Now then, how about if the BBC television series of Winston Graham’s Poldark had been filmed in a dingy town where it was raining all the time? Ok stop picturing Ross Poldark aka Aidan Turner shirtless in the rain! Or perhaps if Cornwall was shiny and gorgeous but Ross had a beer gut instead of a mighty six pack? My point is that Poldark and Cornwall are a mutually beneficial beautiful partnership. In marketing speak this would be two perfectly complimentary brands working to promote both at the same time.
T’is Always Sunny In Poldark
I think we can all agree that the filming of Poldark has captured Cornwall in the best possible light. The long sweeping shots of the seas, the dramatic skies, sunsets, sunrises, the land, the natural beauty, all gorgeous sunny days (give or take the day of the storm and the dusting of snow at Christmas), and then there's Aidan Turner and Emma Tomlinson looking epically picturesque in their Poldark era clothes against the coastline. I'm just on my way back from a week there (and booked pre-Poldark since you ask) but I've been gripped by his horse trotting ways for months now. And in all honesty, a horse might be the best way to get around Cornwall, as to visit the best bits the roads are notoriously narrow and the paths and roads are filled with beautiful wild flowers making it the most scary but delightful drive around.
*jumps on horse, clip clop, clip clop.
Just Take Your Clothes Off Then Yah?
Poldark is not the first show to film in Cornwall and push the perfect area into the spotlight but there is something about this latest series which appears to have captured the imagination. We can’t stop talking about it, or googling it (the Guardian reports a surge in hits to Visit Cornwall by 65%) and even visiting it (Daily Mail reports it is now the number 1 tourist destination) in search of recreating our own little piece of Poldark magic. You may think it is a super easy formula, just another period drama – just like Colin Firth’s Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice emerging from the lake in his white shirt – but it is not quite as simple to get it quite right. The year before Jamaica Inn a BBC show remaking Daphne Du Marier's novel did not set pulses racing quite as much.
Shhh Don’t Mention Poldark
There's definitely something about Poldark which has been triumphant in the viewing figures and created a halo effect for Cornwall with even The National Trust notes that they have benefitted from location fees from the mine scenes and the shipwreck on the beach to pay for ongoing maintenance. Yet despite the obvious endorsement of Cornwall in the TV series, there are few places where Poldark's influence is overtly felt - for instance there are only handful of pubs and mines named after the book series and an earlier TV series. The marketing of Poldark in Cornwall itself pretty much stops in the gift shop with recently re-printed versions of Poldark with Aidan Turner's face on the front – rebranding if you will! But what is more surprising is that on the whole they are not cashing in, for example Charlestown was used for the harbour scenes and there's no evidence to suggest that it was (unless you are an avid fan and checked the locations out on the BBC which lists Charlestown and Bodmin Moor amongst others).
*Jumps on horse clippety clop.
Catch The Ross Poldark Tour
Perhaps it will seem an unwelcome intrusion to talk about the effect of Poldark on Cornwall. Cornwall would, I imagine, be thinking that it was looking fabulous before Poldark came along and will be there looking fabulous long after Aidan Turner has hung up his…shirt. And I'm not suggesting a cut out Ross Poldark to have your photo taken next to for £5 (ooh imagine the Instagram opportunity) but I did expect to see a little more information to get people excited. However Cornwall isn’t your average tourist filled place. The people visiting Cornwall are unlikely to warm to a 'Ross Poldark tour bus' or paying over the odds to swim in the same sea that Aidan Turner swam naked. This is a wiser consumer (in the main) searching for quality beers, top notch local cream teas, locally caught crab and scenes of unrivalled natural beauty. There's no Madame Toussaurds, no big red tour buses, no obvious tourist nonsense. However these are about a hundred MacDonalds and Tescos (just for cultural reference but I defy you to pick a Big Mac instead of cod and chips on the harbour).
“T’int right, t’int fit, t’int fair, t’int proper.”
One thing is for sure, with 12 books to get through and a sure fire BBC hit on their hands, Cornwall may well have to get used to the attention and share their stunning surroundings with a few more tourists. However people are enticed to Cornwall, I’m happy they have been and long may they respect the surroundings which will (with a little luck) manage to keep Poldark merchandise to a minimum. I’m thinking NO to plastic lunch boxes with Ross Poldark’s face on yah? So quick smart, bring me my horse, let’s get down the mine faster than you can say, in the words of Jud Paynter; “t’int right, t’int fit, t’int fair, t’int proper.”
Images courtesy of BBC and my pictures from Instagram - follow @claireetchell for more Cornwall and hiking images.