Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Inspiration from Exmoor

I recently spent a very pleasant week on Exmoor, supposedly on holiday but no matter how hard I try to switch off, the creative side of my brain just won't go to sleep. As soon as we started driving over the moors I started thinking what a wonderful setting it would be for a book (or two, or three….). The old pack horse bridges are still very much in evidence. There were very few roads suitable for carriages until the 19th century and almost everything, people and goods, were moved about on horseback. Apart from a few cobbled streets in the towns and villages, most of the roads would have been pretty bad, especially after a hard winter. The picture below shows what most of the roads may have been like.
This is a dirt track across the moors, only possible now with 4-wheel-drive (you can see the bonnet of our car - I took this through the window!) imagine how uncomfortable it would have been in a carriage like the barouche below, which is part of the collection at the Arlington Carriage Museum

The little pack horse bridge at the top is still the only way to cross the stream at Allerford without getting wet.

We were staying in the pretty little village of Porlock, where many of the houses date back hundreds of years, and the church of St Dubricius is a real gem, the name showing that the area was influenced more by the old Celtic Christians than the later priests and missionaries who came from Rome.

This painting of the Ship Inn at Porlock added even more inspiration! The artist,
Maurice Bishop has a studio in Lynmouth ( and I bought a print of his painting to keep the magic alive while I work on my latest book. I don't need to tell you that it is set on the moors in the winter!

Sarah Mallory

Disgrace & Desire
A tale of love and loyalty

UK paperback December 2010


Elizabeth Hawksley said...

Loved your post, Sarah. It brought back some very pleasant memories of staying near Porlock many years ago.

And, of course, it was the 'person from Porlock' who interrupted Samuel Taylor Coleridge when he was writing down 'Kubla Khan', which had come to him in a dream the previous night. The rest of the poem was lost for ever.

Sarah Mallory said...

Thanks Elizabeth - it is a lovely area, and very atmospheric. Pity about the Kubla Khan, but you never know, the rest of the poem might have been a let-down!!!!

Anonymous said...

I am pleased you enjoyed Exmoor and derived so much from it. I moved here (family connections) because I love it so much and once as a child lived at Blackmores Grove in Teddington which lead to reading Lorna Doone which kead to... Next time include Horner, Dunster, Dulverton, Dunkery Beacon, Culbone...