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Monday June 18th 2018

Into The Woods | 2014

Into The Woods filming location: Byfleet Manor, Surrey
Into The Woods location: the home of Cinderella and her stepsisters: Byfleet Manor, Mill Lane, West Byfleet, Surrey | Photograph: wikimedia / Mark Percy

Rob Marshall’s version of Stephen Sondheim’s dark musical fable loses much of its ironic edge in the move to screen and gets rather swamped by Disney fairyland visuals.

Much of the film was made on stages and the backlot of at Shepperton Studios, Shepperton, southwest of London in Surrey, but a touch of reality is provided by practical locations around Southeast England.

The ancient oaks of Windsor Great Park in Berkshire are strange and mysterious enough to blend in with the fantastical studio sets.

Sondheim and James Lapine place the characters from classic tales Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel alongside each other and a newly-invented couple – a baker and his wife who’ve been “cursed“ with childlessness.

The briefly-glimpsed country village in which they all live is Hambleden, Buckinghamshire, about three miles northeast of Henley-on-Thames (which is confusingly across the border in Oxfordshire).

The house of the Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) is on Hambleden's (apparently nameless) main street, alongside the old ‘Wheelers Butchery’ building. That charming rustic wooden doorway is real, and not added by the props department.

After helping herself to a basketful of pastries Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) skips off along the quirkily-named Pheasant’s Hill Frieth and through the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin.

Hambleden's charm has been seen onscreen before in the live-action 101 Dalmatians, 1998 big screen version of cult TV show The Avengers, Fifties-set true-life crime story Dance With A Stranger, fantasy musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Hammer Films’ The Witches, with Joan Fontaine and 1946 drama The Captive Heart.

Southeast of London in Surrey, a little set dressing is added to the entrance stairway of Byfleet Manor, Mill Lane, West Byfleet, about four miles northeast of Woking, to become the modest home shared by Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) and her less-than-loving step-mother and stepsisters. You can enjoy afternoon tea here, or even take a holiday break.

The house has seen service on TV in Agatha Christie's Poirot: After the Funeral and became Dower House, the residence of Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith) in Downton Abbey.

Into The Woods filming location: Waverley Abbey, Farnham, Surrey
Into The Woods location: the site of Rapunzel's tower: Waverley Abbey, Farnham, Surrey | Photograph: Shutterstock / PhotoFires

The tower in which the Witch (Meryl Streep) keeps her ‘stolen’ daughter Rapunzel prisoner to shield her from the horrors of the world is a digital creation placed among the picturesque ruins of Waverley Abbey, near Farnham.

Dating from 1128, Waverley was the first Cistercian abbey in England and is now administered by English Heritage – and open to visit from April to September.

You can see the abbey again in Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later…, in Shekhar Kapur’s historical epic Elizabeth, The Golden Age and in Edgar Wright's Hot Fuzz.

One sad loss is the magnificent tree in which Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) sings of Giants In The Sky after he returns from his trip up the beanstalk. It was the Queen Beech which stood for around 400 years in Frithsden Beeches on the Ashridge Estate, Hertfordshire, which finally collapsed under its own spreading weight in 2014. It had previously appeared, with a little help from CGI, as the Whomping Willow in Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban.

Into The Woods filming location: The Cascades, Virginia Water, Surrey
Into The Woods location: the two princes sing of their Agony: The Cascades, Virginia Water, Surrey | Photograph: Shutterstock / Photosounds

The two Princes (Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen) get their royal feet wet as they compare their their romantic yearnings (Agony) at the Cascades of Virginia Water, a man-made lake to the south of Windsor Great Park. This water feature dates from the 1930s and, in terms of filming, has the great advantage over a real waterfall that it can be turned on and off.

Another location seen in the Harry Potter films, the lakeside scenes for Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire were filmed between the Cascades and the nearby Roman ruins.

Of course, Cinderella gets to marry her Prince – although in this version, that’s only half the story. The royal palace, where the festival nights are held and where the wedding is celebrated, is Dover Castle, Dover on the coast of Kent.

The largest medieval castle in England, the fortification was begun in the 11th century in a vitally strategic position which lead to it being dubbed the ‘Key to England’.

During the reign of Henry II, the castle began to take its recognisable shape with the inner and outer baileys and the Great Keep. Massive rebuilding took place during the Napoleonic Wars at the end of the 18th century.

When Dover became a garrison town, the need for barracks and storerooms lead to the creation of a complex of tunnels about 15 metres below the cliff top, which housed more than 2,000 personnel. To date they remain the only underground barracks built in Britain.

The castle, its secret tunnels, and surrounding land are a major tourist attraction, now owned by English Heritage.

You can see Dover Castle onscreen again in Franco Zeffirelli's 1990 Hamlet, with Mel Gibson, and standing in for 'Windsor Castle' in The Other Boleyn Girl, with Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson.