Talking Location With… author Lizzy Barber – TUSCANY
Talking Location With …author Ruth Shedwick – CORNWALL
21st December 2019
TalkingLocationWith… Ruth Shedwick, author of Trembleath set in CORNWALL.
The seething white waters crashed down, relentless in their quest to engulf all that stood in her way…
We never did travel as a family unit, not back then, not when dad was working two jobs and mum was a stay at home guardian. There were the odd trips to Morecombe Bay, but nothing as fancy as my classmates going abroad to warmer sunnier climes. I was 21 years old when I first visited Cornwall, having saved up as much as I could since working from the age of 18. It was an adventure, something that was quite nerve wrecking, yet exciting at the same time. When I first walked out to the cliff top overlooking the raging sea at Polruans Beach, Lantic Bay, I knew that this is where I belonged. An odd feeling, right? But there is something about Cornwall that makes me feel whole again, like I am home.
There are plenty of nooks and crannies along the varying coastal walks, it does fill you with many tales of smugglers back in the day, one of these is Holywell Bay Beach, where it is relatively mandatory to capture a photo of the Gull Island framed by the rocks. I met a local on the beach one day who was so colourful and endearing he had to feature in Trembleath, to me he is Wilbur St. Clemins, a dodgy dealings type of guy.
Wandering through the narrow streets of Port Isaac marveling at the preservation of such a town, I cannot help but look at the faces of those around me. Locals are engaging, smiling, happy and content to be sharing their piece of happiness with one another. The unmistakable Cornish twang, quirkisms, and sunny disposition of the surfers on the beach were refreshing, it didn’t matter where you went, locals spoke with an open and honest account. Creek Bay was going to come to life through these streets and its people.
During my visits I will spend a couple of weeks walking the Cornish coast, visiting villages, taking in the scenic areas of Bodmin and relishing in the rich history of the Southern English county. There are plenty of traditional festivals that hold on to their Pagan roots, there’s nothing quite like wassailing in Bodmin, a tradition dating back to 1642, the oldest celebration of its kind in Cornwall. Whilst you’re exploring Pagan history, you have to fit in a visit to the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Boscastle. The area offers miles of dramatic unspoiled coastline and beautiful landscape to explore, and is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Walking the woodland and moors of Cornwall can be hazardous to say the least. There are plenty of boggy areas and I’ve gone over on my ankle more than I care to say. After a while you get used to the terrain and find you can take in the views without having to worry about tripping over a clump of heather or falling and spraining something. It was to the location of Kil Margh Tor on Bodmin Moor which features in the book as the backdrop for a camping trip. I had a very clear identity for Trembleath and the moody cloud over Men-an-Tol captured the entire story perfectly; it was inevitably always going to feature as the cover image.
There is a great many surfing community within Cornwall and it is quite interesting on that point alone to be an observer. If you can imagine that scene in Point Break where Keanu Reeves has to win over Patrick Swayze by proving he’s not a tourist and he lives and breathes the waters – then you’re not far off. Perranporth Beach with its perfectly located bar is great for several things: people watching, eavesdropping, watching surfers, daydreaming and having a cold beer. The latter two I do plenty of. There are characters of Trembleath who are die-hard surfers, so the locations of Bedruthan Steps/Diggory’s Island were most appropriate to tell their tale.
I do have my favourite places to stay, one of which is Whitsand Bay Hotel, Portwrinkle. It’s imposing stature upon the cliff face was an impressive sight, the crows circle the roof tops cawing to one another ready for their last feed of the evening. It is a beautiful building inside and out, wonderfully restored and conserved. Both Whitsand and Antony House, Torpoint are where I drew my inspiration for The Manor of Trembleath.
From my very first visit, there was no mistaking that Cornwall is a place that I will always gravitate towards, she has a wonderful magical presence that you cannot fathom nor appreciate until you actually go there yourself. I have used this location and her history in other works, including the Pendour Cove Siren, a wonderful historical account of mermaids. My heart will always belong to Cornwall.
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