Monday 25 September 2023


I've wanted to visit Lyme for many years. Last week we had to drive right past the gate on our way to somewhere else, so we grabbed the opportunity! Hopefully, we'll be able to return very soon, because unfortunately we didn't have the time to walk around the gardens, or recreate that iconic photo of the house from the other side of the lake.


Whenever I go into an old house, I always ensure I look up at the ceilings! This time I was struck by the strange symbol that occurred over and over again - of what appeared to be a severed arm holding a pennant! According to legend, prior to the Battle of Crécy in 1346, the English sacked Caen and a French nobleman managed to seize the standard of the Black Prince.

To have lost your standard, before a battle had begun, would have been hugely humiliating for the Prince, but fortunately it was retrieved by Sir Thomas Danyers, who was given the lands where Lyme now stands as a reward. The land was inherited by his granddaughter, Margaret, who married Sir Piers Legh. The land and, later, the house, was then in the Legh family until passed to the National Trust in 1946.

The Entrance Hall

The first building on the site was a 15th century hunting lodge. It wasn't until 1570 that a grand Elizabethan house was built. Although that ancient core still exists, in 1725, the house was remodelled in the Italian Renaissance style. 

My favourite room was the library. After the family left in 1946, it fell into disrepair and has now been restored. The family's books are stamped with a ram's head crest on their spines.

The Library

Wouldn't this bay make a terrific book nook?

The Library Bay

The Caxton or Sarum Missal is one of the earliest known printed books that bears the stamp of William Caxton, the father of British printing. It was used for daily prayers, weddings, baptisms and funerals. It survived, largely intact, because it was hidden when King Henry VIII banned it. It wasn't rediscovered until 1874.

The Caxton or Sarum Missal

Before we left Lyme, we quickly popped into the garden. There wasn't much time to explore (hopefully, one day we'll come back) but were were able to visit the Orangery, which I loved. In a huge coincidence, the book I'm working on at the moment, has a glass house which looks very similar to this!

The orangery (right) and the Wyatt Garden

Inside the Orangery

You may recognise Lyme as Mr Darcy's 'Pemberley' from the BBC's adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice! The exterior scenes were filmed here, while the interior scenes were shot at Sudbury Hall.

The BBC's Pride and Prejudice inspired my book, Why Do Fools Fall in Love, which is about the filming of a costume drama, another reason I was keen to visit Lyme! 

So I couldn't resist picking up this mug in the giftshop, to much eye-rolling from my husband.


Related Posts:


Lyme: National Trust Guidebook
The Making of Price and Prejudice, Sue Birtwistle & Susie Conklin

Sunday 9 January 2022

Where I (Used to!) Write

I've moved house a lot over the years (I think I'm on my 12th house), so the 'where I work' posts on this blog have described several different rooms and views. There was the study that overlooked Snowdonia, the one that looked out over Penrhyn Castle, and then there was the last house, where my study had a lovely view of the bus stop!

In these posts I usually mention the story of how I wrote my first book in a tiny bungalow, with my monitor jammed into a cupboard and my keyboard on my lap.

And then last week I found this photo. Yes, that's me as a teenager, chuffed to bits to have my own desk and my own typewriter, and being A Writer. 

I grew up in a rambling Victorian house that, even shared with my large family, had a room no one else wanted to use. When my parents moved in they decided it would make a great playroom, to keep the kids out of the way of the grown-ups. But my brothers and I convinced ourselves the room was haunted by the little old lady who'd lived in the house ten years before us. We knew she'd used the room as a bedroom, as she'd been too frail to climb the stairs. So we decided her ghost was the reason the door would open by itself (this often happens in old houses) and we even thought we heard a piano playing in the empty room - it was probably a radio! We ignored the cold spooky 'playroom' and played in the garden instead!

Skip forward fifteen years when we'd all grown up, my mother suggested I could have the room for myself. It would be a fabulous place for me and my friends to hang out away from the adults (I'm noticing a theme here), but I was thrilled. Especially when,

Mum: You can decorate it however you like!
Me: I'm going to paint the walls black!
Mum: Absolutely not!

We compromised with grey walls but with my first pay cheque I bought a desk, two bookcases, and a small sofa, all in my favourite black. I probably imagined lying on the sofa and dictating my novel to a secretary, like Barbara Cartland, because that's what writers do, right?

Thirty-five years later (thirty-five!!!), I still have the two black bookcases but sadly the desk was taken to the dump just before Christmas. Although it did have a second life as my daughter's desk for a good twenty years. 

I'd completely forgotten this photo had been taken until I found it last week. As my husband said when I showed it to him (after he'd got over laughing at the 80s fashion), what advice would I give my past self?

Apart from 'Don't wear big earrings around small children'? Probably, 'Hang on in there' because it would take another ten years before I was offered a book contract.

And maybe suggest I get over my obsession with the colour black... 

Related Posts:

Monday 3 May 2021

Spring Update

One of the things I enjoy about my daily walk around my village, is watching the subtle changes in the seasons. Winter wasn't much fun. There were no flowers or wildlife to look at, and there was more than one occasion where we were caught in a snow flurry! When the weather is like that, it's tempting to stay home with a good book!

By the middle of January we could catch the occasional glimpse of snowdrops in the woods and buds forming on trees, and the blur of a rabbit shooting back into its burrow. (Not the one above, he seems to like posing for photos!)

As we moved into February, those solitary snowdrops multiplied into carpets of pretty white flowers and soon blossom was appearing everywhere, even in my garden!

We originally began our daily walks during the first Lockdown, a year ago, and have managed to keep it up. My Instagram feels like a diary, where I can look back and see what I've been doing, and it has proved a useful tool to work out when the first goslings will appear and when the local churchyard will be full of bluebells. Spring occurs a little later here in the frozen North, so we have a few more days to wait!

Sometimes it felt as though the local geese spent most of April nesting, but right on cue the goslings have now begun to appear.

They are so sweet, like little balls of yellow fluff, but it won't take long before they grow and will soon be indistinguishable from their parents.

My Instagram has also proved very useful for working out which plants are out at what time of the year, because the book I am working on at the moment is set during late spring/early summer and the characters are spending a lot of time outdoors to escape from their feuding families!

As the weather grows warmer, I've been working in my garden. When I moved into this house three years ago, it was a new build with a square of lawn. Now we have a 'proper' garden. As well as flowers, I'm trying to grow fruit and vegetables. My gooseberry and blackcurrant bushes already have tiny berries and my pear tree is now in blossom.

I'm also trying to grow strawberries! As both my Dad and my great-grandfather were strawberry growers in Hampshire, it seems strange to be carrying on with the tradition all these years later. Although if my Dad could see my 'suitable for beginners' plants in my hanging baskets, he would think it was a very strange way to grow strawberries!

Related Posts:

Five Things I Learned While Writing Through Lockdown (Guest post for Juliet Greenwood)