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Midsomer visits drive dramatic tourist boom
Buy this photo » Steve Hodgkinson’s ShO4 Travel is one of four firms running Midsomer Murders tours
BUDDING detectives will have noted bus-loads of tourists appearing across south Oxfordshire, all on the trail of a TV super-sleuth.
That’s because business brought in by the long-running detective drama Midsomer Murders is booming.
Now four tour companies offer visitors the inside track on the series made famous by actor John Nettles.
He has recently been succeeded in the lead role of Inspector Barnaby by Neil Dudgeon. Another clue lies in the dedicated South Oxfordshire District Council -operated tourist website visitmid somer.com where hits are on track to double this year.
But the reasons why are no mystery – the ITV drama is now exported to 220 countries around the world.
And although a figure has yet to be put on the income the fans of Inspector Barnaby generate for businesses by visiting the area, it is clear the numbers keep on growing.
The council’s marketing consultant Jackie Ellis said: “Inspector Morse and the spin-off programmes bring in thousands of visitors to Oxford every year and Midsomer Murders is now having a similar positive effect.
“So far this year, we have had 40,000 unique visits to the website – the total for website over all of last year.
“The show has a big following, particularly with the senior American public.”
Midsomer Murders first aired in 1997, with Wallingford taking the role of fictional county town Causton.
Steve Hodgkinson, 60, from Thame, has been running tours since 2004 and this year launched Midsomer Murders Mystery Tours.
The former pub landlord, who runs ShO4 Travel, said: “I do tours for six people twice a week in my Mercedes seven-seater and even with four companies operating, there’s plenty of business to go round. The fans come because they love to see the rural locations.
“I prefer John Nettles to Neil Dudgeon but I’m sure the show will remain popular.”
Mr Hodgkinson charges six people £250 for a day tour and caters mostly for Americans.
Stops include Manor House at Long Crendon, where scenes from The Garden of Death episode were filmed.
The others running Midsomer tours are Oxford-based Absolute Touring, Brit Movie Tours and Detective Tours.
Absolute Touring director Martin Cowell said: “Clients come from all over the world. Australia leads but we have had people from Switzerland, Bulgaria, Belgium and Japan.”
Wallingford mayor Ros Lester said: “Like the author Agatha Christie, Midsomer Murders brings in visitors and it gives shops and hotels a boost.”
WORKING FROM HOME
STAGE and screen actress Sinead Cusack did not need to go far for her latest role.
Ms Cusack the wife of Jeremy Irons, will star in a new episode of Midsomer Murders, which was filmed near her home in Watlington.
She said: “It was wonderful to be able to just get out of bed and go off to work”