Location, Location, Location!
It’s not difficult to be inspired by Yorkshire – the stunning countryside, the fabulous people and the delicious food make it very, very easy. My non-magical books all have Yorkshire settings and I’ve combined fictional locations with real towns, cities and villages to give a real sense of place. Here, I’m sharing some pictures of the locations which have played some part in my stories – whether they’ve been mentioned directly, or whether they’ve simply been the inspiration for “similar” fictional locations. I’m also sharing places I visited to carry out research, or just enjoy some tasty food!
Tuppenny Bridge was inspired by two things: firstly, the real-life market town of Masham, in the Yorkshire Dales, and secondly, by the paintings of Trevor Mitchell, artist. Trevor paints nostalgic scenes of country life, many of which have been turned into jigsaw puzzles and calendars. Do visit his website and check out the image bank to see why I love them so much. I always have his latest calendar on my wall, because just looking at the scenes of village life from the 1940s, 50s and 60s makes me happy. I wanted to create a town that had that same feeling, even though it was set in the modern day. As for Masham – you only have to look at the beautiful market place, the amazing church of St Mary the Virgin, and its incredible church yard, to see where I drew inspiration from for the marketplace, church and churchyard in my fictional little town. I decided to set Tuppenny Bridge in Skimmerdale, because I thought since I’d already created an area of the Yorkshire Dales in my previous series I might as well make full use of it. Where Wildflower Farm is located in Upper Skimmerdale, Tuppenny Bridge is set in the gentler landscape of Lower Skimmerdale.
Bramblewick wasn’t particularly inspired by one moorland village, but by several that I’ve visited over the years. I took little bits from Goathland and some from Thornton-le-Dale, which sits on the southern edge of the national park, as well as a few others, and created my ideal little village nestling on the Moors. I loved the idea of the main row of shops, the pub at the end of the row, and sheep wandering around, which I found in Goathland. From Thornton-le-Dale I borrowed the beck running through the village, and the little stone bridge that crosses it, plus the village green. There are so many beautiful villages in and around the North York Moors, so it’s well worth a visit!
The setting for my Moorland Heroes series is, naturally, the Yorkshire Moors. Both Resisting Mr Rochester and Saving Mr Scrooge were set in Moorland locations. There is a crossover in my books, so locations from one series may well be mentioned in another. For instance, in Saving Mr Scrooge one of the main characters lives in Farthingdale, the neighbouring village to Kearton Bay, and the other lives in Moreton Cross, a village which is frequently mentioned in the Kearton Bay books. The flagship store owned by Mr Rochester is located in York, and York is also visited by characters in one of my Bramblewick books. I like this sense of creating a whole fictional world, rather than just one village that exists in isolation, and of using real places like Whitby and York to anchor them to an area.
Unlike my other books (for now!) Skimmerdale is set over in the Yorkshire Dales. I based Skimmerdale on the real Swaledale, and the village of Beckthwaite is Thwaite in real life, with Muker becoming Camacker and Kirkby Skimmer loosely based on Richmond. Instead of a castle, however, I gave the market town a ruined abbey instead, and I imagined this one standing there – beautiful Rievaulx Abbey, which is one of the loveliest places I’ve visited. (Although, confusingly, it’s actually close to the real-life Helmston, Helmsley, and nowhere near the Dales!)
Most people know that Kearton Bay is based on Robin Hood’s Bay, just south of Whitby on the North Yorkshire coast. It really is such a beautiful and inspiring village, and well worth a visit. But Kearton Hall is based on a stately home in the East Riding of Yorkshire – Burton Agnes Hall near Driffield. It’s a gorgeous, Elizabethan house. Very grand, but also very much a family home, and as soon as I visited it I could imagine Will and Lexi living there. In Once Upon a Long Ago, the couple visit Scarborough Castle, which naturally meant I had to pay a visit to explore these beautiful ruins for myself. What a hardship!
Home for Christmas
The Home for Christmas books are set in the East Riding – either the West Hull villages, or the Holderness coast. Ferringham, in Christmas with Cary, was inspired by the gorgeous village of Brantingham. The street names used in Baxter’s Christmas Wish were snaffled from my home town of Hessle – I just mixed them up a bit! And The Other Side of Christmas took place in Weltringham, which was an amalgamation of various Holderness villages such as Welwick, Tunstall and Easington. Often an overlooked part of England, the East Riding countryside is a hidden gem, and well worth exploring.
Real Life Places Mentioned in my Books
To “ground” my fictional places and link them to specific geographical areas, I like to mention real places in my books. So I have had characters visit York, Harrogate, Beverley, Hull, Leeds and Whitby. I think it gives a sense of place and an added dimension to the stories.
Honourable mention must go to “Helmston” which features in so many of my series, including Kearton Bay, Bramblewick and Moorland Heroes. Helmston is based on the real life market town of Helmsley, one of the prettiest places I’ve visited. You’ll find another castle there, along with a gorgeous market place, stately home and gardens, and lots of lovely independent shops and pubs.