As part of the Cornish Reading Challenge, author Jane Cable tells us why she’s inspired by the West Country.
I think it’s the sea. That’s the enduring appeal of the West Country for me. The endless changing colourscape of greens and greys and deep, deep turquoise that stretches even further than my imagination.
And next to the sea is, of course, the coast. From concrete promenades to towering cliffs the West Country takes you on a journey from shoreline heaven to hell then back again. From the phosphorous-lit docks of Portishead to the pure white sands of Porthcurno – for a writer, it has it all.
When I was first drafting The Faerie Tree I knew I would be taking my hero Robin on a journey. A physical one, as well as the internal voyage of discovery which finds itself at the heart of every book. And where better than the West Country? Starting at Bournemouth he travelled the length of the Dorset coastal path, into the shadow of Exeter cathedral and past the Christmas lights reflecting in Torbay. Then inland, across Bodmin to Rock, Padstow, Constantine Bay in the spring, before finally ending up in Newquay.
From the point of view of the novel it was a piece of hopeless self indulgence which got the chop long before the final version of the story saw the light of day. But all the same it was wonderful to attempt to put all that beauty into words. As a writer I am often in awe of the opportunities available to visual artists – trying to put those breath taking scenes down in writing can be almost too hard.
NO LINE ON THE HORIZON
The mist is retreating as we reach the cliff top. It has rolled away across the greyness of the sea and sky to the point they should meet, obscuring the line with a barely discernible brightness that whispers of infinity.
No doubt the rock has seen it all before; flat-headed, lichen-topped, staring out to sea for a longer time than we can understand. Cracked; solid; stable; poised on the very edge of the land. How many walk past with barely a nod in its direction?
My awe increases when you tell me it is willing to share its view. Climbing down the Purbeck hewn staircase I feel safe behind you, following your footsteps, not looking up until I reach the ledge and I realise we have descended into another world. The rock is our guardian; you are simply its disciple, guiding me into its presence today, when the world is without horizon.
I have to touch the rock. It draws me. I pose for a picture, stretched upwards in supplication, my fingers grazing its overhang, jackdaws wheeling below me on two sides as the cliff falls away. Then it’s your turn and our communion is complete.
As we walk away across the fields the sun breaks through, a perfect silver circle spotlighting first the lighthouse, then the cottages, then the grazing cattle. We watch. We listen to the skylarks and to the gentle heartbeat of the waves in the distance. We breathe the damp freshness of the air, two tiny creatures truly alive in the eternity of nature.
To find out more about Jane and her wonderful work, click here.
Tell us why you love the West Country on Twitter, using #CornishReadingChallenge. What are you reading for the challenge this year?
@VikkiPatis | #CornishReadingChallenge