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Ivinghoe Beacon, at the northern end of The Ridgeway, has been a location for Star Wars, Batman Begins, Dirty Dozen and Harry Potter films. The easy access from NW London makes it a convenient location for film studios such as Leavesden and Ellstree. Read on to find out more….

Note: Star Wars, images of Star Wars characters etc are registered trademarks and/or copyright of Lucasfilm Ltd, Disney or their respective trademark and copyright holders.

Last year, British singer-songwriter Kate Bush was an unexpected entry in the UK music charts as a result of her 1985 single ‘Running up that hill’ being used in the soundtrack of a popular TV drama called ‘Stranger Things’. On the same Number 1 ‘Hounds of Love’ album, her song ‘Cloudbusting’ was released with a music video featuring Kate and the actor Donald Sutherland climbing up White Horse Hill near Uffington, Oxfordshire, with the White Horse chalk figure and Dragon Hill in the background. The video was conceived as a short film by Kate and Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame. Kate saw herself as a storyteller and Cloudbusting was inspired by a book she came across called ‘Book of Dreams’ which tells the true story of an Austrian psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich.

Another Ridgeway hilltop has featured in the latest Star Wars film – Ivinghoe Beacon near Tring, Hertfordshire. For Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019), the hill became the crash site of the Millennium Falcon on the ocean moon Kef Bir. Chewbacca, Rey, Finn, Poe, C-3PO and BB-8 all climbed the hill to look across a sea superimposed across the low-lying Vale of Aylesbury (see banner image above). Unlike the usual Ridgeway walker, Rey uses the Sith Dagger to find her way from Ivinghoe Beacon to the Death Star! With an estimated budget of $275 million, the film is one of the most expensive films ever made.

In the Goblet of Fire, the fourth in the Harry Potter series, the film shows Harry, Hermione, the Weasleys and the Diggorys climbing up the hill at Ivinghoe Beacon. They are looking for an old walking boot sitting on top of the hill which, as it turns out, is a ‘portkey’ – a magical device which transports people to different locations. They gather round the boot and the magic rises them up, spinning into the air above the hills, to then drop them back on earth on the south coast near the Seven Sisters! Off they hike, complete with backpacks, to the Quidditch World Cup…they probably used the South Downs Way National Trail enroute!

World-famous British TV dramas have also been filmed on The Ridgeway – The Crown, Black Mirror and Killing Eve. The Crown has twice won the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Drama. It is an historical drama television series, produced by Netflix, about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II featuring famous members of the royal family and several British Prime Ministers. Another Netflix drama series Black Mirror has used the M40 underpass along The Ridgeway for its episode ‘Smithereens’. Black Mirror presents fictional stories to ‘comment on contemporary social issues’. The series has received critical acclaim and some regard it as one of the best television series of the 2010s. In Killing Eve, a British spy thriller series produced by the BBC, it’s leading female character, played by Jodie Comer, brings a van full of assassins to Ivinghoe Beacon. Jodie is one of several actresses in Killing Eve and The Crown who have received a Golden Globe for best actress – a total of nine awards to the two series in the past decade!

Journalist Will Gore was inspired by Killing Eve to take his young daughter to Ivinghoe Beacon on their ‘first quest to climb a peak together’. He writes in the Independent that he knew the film location well, having lived nearby, and was curious to re-visit the beauty spot after having seen it’s peace disturbed by the sound and sight of automatic weapons! Following in Jodie Comer’s footsteps to Ivinghoe Beacon, he says paths are ‘continuums between generations, a link between those who walked them in the past, those who travel them today, and the many to follow – whether they are innocent picnickers or famous actors portraying brutal killers.’

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