The Dorset landscape is full of locations which do not seem to have changed in centuries, something that doesn't stop to intrigue and inspire me...
You do not need to go very far to feel like you have left the present time and stepped back into an ancient, more rural past (if you manage to ignore the cars and electricity pylons)...
Yesterday's visit to Corton was such an instance: you just need to walk through a metal gate to find yourself in another era...
We will carry on exploring the inland valleys of Dorset as tourists are now flocking to our coast and we have even more reasons to avoid them as usual!
At the foot of the slopes of Friar Waddon Hill, you can find Corton Farm, which consists of a small but perfectly formed manor house which dates back to the 17th century (where you can stay as it is a B&B) and various other dwellings and outbuildings including a beautiful granary, as well as a lovely little religious edifice, St Batholomew's chapel (and yes, I do have a thing for chapels in rural settings...)
The chapel dates back to the 11th century and really is a little gem with very interesting features and objects...
The setting is peaceful and a little magical; from there you can walk all the way to the Hardy monument - this makes a wonderful walk that takes you through a varied and at times dreamy landscape. At the moment, nature is at its most abundant and the trees, hedges, coppices and bushes are overflowing with life...
Today, the post brought me a signed copy of Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty, a young man with a very promising future... This gorgeous book is published by Dorset-based imprint Little Toller who specialises in beautiful volumes about nature and the natural world.
The book was lovingly packaged with a great sticker and badge and matching tissue paper!
I will therefore split my reading time between Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries and this very special book...
You can see the love and care that has gone into the design of the book: the dust jacket is truly beautiful!
And look! The inside is not bad either...
Diary of a Young Naturalist will be Radio 4's Book of the Week next week (read by the author!), and I am torn about what to do...
I would like to read it before I listen to it!
I usually never read books which have won major prizes. If I am being honest, they have never really interested me, story-wise, and I do not like to read books whose authors have tried too hard. Unfortunately, I have always found that the publishing world doesn't do itself any favours by making successful, prize-winning writers sound pompous, self-important and egotistical. I don't like it when writers try too hard.
But I like the sound of this story set in New Zealand in the 19th century (I studied Victorian literature), and I am currently trying to know more about New Zealand and Australia, their history, landscapes and cultures.
I have also been struggling to write during lockdown and I guess I could do worse than getting inspiration from someone who has been celebrated as a fabulous writer!
I look forward to the BBC adaptation of the book - scripted by Eleanor Catton herself, thankfully.
Yesterday, we did one of our favourite walks as it is not far from our house and enables us to save on petrol!
It's special as this is where we always started our holidays in Dorset when we still lived and worked in the South-East: we always arrived too early to get into our self-catering cottage in Broadmayne and would go to the coast at Osmington and Ringstead whilst waiting for the right time to pick up the keys.
Starting at Osmington Mills, where the wonderful Smugglers Inn is still shut (it is always packed!), we took the coast path to the unusual Ringstead Bay then up to White Nothe (I adore the extraordinary former coastguard cottages, and especially the Captain's House, which will feature in my fourth novel Hell Lane).
Doing those walks has really helped and I hope there will be many more, even though I worry that a second peak in infections is around the corner and could deprive us of our mainland walks again...
On March 23rd, we made a short visit to the location of my third novel, Abbotsbury.
Then the very same evening, the lockdown was announced and we didn't set foot on mainland Dorset until... yesterday!
True, we have walked around Portland for those past two months, but I have missed the green, variety and atmosphere of the Dorset countryside. Now, there has been an explosion of greenery - the trees, flowers and plants are in full bloom and it is... JOYOUS! What a treat to once again be able to drive around this beautiful and inspiring county! It was strangely emotional...
Yesterday, we headed for the Moreton plantation...
We are expecting an influx of tourists from this weekend (which we usually welcome as it's positive for local business), and in order to avoid people, we always go inland where we can carry on enjoying the countryside without the crowds... Something even more important in those times of pandemic!
Today, our daily walk was a quick one "up the road" (literally in our case) at Portland Bill...
I am happy to report that there was barely anyone even though the government has now allowed people to go to beauty spots... Maybe it lasts!
Tomorrow, we head to the woods... I have to admit I am happy to now be able to go back to mainland Dorset and explore once more...
There has been numerous reports of creative people being unable to actually CREATE.
I am one of them: unable to settle and to concentrate, worrying about money, loved ones, the state of the world...
Since the lockdown began, my brain has been wrapped in cotton wool and I haven't been able to make a lot of progress on The Right Place (apart from a couple of hours a few weeks ago during which I wrote 700 words, go figure...). But before/since then: nada.
Then two days ago, at around one o'clock in the morning, an idea came to me which led to another and solved a few issues I was having with my narrative. I promptly jumped out of bed to write it down.
This morning, yet another idea came to me when I wasn't expected it, and I now have quite a few scenes to write... I consider this as being my "end of brain lockdown" and will therefore surf on that wave of brain activity and hopefully finally make REAL progress on the book...
Wish me luck...
Over the past few days, it has been dark and very wet down here in Dorset.
So for our daily exercise walk yesterday when the sun came out again, we decided to take the path along Portland Beach Road out of Portland to go and see what's happening on Chesil Bank, especially to have a look at the Little Terns project. Every year, the birds arrive in Dorset to breed, and a small group of volunteers (managed by the RSPB) keep watch day and night on the nests to keep predators away and give a chance to the fluff balls to fledge successfully.
The fences were not up yet yesterday, BUT we were rewarded by actually witnessing the arrival of the flock on Chesil Bank (they always arrive on... 1st May!). One minute there wasn't any, then all of a sudden, the sky was filled with chattering and bright, shiny little white birds... More and more came, and we stayed a while to admire those gorgeous little birds finally settle on the sun-drenched pebbles after such a harrowing journey from Africa.
We're going back next week with the binoculars - there are many other species of birds to observe there!
In normal time, The Fine Foundation Chesil Beach Centre - The Dorset Wildlife Trust is a great place to stop off along Portland Beach Road, with ample parking and the brilliant visitor centre (with a cafe!) - it is also a favourite spot for kite-surfers, windsurfers and tourists; at the moment, it does look a little bit forlorn as it is currently closed... :-(
And here's a video of feeding time in the Little Tern area of Chesil Bank!
Arcane Publishing is doing a special Spring/Summer sale on both my novels published by Arcane.
Go to the ARCANE PUBLISHING BLOG for more details!
They will also be selling a small selection of their pre-loved, vintage and rare books over the next few weeks, so keep an eye out!
I am currently reading Wildwood by Roger Deakin, a writer I discovered through the work of his friend, the nature writer and academic Robert Macfarlane (and the only non-fiction writer I actually enjoyed reading before encountering Deakin's work!). I especially loved Macfarlane's account of their stay in a Dorset Holloway whilst trying to recreate the adventures of the character in one of their favourite books, Geoffrey Household's Rogue Male (which I loved as well, by the way).
I started with Notes from Walnut Tree Farm, a gorgeous account of his life at the Suffolk house he rebuilt himself.
I am not even half-way through Wildwood yet and it's already full of colourful sticky notes. You need to read it with a map so you can follow Roger Deakin's journeys (and then you'll need to research all the fantastic things he has mentioned) - I don't think I have ever learnt so much in such a small amount of time.
One of the exciting thing about the book is that you never know what you will encounter in each chapter, you can never guess in which direction the author is going to take you next - but one thing is sure: you will be surprised!
The other important aspect of the book is that it is incredibly beautifully written - it has a rich vocabulary and flowing sentences, a real delight for all lovers of the English language. It can be delicate and poetic, energetic and bursting with enthusiasm.
Something I had already noticed whilst reading Notes From Walnut Tree Farm is the beautiful and sensitive way Deakin writes about animals - from cats to insects.
Below is a short extract about a tiny mouse which really touched me when I read it a few days ago and has stayed with me since (He mentions the mouse again later on in the book, so this episode had an impact on him too!)
I think therefore I write.
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