Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

Suffragette at Blists Hill

One of the highlights of this year’s RNA Conference was definitely the historical author’s event at Blists Hill, the reconstructed Victorian town at Ironbridge, the birthplace of the industrial revolution. As you can see, I went as a suffragette (what else?).

There was a great atmosphere, being there in company with so many talented historical novelists and meeting the visitors coming through on their way to experience times gone by. In a brief lull in proceedings, I took myself off to visit my favourite cottage, the squatter’s cottage.

Squatters 2 small

It’s so hard to remember, even in times of recession, the reality of life for the majority of people at a time that – in terms of human evolution – is only a breath away. The squatter’s cottage, at the edges of existence outside the Workhouse, in an age before the Welfare State, is a poignant reminder of just how little our forebears had. Ten people lived in this cottage. The beds crammed together, with more than one child to each. The single change of clothes hung up. The tiny kitchen and living area. No room (let alone light) to study for the chance to escape such poverty. No privacy. No running water and the outside toilet at the bottom of the garden next to the pig stye. And always just a broken leg or a lung infection away from losing any kind of income, and the shame of the Workhouse where families were split up and might never see each other again. And yet the cottage is warm and homely, as I’m sure it would have been, crammed to bursting with the family making the most of what they had. It was also the world that shocked the recruiters of soldiers for WW1 at the appalling state of health of so many of the inhabitants of one the richest nations in the world.

Squatters 1 small

The pig style and privy

Squatters 4 small

The bedroom

Squatters 5 small

The kitchen

I’ve been here several times before, but this time I found myself part of the exhibits. Well, I was a bit hard to miss with my extravagant hat and my ‘votes for women’ sash. The policeman on his bike was a bit uncertain meeting an unscheduled suffragette, and despite the heat peddled off rather fast, and possibly hanging on to his hat. But next to the pig stye of the squatter’s cottage I had a lively discussion on universal suffrage with a 21st century gentleman entering into the spirit of the thing. It wasn’t exactly an argument, as we both, in the end, agreed. Because, of course, all that window smashing was not where the the suffragettes began, but with the long, peaceful struggle, in the face of appalling brutality, for universal suffrage to give a voice to both men and women –  and eventually even to the inhabitants of the squatter’s cottage.

I shall be wearing my hat again – and with pride!


If you would like to learn more about the squatter’s cottage (which was inhabited until the 1970s), there is an excellent blog post here. And if you would like to know more about Blists Hill Victorian Town the website is here.



Squatters 3 small

The pantry – with a spot of poaching?


Squatters 6 small

A window into a lost world.

 STOP PRESS! The Kindle edition of ‘We That Are Left’ is currently only £1.99 – you can find the link HERE or click on the cover below.

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Birmingham gazette 1915 3

Birmingham Gazette 1915 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)



Now who would have thought a lady would run off with the chauffeur? (Outside Downton Abbey, of course)


So imagine my surprise when, among the digitised newspapers of the British Library Archive, while doing my research for We That Are Left) I found a lady who had done just that: left a live of misery with her husband to find true love and happiness with the chauffeur.


Birmingham gazette 1915 2

Birmingham Gazette 1915 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

It’s an account of a divorce case held in 1915. There are only a few lines, but it hints at a fascinating story, and one that is rather sad on both sides. This was a time when a divorce was almost unthinkable (and practically impossible to get if you were a woman), and a scandal when it occurred. It was when sex and sexuality and relationships were not discussed, and certainly not abuse or neglect, or even simple incompatibility. So just the few lines of the case speak volumes:

Your treatment of me was unendurable and I could not keep up the farce of being your wife in name only…. I have never known until the present what the love of a good man means.’

The lady’s husband responded by begging her not to ruin his life, trying to find her, and then delaying the divorce for three years, effectively preventing it from being granted.

The details will never be known, only guessed at. But by the fact that the lady and the chauffeur had not been found suggests that this was true love, and I, for one, hope that somewhere far away they had a long and happy life together.

Chauffeur divorce Oct 1915

Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser – October 1915 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)



Birmingham gazette 1915

Birmingham Gazette 1915 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)


If you want to read more about my research using online newspapers, you can read my post on the Novelistas blog here

And if you want to find out more about the invaluable British Newspaper Archive, you can find out here

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Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)


Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

I’ve found it fascinating watching ‘The Crimson Field’, having researched the same period for ‘We That are Left’. I’ve liked the way the characters personal lives are woven in as an integral part of the story, both bringing them to life, and bringing alive a society that was so different from our own, and yet isstill (just about) within living memory. My dad was born during WW1, and his memories and attitudes were shaped by the experience of a society that had gone through that trauma. They were the attitudes I rebelled against (as you do) as a teenager, but are still there somewhere deep inside as a part of me.

War isn’t just about blood and guts and physical suffering, however terrible they are. The real tragedy, both then and now, is the lives on both sides torn apart, never to be the same again. And then there are the huge changes brought about in a society itself as a consequence of the wider tragedy. Edwardian Britain was changing rapidly before the war. Servants were already preferring to leave service for work in factories where they at least had some kind of life of their own, and women were battling for independence and the right to education and the vote, but it was the war that crystallised these changes, so that the world of 1918 could never go back to that last Edwardian summer of 1913.

Oriental poppy

I think my favourite character in ‘The Crimson Field’ has been Kitty, and I’m intrigued to know where they will take her next. It’s hard to remember sometimes that – even until comparatively recently – divorce was almost unthinkable. In Edwardian times it was almost impossible, especially if you were a woman.

This was a world of almost no contraception, and where women’s earning power was almost nothing, and respectability was everything. Add to that the fact that respectable young men and women were not permitted to alone if unmarried,  and  (especially if you were middle or upper class) very chaperoned. So there you were, around eighteen or so, expected to make the biggest decision of your life. One from which, for all intents and purposes, there was no way out. When I look back at myself at 18, the thought scares the living daylights out of me. For my working class grandmother, it would probably have been a question of making sure the young man she loved was responsible and wasn’t the sort to drink his wages away and make free with his fists. Hard to consider amongst all those raging hormones. And besides, people change. My grandfather didn’t drink, or use his fists, but he still left my grandmother in the most appalling position, one that led to her being determined her daughters (born in the 1920s) could earn a living, and has had ramifications down the family. But that’s another story…

For Kitty’s class, it was much the same. However brutal, abusive or manipulative your husband turned out to be, it was your duty to put up with it. Make it better. Keep the illusion that marriage was the happy bedrock of society, with the wise and protective man at its head, the supportive, meek little wife ready be there at the end of his day. One of the few ways of getting a divorce was proof of adultery (although women had to wait until 1923 before they could divorce an adulterous husband).

After the war, with wives and husbands changed beyond recognition by their experiences, many couples found they simply had nothing in common any more. And human beings being ingenious and generally cooperative, many couples all simply beat the system. The form was for the man to do the decent thing. Which meant being the cad and being seen in a hotel with a woman, along with a maid or porter who would testify that they had been in the same room together. Apparently it became such a farce there were even agencies who provided the room and the lady. Then all you had to do was sit there. Or, like Cousin Iris in ‘We That are Left’, while away the hours playing chess.

I’m sure there were many such genuine and rather sad cases as this one from the Liverpool Echo of a woman who had a baby while her husband was away in the war. Echoes of both the first and the second world wars, when the world was turned upside down and no one knew if the next moment might be their last.

(click on the images and they’ll take you to the original newspaper on the British Library Website)



Divorce 1918

Liverpool Echo, December 10th 1918 reproduced thanks to the British Library . Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED‘Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)


But this one I love. She’s a barmaid who didn’t take to married life in 1904. In 1911, with no children and ‘not taking very kindly to household duties’ (clearly my kind of girl) she simply took matters into her own hands and did a moonlit flit while her husband was away on business, writing to him in 1911: ‘Don’t be foolish over this, because if I returned I would only have to tell you what I am telling you here. I am not returning. Please keep cool about it and say to yourself “she is not worth a thought”.’

And guess what? She sailed off to New York to become a nurse, last heard of in 1914. Divorced on the grounds of desertion from her marriage in 1915.

Now that’s a story for ‘The Crimson Field’!

Divorce 1 1915

Edinburgh Evening News, June 12th 1915. Reproduced thanks to the British Library.  Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED‘Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)


All Images reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)


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The best way to eat courgette and chocolate cake!

I first tasted chocolate and courgette cake in a local cafe on the beach at Llanfairfechan – and was instantly blown away, With the help of various recipes, I’ve been trying to recreate it since. This is the one that made the best, darkest and richest version. I haven’t come across a chocolate and courgette cake recipe from the First World War, but I’m sure there were similar cakes being made, so I’m still classing this as research!

I used natural dried apricots from my local food coop. They are darker and more intense than the orange ones.

So if you want an alternative cake to serve your Christmas guests – and one with a healthy dose of your five a day – look no further than the luscious chocolate and courgette cake. Enjoy 🙂


8oz            227g            Butter/margarine

8oz             227g            Sugar

2oz             57g             Cocoa (the darkest and the best)

6 oz             170g            SR Flour

8oz            227g             unpeeled, grated courgette

3 eggs

1 teaspoon mixed spice

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

40z            125 chopped dried apricots

3oz            85 g chopped almonds



It’s even better with chocolate butter icing …


Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs. Add grated courgette, vanilla, apricots and nuts. Folds in flour and cocoa and spice. Place in greased cake tin (7inches/18cm) and bake for 1 hour at 180 (160 for fan assisted). Gas Mark 4. Turn out onto a plate to cool.

When cool cover with chocolate butter icing. Very dark, rich and intense!


Cake making supervisor resting, not amused that chocolate is bad for dogs …

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Making Rosehip Syrup from a War Time Recipe

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Rosehips October 2013Rosehip syrup was used in both world wars as a source of vitamin C and a soothing home remedy for coughs and colds, so as the first rosehips appeared this autumn I was eager to try out the kind of recipe that Elin, the heroine of ‘We That Are Left‘, might have made during the 1914 – 18 war.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

With most of my recipes for the book I’ve tried to be as authentic as possible, with many coming from newpapers of the time. But many are also traditional ones that would have been passed down generations of women to keep their families safe and healthy in a world where a visit to the doctor cost money that poorer families simply could not spare. Many older people I spoke to still remember rosehip syrup as a remedy from their childhood. Some remembered gathering the hips, and all remembered the delicious taste as it was spooned into them – much nicer (and of course far cheaper) than shop bought medicine!

There are plenty of recipes still out there. In the end I went with this one from the BBC  ‘Woman’s Hour’ website, which is the one given out by the Ministry of Food in 1943 during the Second World War. You can find the link HERE

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo first I needed to gather 2lbs (900gm) of hips. These would have been crushed, but I used a food processor and a potato masher. They were then put into 3 pints (1.7 litres) of boiling water. I brought it back to the boil then left it for around 15 – 20 mins. The smell was exquisite! My whole house was suffused with a warm, fruity, slightly fluffy scent. I sat there with a cup of tea just breathing it in.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The next part is to strain this through a jelly bag or muslin. It has to be that fine to strain out the hairs that can be an irritant. I got my straining bag from a kitchen shop in Conwy for just a few pounds. The bag is hung up and left to drip. A rusty coloured cloudy liquid appears in the pan underneath. When it’s all done, you can put the rosehips back in a pan and add 852 ml of boiling water and do the whole thing again to get the last bit of goodness out.

Then it was a matter of boiling it all down and until it thickens, then adding just over 1lb (560gr) of sugar and boiling for about 5 mins more. Then it’s ready to bottle.

I’m not sure it’s an exact science. I’d like to keep on experimenting to see the best taste for me. The first batch was delicious and the colour was beautiful, but it was very sweet. Which I suppose is the point, as it needs to keep and it is a syrup to be used in small doses. I haven’t tried it on icecream yet, but it was very soothing when I came down with a cold, and I have to say I recovered very quickly. I did put a small amount in hot water, which was very comforting.

I’m off to find more rosehips, and rosehip syrup is definitely on my list of autumn treats!



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we that are left draft 6aug13 sm

No, it doesn’t get any easier.

When I said my final goodbyes to my characters in Eden’s Garden I was sad and bereft. I grieved for weeks. Of course they were still with me – they still are – but I knew I would never live in their heads and breath with them they way I had done over such a long time.

Well, that’s it, then, I told myself. Part of the learning experience. Part of the overwhelming, author-changing, life-changing experience of working closely with an editor. It was one of those ‘firsts’ that would never feel so intense again.

How wrong could I be!

Elin's rose

Last week I sent my final edits for We That Are Left into the ether. Phew. It’s a bit unnerving seeing your gorgeous cover up on Amazon, and therefore REALLY coming out next February, as you tousle with the last bits that won’t fall into place, and (with the usual writerly utter lack of confidence) are quite convinced they never will and then you’ll be found out, and who were you fooling anyway? (This, I should add, is two minutes after you have been busily penning your acceptance speech for the Booker…)

So I sat down with my gin and tonic (well, you have to make room for the sloes in the bottle) to celebrate. And this wave of utter anguish came over me, even worse than for Eden’s Garden. I ended up swallowing two gins (my equivalent of getting roaring drunk these days) while listening to Freddie Mercury singing ‘These Were the Days of Our Lives’. Phoebe did her best to be sympathetic, having obviously decided that being an author’s dog was seriously hard work at times.


I felt a bit of a fool for a while. Then I realised. It’s not just that I have lived with my characters for the past eighteen months. Thanks to my Literature Wales Writers’ Bursary, I was able to spend three months full time with them, too. We That Are Left begins in 1914 and ends in 1925, so I’ve been through an entire war with them. I’ve lived the danger and the fear and the horrible uncertainty, and I’ve been to some pretty dark places with some of them. And while my characters are fictional, they have been borne of real experiences. My dad was born in 1915 and had memories that stretched back to the Great War. It’s that far, and yet that close. That still brings a tingle to my toes.

Writing about the women of WW1 also brought it home. It brought up inevitable questions of how would I feel, and how would I cope if the unthinkable happened?


But it’s not all doom and gloom. Having learnt so much more about the lives of the courageous, skilled and indominable women who kept a country going and proved themselves as managers, organisers, drivers, farm workers, ambulance drivers and surgeons, I am more aware than ever of the debt I owe to them. I can vote, I was able to go take a degree, I was able to have a career. No one questions my right to be myself, rather than merely the meek and solicitous helpmate of a husband.

I’m still grieving a little, but my characters are still with me, in a different way. And now I can be excited at the thought of the book being out so soon. Meanwhile, I’ve some fun bits to do. Part of my research for the book was to find and cook the recipes of WW1. The recipes that are actually in the book are a closely guarded secret, but there are plenty of others, gleaned from newspapers of the time, that I am going to try. With results posted here first.

So watch this space for the shortages of wartime in World War One to bite, just as they did in the Second World War. The Edwardians were heavy on meat and suet, which is a bit of a challenge to a life-long vegetarian. But there’s vegetarian suet, and meat was eventually in short supply. I’m not sure about the horse meat and the rabbit pie, but fruit and vegetables I can deal with. The one with the two raw egg  yolks (freshly laid or no) whisked with sugar then stirred into hot tea has been voted a definite no-no. And as for the hog’s lard …..

But that is for another day. I’m off to source some vegetarian suet and see if the rosehips are ready yet for rosehip syrup to keep those coughs and colds away!


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The Quarry Hospital in Llanberis

Okay; confession time. This blog post is just a teeny bit late. A month or two, in fact. Thanks to one of the nasty little lurgies doing the rounds, followed by Christmas, followed by the usual catching up of the New Year. Oh, and the small matter of a book to finish! So a very belated Happy New Year to you all. It’s great to be back.


The remains of the huge Dinorwic slate quarry, opposite Dolbadarn Castle


The stretcher to carry injured quarry workers

It was a strange experience, being in the Dinorwig slate quarry hospital museum , beneath the shadow of Snowdon. I walk past its front doors every few weeks, but usually with a dog in attendance, a box of vegetables to pick up from a nearby farm and a book to get back to. Last autumn I was there with my day job, celebrating the launch of a local heritage project, and so without dog or walking shoes or any pressing sense of guilt.

Standing in the museum I was struck by the atmosphere of calm. Of peace. It was the last thing I had expected in a hospital built in the 1860s to treat the illnesses and injuries – some truly horrific injuries – of the slate workers from the quarry. In a corridor there hung a stretcher woven into the shape of a man and designed to bring injured workers down from the heights of the nearby mountains. It was hard to look at it and not think of the pain and anguish experienced in such a beautiful object.


Instruments …..

This was especially so with the surgeon’s instruments for amputations and the like hanging all around. Lives were changed in these rooms. I wondered about the families in nearby Llanberis who lost their breadwinner here – either to injuries too severe to survive, or of the life-changing kind that meant he would never be able to work in the same way again, if at all.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYet there were also men and women fighting to save the lives and limbs of the men brought in, with equipment that looks horribly primitive and barbaric to modern eyes. I hoped that the men in the beds on the wards, set out as they would have been, supported and cheered and drew comfort from each other in the way that human beings do when drawn together by the most dreadful of circumstances. And from the window there is the serene view of the foothills of Snowdon, where the train makes its slow journey upwards to the summit.


The view from the hospital with Snowdon in the distance

For all its horror, I came away from the museum feeling unexpectedly positive. Like the modern Mountain Rescue service – whose helicopters come over my cottage almost on a daily basis – the men holding that stretcher were risking their own lives to save another’s.


And the selfish part of me was very thankful that my recent dental work was undertaken with modern anesthetic and instruments, and that when the lurgy struck, I was able to take to my bed for a few days without losing my precious income.

Visiting the Quarry Hospital Museum made me feel closer to the characters I have been living with for the past months, both the Welsh gold miners in the mid 19th Century for a magazine serial and the heroine of my next novel, which begins in 1914. Standing amongst those surgical instruments and the lists of lives damaged forever, I could feel the fear underlying the everyday life of working men and women when even a minor injury could leave a family without money for food and a roof over their heads, let alone the expense of visiting a doctor and buying medicines to ease the suffering, for those who did not have the services of such a hospital. It added an extra edge to the families watching their menfolk march off into the horrors of the Great War, and deepened my admiration for the women and men –  the nurses, the doctors, the ambulance drivers and the many other volunteers – who followed to give what help they could both to the men fighting in the trenches and the civilians caught up amongst the shifting lines of battles.

I went to the meeting at the Quarry Hospital Museum vaguely muttering away inside (as you do) that I could be writing the next chapter instead of standing there like a lemon listening to speeches. But then an author is always on the alert …


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I’ve been tagged in The Next Big Thing by Emily Harvale, author of ‘Highland Fling’ http://www.emilyharvale.com/blog, and Choclit author Henriette Wulf Gyland http://henriettegyland.wordpress.com/ Thank you, lovely writerly ladies!

 I’m instructed to tell you all about my next book by answering these questions and then to tag five other authors about their Next Big Thing. So here I go!

 What is the working title of your next book?

‘Hiram Hall’

Where did the idea come from for the book?

 Partly from family history and partly from an oral history project I’m working on about ordinary people’s lives in WW1. 

 What genre does your book fall under?

Historical Fiction. With a touch of timeshift – maybe? Still hanging in the balance at the moment!

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Rupert Perry-Jones for the hero, and Claire Foy (who played Little Dorrit) for the heroine. And Honeysuckle Weeks (from Foyle’s War) might be in there too. (Only that would be telling)

 What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Three women in a world faced with an unthinkable war – three lives changed forever.

 Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Hopefully (says she with first draft jitters) it will be published by the publisher of ‘Eden’s Garden’, Honno Press.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

There were lots of false starts, and a few bits of jitters, but once I got going properly about six months. Nearly there!

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?  

I was inspired  by Margaret James’ ‘The Silver Locket’  and Judith Barrow’s ‘Pattern of Shadows‘ 

 Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Finding out more about the roles women played in WW1, both at home and on the front line during an oral history project. I knew bits about the trenches from books and war poets, but I was inspired by  women’s part in the war. As well as winning the war at home, many were amazingly heroic, not only as nurses, but have been largely forgotten.

Then there was the great uncle who spent the Great War cycling around Wales on the run from the police ….. (You’ll have to wait!)

 What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

 Food is definitely a weapon of war – if you love Mary Berry or ‘Wartime Farm’, with a bit of mystery thrown in – then watch this space.

I hope this has whetted your appetite …. 

Here are some lovely authors I’ve tagged to tell you about their Next Big Thing!

Judith Barrow, author of one of my favourite books of all time ‘Pattern of Shadows’  http://www.judithbarrow.co.uk/category/blog/

Louise Marley, author of best selling romantic suspense novels including ‘A Girl’s Best Friend’ and ‘Why Do Fools Fall in Love?’. http://www.louisemarley.co.uk/index.html

Thorne Moore , author the gripping read I’m enjoying now:  ‘A Time for Silence’  http://thornemoore.blogspot.co.uk/

Carole Hedges author of the thought-provoking ‘Jigsaw Pieces’ http://carolhedges.blogspot.co.uk/

MaryLynn Bast, author of the spine-tingling ‘Heart of a Wolf’ series. http://heartofawolfseries.blogspot.co.uk/

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After all the excitement and whirlwind of promotion of Eden’s Garden, I’m now deep in the next book. (Hurrah!)

It was strange at first, having wrestled so long for Eden’s Garden to see the light of day to go back to the beginning again, with a first draft and new characters. Oh and that familiar lurking feeling that perhaps that first book was a fluke. And why is this one so dire, and will I ever be able to get there again? To which the answer is: First draft syndrome. First drafts are always rubbish. That’s what they are there for. The trouble is, by the time you get to the refined end of a book, you’ve totally forgotten (or is that blanked out?) just what garbage you started with.

So now I’ve settled down a bit and my characters have taken on lives of their own  – and getting themselves into all sorts of trouble I’m far too nice to have even considered for them – I’m trying to abandon the computer once a week to do a bit of practical research. Oh, okay: visit lovely gardens. Since gardens seem to appear in everything I write as me, and as my alter ego Heather Pardoe, it’s no secret that a garden appears in the next book. How or why is a secret. But you may be able to guess as my forays into the garden world progresses.

Last week, I took off with a friend to Glynllifon, a magnificent Regency Mansion surrounded by a stunningly beautiful 700 estate. The grounds are now a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest because of the richness of the wildlife and the rare and endangered species it contains. Walking through is a slightly surreal experience. The park has been carefully crafted as a wilderness playground. There are streams and rustic bridges and romantic ruins that clearly weren’t ever anything but a romantic ruin. There’s even a cave that looks suspiciously hand-crafted, and a pretty little hermitage that would send any self-respecting hermit heading for the hills.

The slate amphitheatre

Glynllifon is pretty and charming, but slightly odd, given that the real wilderness of Snowdonia is a few hours away by horse-drawn carriage. It’s wilderness tamed, with the real wilderness beating at the door.

I loved every minute of it, and I shall certainly be going back when the autumn colours are at their best, but the most poignant moment came at the end. We were looking around the exhibition showing some of the workers who kept the estate going, and there amongst the photographs was this one.

They are the agricultural workers, but they could also be the gardeners, the servants, the men from the villages nearby. It’s a glimpse into a lost world. A truly lost world, and a lost generation. Why? Because the date on the photograph is 1913.

It’s harvest time, so it’s summer. Within a year, how many of those men and boys would be facing horrors beyond imagination in the trenches of the First Word War? And the little girls facing the struggle, deprivation and uncertainty of life at home, with the fear of invasion and the telegram appearing at the door.

In the Work in Progress, some of my characters have just headed off to the front in The Great War. Young men and women, full of idealism and a sense of adventure, off to see the world and escape the path their rigid society had laid out for them. And, like the men in the photograph in Glynllifon, with no possible way of knowing what lies in front of them.

The peace and beauty and the safely-contained world of Glynllifon is one that will haunt me for a long time. And I hope that at least some of those young men made it back, however scarred, to pick up their lives again, and forge a new world.

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