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Top Time Tunnelling Destinations for Young Readers, by the Time Tunnellers!

7th August 2022

It’s officially the summer holiday and authors Ally Sherrick, Susan Brownrigg and Barbara Henderson – aka the Time Tunnellers! – have pulled together their top time tunnelling destinations for Tiny TripFiction readers. Read on for a summer of thrills and adventure!

We’re the Time Tunnellers – a group of authors of historical fiction for young people who like nothing better than digging for the story in history. Places have been important to all of us in conjuring up ideas for our stories, be it a visit to a great Tudor mansion, a famous Scottish battlefield site or one of the best-known ballrooms in the world. In this article we’d like to share our top ten inspirational places – from our own books and from some of our favourites too. The places featured are all open to the public and offer a brilliant chance for the whole family to have fun while looking for their very own stories in history during the long summer holidays.

Happy digging!

Ally Sherrick’s Top Time Tunnelling Destinations

1. Sutton Hoo, Near Woodbridge, Suffolk – The Buried Crown by Ally Sherrick

This atmospheric place, now in the care of the National Trust, was the setting for one of the most famous archaeological discoveries ever made on British soil. A burial mound containing the remains of an amazing early 7th century longship and a host of priceless objects including a stunning helmet and shield, a great golden buckle and a purse-full of gold coins. Believed to be the grave goods of the Anglo-Saxon king, Redwald, they are now on display in the British Museum.

I used the discovery on the eve of war to inspire my own tale about two brave young children – George, a London evacuee and Kitty, a German Jewish refugee – and their bid to rescue one last, magical item of treasure from the ground before a band of Nazi treasure thieves can steal it for Adolf Hitler and, perhaps, in doing so, save the kingdom too.

2. Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, Surrey – The Queen’s Fool by Ally Sherrick

On a visit a few years ago to the great Tudor palace of Hampton Court on the outskirts of London, I loved walking the wood-panelled corridors of the Tudor galleries, getting lost in the maze of alleyways and vast, cobbled courtyards and exploring the huge Tudor kitchens, big enough to hold an entire house.

But best of all was the magic moment all storytellers long for when something – in this case a portrait of King Henry VIII and his family – made me look twice. It wasn’t the royal group in the painting I was drawn to but the image of a young girl through a window into the palace garden. Believed to be ‘Jane the Fool’, she sparked my curiosity and led to the creation of young orphan girl, Cat Sparrow in my own Tudor adventure. Plunged unexpectedly into the dazzling, but intrigue-filled world of King Henry and Queen Katherine’s court, Cat and her new actor-friend Jacques must use all their courage and wits to survive.

Hampton Court Palace

3. Quarry Bank Mill, Styal, Cheshire – The Twisted Threads of Polly Freeman by Pippa Goodhart

Quarry Bank is one of the best-preserved examples of a textile mill from the time of the Industrial Revolution. Thanks to the working machinery and excellent displays, it’s easy to imagine yourself back in the 19th century when the mill would have been busy with men, women and children working to

produce the cotton textiles for which this part of England became famed. Besides revealing the engineering genius that led to the development of mass-produced cloth, the museum’s exhibits help visitors understand the human cost – both in terms of the enslaved people in the United States who produced the raw cotton and in the hardships suffered by the mill workers, some as young as eight years old.

Now, thanks to award-winning author, Pippa Goodhart’s recent novel, The Twisted Threads of Polly Freeman, young readers can deep-dive into Quarry Bank’s world with the story of a plucky workhouse girl turned mill apprentice. The mill, with its dusty air and noisy, clattering machinery is vividly realised, and there’s a great villain too!

4. Lyme Regis Museum (the Philpot Museum), Lyme Regis, Dorset – Lightning Mary by Anthea Simmons

This wonderful museum set just a few steps back from Lyme Regis beach is stuffed full of the most amazing curios including many linked to the fascinating maritime and smuggling history of the town. But its most spectacular exhibits are those in its new Mary Anning Wing which showcases the work of the celebrated local fossil-hunter and palaeontologist of the same name. Among her amazing discoveries, Mary unearthed the first correctly identified ichthyosaur skeleton, with her father, when she was just twelve years old. The museum, built by a relative of Elizabeth Philpot, a fossil-hunting associate of Mary’s, stands on the site of Mary’s own home and original fossil-shop.

And if you want to find out more about the young Mary, let Anthea Simmons’ book Lightning Mary be your guide. In this brilliantly researched retelling of her early life, Mary overcomes huge obstacles – including being struck by lightning as a baby – to fulfil her dream of becoming a scientist through her excavations of the cliffs and landslips near her home. After you’ve walked in young Mary’s footsteps, do it for real by joining one of the museum’s own family-friendly fossil walks on this part of the famous Jurassic Coast. But watch out for the ichthyosaurs – they’ve got a nasty bite!


Susan Brownrigg’s Top Time Tunnelling Destinations

1. Blackpool Illuminations, Blackpool, Lancashire – Gracie Fairshaw and the Mysterious Guest by Susan Brownrigg

One of the things I love most about Blackpool – the setting for my Gracie Fairshaw mystery series – is that there is plenty summer fun to be had on a budget. Building a sandcastle on the beach, strolling along the Grade II listed Colonnades with a bag of chips doused in salt and vinegar or a visit to the Blackpool Tower ballroom to listen to the Wurlitzer are just a few of my favourite things to do.

At the end of summer when most seaside resorts are pulling down the shutters, Blackpool keeps on going – by lighting up the town’s five-mile-long promenade with its famous Illuminations. You can walk, ride a bike, take a car, or a tram including the fabulous heritage and illuminated trams. The Lights kick of each autumn with a special Switch-on ceremony, this year it’s happening on 2nd September. In 1935 the second celebrity to perform the honour was a 15-year-old Blackpool girl called Audrey Mosson – and that fact was the inspiration for my debut book Gracie Fairshaw and the Mysterious Guest. The Blackpool Lights are free to see (though donations are welcome) and look out for the fabulous Lightpool Festival every October. There is a ballot for free tickets to the Switch-on each year and the show is broadcast live on the internet too.


2. Chester Zoo, Chester, Cheshire – Kintana and the Captain’s Curse by Susan Brownrigg

My pirate adventure Kintana and the Captain’s Curse is set in the 1700s on the island of Nosy Boraha off the coast of Madagascar. The island is famous for its biodiversity with 80% of its flora and fauna only found on the island including over 100 kinds of lemur.

For a taste of the incredible wildlife that can be found on Madagascar nearer to home I’d highly recommend a visit to Chester Zoo. You can see some of the animals that feature in my book in the Madagascar zone where there is a brilliant lemur walk-through and a chance to spot rare sifaka lemurs that bound along the ground on their hind legs. Across the way you can see the island’s largest predator – the fossa – which is mistaken for a ship’s cat in my book! In the zoo’s Tropical House, you can look for tortoises, frogs and chameleons from the island – but make sure you don’t miss the nocturnal section at the back. Once your eyes have adjusted to the dark, you can look for giant jumping rats and aye-ayes – the strange-looking lemur with ears like a bat, teeth like a rabbit and a long thin middle finger that is sometimes considered a digit of doom if its points at you!

3. Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond, North Yorkshire – A Snowfall of Silver by Laura Wood

I am a huge fan of Laura Wood’s YA books. She writes exquisite historical romances for young adults +. In A Snowfall of Silver, it is 1931 and eighteen-year-old Freya decides to run away from her Cornwall home to become an actress. Her adventure takes her to London and then on tour.

In the book Freya and the rest of the theatre company get trapped by snow while visiting the fictional town of Runleigh. They find refuge in the town’s theatre – which is based on the beautiful Georgian Theatre Royal in North Yorkshire. Built in 1788, the theatre is Britain’s oldest working theatre in its original form with a mint green auditorium and a capacity of just 154 seats. Lovingly restored, the Georgian Theatre Royal is Grade I listed. As well as being a magical place to see a show, visitors can also book to go on a historical behind the scenes tour and discover what life was like for a Georgian actor. The tour includes a chance to stand on stage, explore underneath and the dressing rooms, just like Freya. But the highlight is seeing Britain’s oldest surviving stage scenery – the fully restored ‘Woodland Scene’.


Barbara Henderson’s Top Time Tunnelling Destinations

1. Culloden Battlefield, Inverness, Highland – The Reluctant Rebel by Barbara Henderson

There can be few places as evocative as the restored Culloden Battlefield, site of the last significant land battle in the UK where the Jacobite rebellion known as the ’45 ended. A fantastic visitor centre, maintained by The National Trust for Scotland, tells the story of the conflict and, incidentally, has a great café! The Reluctant Rebel begins with the battle and follows the fortunes of a young stableboy, now disillusioned with the Jacobite cause. All Archie wants to do is escape, lie low and keep his clan safe – until the fugitive Bonnie Prince Charlie appears at his door and a deadly game of hide-and-seek ensues. An adventure and a half, rooted in real events! If you have time to explore the Highlands, you could do worse than take a trip to Glenfinnan Monument too – apart from being featured in the book, it sports the viaduct and steam train made famous by the Harry Potter franchise.

2. Caerlaverock Castle, Dumfries and Galloway – The Siege of Caerlaverock by Barbara Henderson

The striking triangular shape of Caerlaverock Castle needs no introduction – as one of Scotland’s most iconic castle ruins, it was much fought over during the border wars and is easily accessible from the north of England. During the year 1300, Edward Longshanks, the English king, had had enough of the rebellious Scots and crossed the border, laying siege to Caerlaverock with an army of 3000 soldiers. Those inside only numbered around 70. In The Siege of Caerlaverock, brave laundress Ada (12) and her friend Godfrey, a page, need all their wits about them as flaming missiles rain down on their castle – worst of all, they have discovered that the most dangerous enemy of all is inside the castle walls! Caerlaverock plays host to all sorts of exciting events throughout the year, including a rather spectacular jousting tournament.

Caerlaverock Castle

3. St Paul’s Cathedral, City of London – The White Phoenix by Catherine Randall

Buildings don’t come much more iconic than St Paul’s – an integral part of any London skyline. In this tense and compelling debut, Randall tells the story of young Lizzie whose family own a bookshop near St Paul’s Cathedral in the year 1666. Yes, you have guessed it, the Great Fire of London wreaks havoc – but it is far from the only challenge Lizzie faces as she navigates the tricky landscape of 17th Century London with all its prejudice and plotting. Take it from me, this book is a real treat, bringing a well-known place to life in unexpected ways. You will never wander the narrow streets of the City in the same way – much of the area around the cathedral is pedestrianised too, making it extra-safe for visiting with young ones.

And there you have it, plenty of time-tunnelling suggestions to keep young bookworms occupied throughout the summer. Happy reading and exploring!


About the Time Tunnellers:

Ally Sherrick is the award-winning author of stories full of history, mystery and adventure. Black Powder, her debut novel about a boy caught up in the Gunpowder Plot, won the 2017 Historical Association’s Young Quills Award. Her second book, The Buried Crown, a wartime tale with a whiff of Anglo-Saxon myth and magic, came out in April 2018. Her latest, Tudor-set adventure, The Queen’s Fool, was published in February 2021. Her fourth book is due for publication in early 2023. Find out more about her at www.allysherrick.com or follow her on Twitter: @ally_sherrick.

Susan Brownrigg writes historical adventures for children aged 8 to 12. Her debut Gracie Fairshaw and the Mysterious Guest – a seaside mystery set in Blackpool – was followed by Kintana and the Captain’s Curse – a pirate treasure hunt with magic and lemurs set on the Madagascar island of Nosy Boraha. Gracie Fairshaw and the Trouble at the Tower is her latest book. (Uclan Publishing) Find out more at susanbrownrigg.com and follow her at @suebmuseum.

Barbara Henderson is the author of six historical adventures for children, and a double Young Quills Award winner for The Siege of Caerlaverock and The Chessmen Thief. Her books are frequently studied in schools and also include Highland Clearances tale Fir for Luck, Victorian boy-on-the-run mystery Punch, the eco-thriller Wilderness Wars, the smuggling novella Black Water and the Jacobite tale The Reluctant Rebel. Her next Victorian adventure will be published in February 2023. Find out more about Barbara at barbarahenderson.co.uk and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @scattyscribbler.

Discover more about the Time Tunnellers at timetunnellers.blogspot.com or on Twitter @TimeTunnellers.

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