Fylde sand dunes hit the small screen in ‘World on Fire’

Photo by Fylde Sand Dunes Project

On Sunday 29 September BBC viewers will see the Fylde sand dunes immortalised in all their rugged, windswept glory in brand new WWII drama, World on Fire, starring Helen Hunt and Sean Bean.

Telling the interwoven stories of a number of individuals and families across Europe at the beginning of WWII, World on Fire is billed as an ‘emotionally gripping’ drama that will leave viewers captivated. The sand dunes will feature in a particularly pivotal scene: a depiction of Operation Dynamo – the Dunkirk evacuations of 1940.

“We first met with the producers from Mammoth Screen in early January,” says Amy Pennington, our Fylde Sand Dunes Project Community Engagement Officer. “They came down to North Beach to discuss the possibility of using it as a filming location. They conducted a nationwide search and very quickly established that the dunes, large expanse of open, sandy beach and access to a nearby car park made North Beach the perfect spot.”

Extras from the BBC drama 'World on Fire' on set on North Beach in St Anne's

Photo by Fylde Sand Dunes Project

The World on Fire crew arrived on the beach on 4 February and left on 17 February, though filming itself took place over just three days. The area was closed off to the public, but Amy and Andy (who also works on our Fylde Sand Dunes Project) were granted special access to the set.

“It was amazing to see the work that goes into filming a drama like this,” Amy told us. “Despite filming only taking three days, a huge amount of time was spent ‘dressing’ and undressing the beach. All the scattered materials and set pieces were placed on top of a mesh net that was buried in the sand, so they could be collected easily at the end of shooting.”

But Amy and Andy weren’t just on-set to take pictures, talk to the extras and get an incredible insight into the filming process of an epic BBC drama; they were very much involved in the filming process and their main role was to ensure the sand dunes (a Site of Special Scientific Interest, or SSSI) were looked after properly.

'World on Fire' extras filming in the Fylde Sand Dunes for BBC One

Photo by Fylde Sand Dunes Project

“We had several discussions with the Mammoth Screen producers, who were very keen to work with us to ensure the beach and dunes were cared for,” says Amy. “They were as concerned as us that filming didn’t result in any negative or potentially damaging repercussions for this sensitive habitat.

“During filming, the team had to take out a few of the posts that we use for building up the sand dunes, but the production company were very understanding about the consequences this may have had and financially compensated the project with the amount it would take for the team to re-establish the posts.”

It was heartening and reassuring to see the cast and crew being so respectful towards the sand dunes, and we’re happy to report that everything was restored to normal after filming. The Fylde sand dunes continue to be an incredibly special and evocative place and we hope that their five minutes of fame inspires even more people to experience them for themselves.

World on Fire airs on BBC One on Sunday 29 September at 9pm.

Want to explore the Fylde sand dunes? Join one of our monthly guided walks!

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