March 22, 2013 6:09 pm

On location: ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’

The special effects are so dazzling it may come as a surprise to learn that many of the film’s bucolic landscapes are real

The film The latest in a growing list of Hollywood movies inspired by folklore and fairy tales, this fantasy adventure from X-Men director Bryan Singer is loosely based on Jack and the Beanstalk. It follows the fortunes of farm-boy Jack (Nicholas Hoult), who inadvertently opens a gateway to a world of bloodthirsty giants. Cue spectacular CGI-enhanced action scenes as man battles giant to save the Kingdom of Albion.

On location The special effects are so dazzling it may come as a surprise to learn that many of the film’s locations are real. The bucolic landscapes of rural Somerset, steeped in the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, were an obvious choice for the film’s location scouts.

The genteel city of Wells – with its medieval streets and buildings, which include the moated Bishop’s Palace and Vicars’ Close, the oldest continuously-inhabited residential street in Britain – is no stranger to the big screen, having appeared in several big productions, including Elizabeth: The Golden Age, The Libertine and Hot Fuzz. On this occasion, the cathedral takes the spotlight, its elaborately carved gothic façade and medieval Chapter House transformed into a fairytale castle for the King of Albion (see www.wellscathedral.org.uk).

Just a short drive across the Mendip Hills from Wells is Cheddar Gorge (www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ cheddar-gorge). At almost 400ft deep and three miles long, it’s Britain’s answer to the Grand Canyon. On screen the gorge appears as a menacing giant’s lair, complete with gargoyles spewing water. But even without the camera trickery, the plunging cliffs make for an impressive sight. There are walking trails on either side of the gorge, more than 350 climbing routes up the limestone cliff-face, and the B3135, the road which runs along its floor, is a popular and challenging route for cyclists.

Puzzlewood in the Forest of Dean

One location that needed no digital enhancement to create an air of mystery was Puzzlewood in the Forest of Dean (www.puzzlewood.net). On the site of an open-cast iron ore mine dating from Roman times, this ancient woodland is a favourite of film crews thanks to its atmospheric jumble of moss-covered trees and strange rock formations. BBC TV series Merlin was filmed here and JRR Tolkien is reputed to have used it as inspiration for the forests of Middle Earth. Some of the filming of Jack the Giant Slayer took place while the wood was open to the public, giving unsuspecting visitors a close encounter with stars Ewan McGregor and Nicholas Hoult as they dashed through the trees.

Where to stay The recently refurbished Swan in Wedmore makes a relaxed and stylish base for exploring the Mendip Hills, the city of Wells and Cheddar Gorge (www.theswanwedmore.com). Alternatively, the Tudor Farmhouse Hotel is a peaceful country house retreat in the Forest of Dean (www.tudorfarmhousehotel.co.uk).

‘Jack the Giant Slayer’ is on general release in the US and UK

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