Purbeck back on TV for Channel 5’s Big Steam Adventure

A new episode of a surprise hit TV show features Swanage, Corfe Castle and Kimmeridge, as three well known men of a certain age and charm, take a steam journey across Dorset.  

Channel 5’s Big Steam Adventure, now in its second series and regularly pulling audiences in excess of a million viewers, follows former Dr Who Peter Davison, political journalist and Strictly Come Dancing star John Sergeant and steam railway director Paul ‘Piglet’ Middleton, as they travel around the country using all manner of steam powered transport.

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Matt McManus from the 563 Locomotive Group, introduces the stars to the unique T3 which was originally built in 1893

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Peter Davison (left), John Sergeant (middle) and Paul ‘Piglet’ Middleton (right) arrive at Swanage station to film a very stormy escapade

Filming blown off course by Storm Babet

The Dorset episode, starting at Swanage Railway, is being aired at 8 pm on Friday 17th May, but encountered more problems than expected

As the friends began their journey in October 2023 helping with the launch of the newly restored T3 locomotive, Storm Babet blew the filming schedule off course, making both travel and sightseeing challenging at times. 

However Peter, who played the Doctor in the 1980s, found at least one ray of sunshine in the storm – the Corfe Castle shop with the biggest array of traditional sweets he had ever seen!

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Matt McManus who helped restore the T3 explains more about the £650,000 six-year project

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Strictly Come Dancing star John Sergeant got his hands – and face – dirty while helping to clean up the T3 locomotive

“Best looking train they’ve been on”

Channel 5 spokesperson Julie Jack said:

“Peter, John and Piglet thought that the Victorian T3 locomotive they saw at Swanage Railway was the best looking train they’ve been on so far and were amazed when they heard she had been out of use for as long as John has been alive.

“They heard how volunteers at the Swanage Railway Trust had been donated the non working locomotive in 2017 and had restored the T3 to her former glory ready for her maiden voyage just about the time when the film crew visited.

“But that didn’t stop John being set to work with some final, grubby preparations for the locomotive before they all climbed aboard for a wonderful journey through the stunning Dorset countryside.

“Peter and John were both reminiscing on the journey about their childhood and the holidays they spent here in the county, and when the T3 passed Corfe Castle it looked like a scene from a fairytale.

“But Peter remembered there had been a sweet shop in the village and couldn’t wait to see if it was still there!”

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The Victorian T3 locomotive on its way to Norden with its TV crew on board

At Corfe Castle, an array of nearly 200 traditional sweet varieties had the celebrity shoppers spoiled for choice

“Very excited to see the range of sweets”

Roz Firmstone, who runs The Sweet Shop at Corfe Castle with her husband James, said:

“It was a shame that it was such a rotten day with the weather when they arrived, they didn’t get to do everything that they wanted, so they came back on a separate day to do some outside filming.

“They were lovely customers – they were very excited to see the range of sweet jars and one of them, Peter Davison I think, said he remembered spending time on holiday down here as a boy.

“They spent an hour or so in the shop, we had a few customers come in and out while they were here and everyone loved it. I am really looking forward to the programme, as long as there are not too many close ups on me and more on the sweets.

“I hadn’t really planned to use the visit as publicity – we don’t really need to do that, we are so lucky with the location of the shop.”

Roz Firmstone runs Corfe Castle’s Sweet Shop from premises dating back to at least 1616

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The team discuss their journey before the full force of Storm Babet hits Dorset

Full force of Storm Babet hit

Roz and James took over The Sweet Shop in December 2020 just as the second national lockdown happened, causing a few problems for the couple, although they were able to stay open to sell newspapers until the situation eased.

The Sweet Shop, based in a building on West Street which dates back to at least 1616, has been a fixture of the village for many decades and is known to have been used by Princess Diana on an incognito visit to Corfe Castle in the 1980s.

The latest celebrities to visit went away clutching several paper bags of traditional sweets before climbing aboard Young Buster, a steam powered Leyland Sherpa van, for a drive out to Kimmeridge Bay.

While they were there, the full force of Storm Babet hit overnight and their transport out of the village – Puffing Billy, a nine tonne bus with very little tyre grip for the roads – made for a very challenging journey through the Purbeck Hills.

CHANNEL 5

The Big Steam Adventure breaks off for a sweet snack in Corfe Castle

“Dorset hills were a huge challenge”

Julie Jack, of Channel 5, said:

“With no grip, and in some very strong winds, the Dorset hills were a huge challenge. The Foden steam bus burned through a lot of steam and a refuel – or rewater as it’s called in the steam world – didn’t go to plan.

“While their journey was interrupted, John insisted that they took a walk along Chesil beach, but although it’s a UNESCO site Peter was unimpressed, as it was cold and windy and there was no pier, or shops.

“They had to stop overnight at cottages at Portland Bill Lighthouse until the weather had calmed and they could continue their journey on a 95 year-old cider wagon.

“John wanted to stop at Abbotsbury Swannery where Piglet was shocked to learn that these magnificent birds used to be a regular on the menu for the monks who lived nearby.

“Despite the weather, it was a pleasure as always to visit Dorset, and we hope that viewers love the adventure as much as our stars did!”

CHANNEL 5

Peter Davison, Paul ‘Piglet’ Middleton and John Sergeant took a 95 year-old steam powered cider wagon to Abbotsbury

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Peter Davison reflects on a nostalgic return to the holiday haunts of his childhood

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