13 years on from the last episode of Heartbeat, its popularity is undiminished

13 years on from the last episode of Heartbeat, its popularity is undiminished

The ever-patient Heartbeat actors Tricia Penrose, Vanessa Hehir and David Lonsdale, who spent hours signing autographs for fans <i>(Image: Sarah Walker)</i>

The ever-patient Heartbeat actors Tricia Penrose, Vanessa Hehir and David Lonsdale, who spent hours signing autographs for fans (Image: Sarah Walker)

I had the pleasure recently of being able to join the annual Heartbeat Vehicle Rally that has taken place in Goathland for the past eleven years.

Thousands of fans flock to the village to see the impressive classic vehicles, some of which feature in the TV series inspired by my dad’s series of Constable books. It also attracts owners of other vintage cars, bikes, tractors and trucks as well as fans of the 1960s and families looking for an entertaining day out.

I was fortunate to have been invited by the organizer, Lee Jones, to join him and his merry band of helpers for the weekend. It’s not a money-making exercise, but simply a bunch of fans and vehicle enthusiasts who work together to create a memorable occasion for all those who love doing it.

Lee was supported by volunteers hailing from all over the country, including Wales, Scotland, the Midlands, Teesside, Durham, Lincolnshire and Suffolk to name just those I had the pleasure of meeting. Visitors came from even further fields, including from the USA, Sweden, Norway, Ireland, Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, Essex, Hampshire, Somerset, and even – wait for it – Lancashire!

A few of the stars were in attendance too, including Tricia Penrose, who played barmaid Gina Ward, David Lonsdale, who played hapless David Stockwell, and Vanessa Hehir who played Scripps Garage mechanic Rosie Cartright. Adoring and ever-patient fans queued for up to two hours in the bracing wind just for a chance to speak to their heroes. Despite sitting at tables exposed to the elements for several hours, the actors were completely gracious, and gave each individual the time for a short chat, an autograph and a photo, which clearly meant the world to them.

The considerable collection of classic vehicles was a significant draw, and the owners adored their cars with the kind of ferocious love that I saved for my children (although it might be argued that they gave their cars far more care and attention). The metal beauties were absolutely gleaming, and some were adorned with pictures of their appearances in the show, alongside Heartbeat memorabilia.

A couple of owners (namely members of the Sunderland and District Classic Vehicle Society) dressed up as characters from the series, walking around rattling buckets to raise funds for Goathland Primary School and the Village Hall, while others were giving people lifts in these special cars for the same reason. It was a thoughtful touch to give something back to the community that hosted the event.

There was such a positive and friendly atmosphere, although for the villagers of Goathland, it must be rather frightening having so many people descend. I’d be intrigued to know how many people attended over the two days, and popularity like this is a double-edged sword, but I know the organizers were at pains to ensure the least upset to those who lived there. When the first short series was aired in 1992, no-one predicted that it would be so successful, that at its peak, Heartbeat would attract 18 million viewers, and last for 18 series over 18 years.

And yet, it is this kind of economical boost and public exposure that rural communities in North Yorkshire need, but very few get. I am sure some residents will object to the intrusion, and I absolutely understand that, but you cannot ignore the financial benefits that are brought into these often neglected areas by the tourism that results from film or TV success. Without the Heartbeat-inspired influx, how else would remote Goathland prosper?

It is worth noting that almost all the businesses lining the village thoroughfare feature the word “Aidensfield” either on their shop front or on the merchandise they are selling. My dad created that name, but our family does not benefit from any of it. All the money generated goes to those small businesses that sell it.

In 2023, we are 13 years on from when the last episode of Heartbeat was aired, but the popularity of the show is undiminished. It is repeated every day on ITV3 and available on various streaming services, remaining one of the most popular of all the British vintage shows. I did wonder what my dad, a humble soul, would think of it all, but I witnessed the years and years of hard graft that he put in to achieve that success.

I am one seriously proud countryman’s daughter.

Read more at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug

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