome some more details about the Blake’s 7 locations in this area.
Plumpton Rocks – Chenga (Powerplay)
I’ve only become aware of the Blake’s 7 filming at Plumpton Rocks since my visit. It’s just 15 minutes east of Almscliffe Crag, and one that’s worth fitting in.
Leeds Polytechnic, Brunswick Building – Auron (Children of Auron)
Sadly, the Auron cloning plant is gone, demolished in 2009. If you want to mourn the atrocities committed here – either the Auron genocide or the destruction of a brutalist beauty – you can wear black outside the Leeds First Direct Arena.
Bamburgh Beach – Sarran (Aftermath)
From How Stean Gorge it’s more than 120 miles on to Bamburgh Beach in Northumbria. Even having continued my long weekend on to Stockton, this only cut it down to 90, and I only had one more day. I realised my devotion to Blake’s 7 locations didn’t extend to covering over 300 miles on a bank holiday Monday just to visit Sarran (I’m sorry!). However, if yours does or you just happen to live a bit further north, then this could be a suitable way to round off a Blake’s 7 tour.