Reverse-Cinderella novel set in LONDON
Author Sue Watson takes her readers to Appledore, Devon
15th May 2017
#TalkingLocationWith… Sue Watson, author of Ella’s Ice-Cream Summer who shares her love of beautiful Appeldore, Devon.
“Cake, Ice Cream and a Long Kept Secret”
I first went to Appledore in 1998 to film a BBC cookery programme with TV cook Sophie Grigson called ‘Feasts for a Fiver.’ I was a TV producer and had worked on several programmes in various different UK towns and cities but the tiny fishing village of Appledore in North Devon was special. It was an unspoilt little place, old cottages painted in pastel colours, winding cobbled streets, bunting blowing in the wind, and shops selling buckets and spades and postcards.
The nearest big town to Appledore is Barnstaple, a wonderful mix of new and old, offering all the usual chain stores and restaurants, but some lovely unique shops and features too. One of the main elements of our TV programme was a visit to the famous pannier market, one of the best local markets in the country. Here we discovered local cheeses, wines, fresh breads all in an enormous, beautiful airy building built mostly of wood. Much of the produce for Sophie’s recipes was bought here and we filmed in people’s homes, moving around the area, and turning local ingredients into affordable feasts. From the fabulous seafood to the obligatory home made scones with clotted cream and jam, we found it all – and ate it!
I loved it there, and during our time in Appledore I discovered to my joy, that I was pregnant. I was delighted and surprised and spent my free time just looking out to sea where the Taw and Torridge rivers meet before they flow into the Atlantic, thinking about my baby.
Roll on almost nineteen years, and the pregnancy I’d discovered in lovely Appledore is now an 18 year old. She’s clever and beautiful (yes, I know, I would say that being her mum!) and as she prepares to fly the nest and leave for university I have found myself being drawn back to the place where, for me, it all began. Since my last Summer in Appledore I’ve also become a novelist, swapping a busy career in TV for a life sitting at home making things up – which I love! This year I’ve written two summer books, both set in an ice cream café by the seaside, and when I decided on the subject matter, I knew exactly where the café was going to be. Appledore.
I’d always planned to return one day, but our busy lives kicked in, and this lovely old fishing village became a faded memory. Sometimes I’d take it out like a postcard from the past and look at it, remembering the beach, the sea and all the wonderful people I met there. If I’m honest I think I wanted to keep Appledore as my secret, and I was reluctant to return because I thought it might have changed, and become a bustling seaside town with Kiss me Quick hats and fish and chip papers flying along the pavements.
So as both Ella’s ice Cream Summer, and Curves, Kisses and Chocolate ice Cream are set here, I decided to go back and see for myself what had happened to her since we last met. I took my husband along, and just walking along the front in those first few hours in the winter sunshine. He fell immediately under her spell too as we walked along the front, and drank red wine in the Seagate Hotel on the front, where my characters meet up in Ella’s Ice Cream Summer.
Appledore and I are both older now, but I was relieved and delighted to see this lady of a certain age has kept her freshness and innocence. Apart from a makeover of the seafront pub, and a new chocolate shop (which caused my heart to miss a beat!) little has changed here. And despite our visit being in November and apparently cold everywhere else in the UK, she’d brought out her sunshine that day, just for us. It was warm enough to sit and eat cake and ice cream under a bright blue sky and take it all in.
‘So, shall we move here one day?’ my husband said, as he ate carrot cake and contemplated our long drive back to the Midlands.
‘Yes,’ I said, and wondered if I was being foolish writing a book and revealing the secret about this wonderful place. But I felt so mellow, the cake and ice cream was good and I decided it was only fair that I should write about this lovely place – so come on down, the water’s lovely, just don’t tell everyone, we’ll keep the secret of Appledore, just between ourselves.
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