Alice's England is just wonderful

Antony at Torpoint: principal location for Tim Burton’s Alice film

Antony at Torpoint: principal location for Tim Burton’s Alice film

It only opens today, yet half of Britain is already geared up for Alice in Wonderland fever. The new film has inspired catwalk creations, and now it's hoped it will also inspire tourists.

Everyone knows the fictional Alice dreamt of her surreal world while napping by the Thames, but director Tim Burton's wild interpretation of Lewis Carroll's book was based on locations in Devon and Cornwall, while the Carroll trail itself starts in Cheshire.  

Key locations associated with the film and the book, include the 18th-century National Trust property, Antony at Torpoint in Cornwall, which was the principal location for the film. Burton felt it perfectly fitted his vision of "a perfect, pocket-sized mansion, beautifully symmetrical, with wide views and landscaped gardens".

This weekend sees the opening of an Alice in Wonderland Experience at Antony, featuring a magical garden, croquet, and Alice's bedroom recreated within the house itself.

Mad Hatter's parties will be held every weekend and Bank Holiday, and the landscaped gardens, designed by Repton, have been transformed with surreal topiary, a statue of Alice and other diversions. Antony lies close to Plymouth, whose historic Barbican was another location for the film.

Oxford has, for more than a century, been synonymous with Lewis Carroll, and the shop where the real Alice Liddell once bought sweets (the owner's bleating voice inspired the shopkeeping sheep) is still standing. Now an "Alice" souvenir shop, it also has themed paintings by collectible artists from Dali and Rackham to Tenniel, the illustrator of the Alice books. The shop is close to beautiful Christ Church College, where the real Alice's father was Dean, and which is open to visitors for an admission charge.

Also nearby, the Museum of Oxford has a stash of Alice Liddell's personal items - parasol, dress, letters, books, watch and fan - and some of Carroll's effects,  plus the first edition books and original water-colour illustrations. But it was exhibits at Oxford's Museum of Natural History which inspired many of Carroll's creations.

Carroll actually hailed from Daresbury in Cheshire, where the historic All Saints Church contains beautiful stained glass windows. Funded by fans in his memory, they show all the favourite Alice characters.

Hopping across the Pennines to the National Media Museum in Bradford, it's possible to see portraits of Alice and her sisters snapped by the author, who often tagged along with the girls and their father on trips down the Thames.

Although the IMAX at this truly excellent museum -which ecompasses film as well as photography - is showing Alice, London is the place to get the most intensely visual, Tim Burtonesque experience on the largest screen in the UK. This 20-metre high wonder lives at the British Film Institute's own IMAX theatre, the fortress-like circular building at Waterloo between the station and the bridge.

The BFI are also showing other versions of the Alice story at their Southbank cinema, including the  newly-restored 1903 version, the 1933 blockbuster starring Cary Grant, Gary Cooper and WC Fields, and Jonathan Miller's 1966 masterpiece featuring John Gielgud, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. They are also running a Mad Hatter's Film School for nine- to 13-year olds from April 6 to 9.

Full information on Antony and all Alice-related activities in England at www.enjoyengland.com/alice.

    Last updated: 11:29am, March 4 2010