On our recent holiday to Devon and Dorset, I wanted to try and find a special, secret place I’d read about in Robert Macfarlane’s wonderful book Holloway. Macfarlane visited Dorset’s ancient sunken paths after hearing about a 1939 thriller by Geoffrey Household called Rogue Male in which the protagonist, who is being hunted down by the authorities, hides out in the wilds of the Dorset countryside.
Household mentions Lyme Regis, Beaminster and the Marshwood Vale in his novel and Macfarlane first headed to North Chideock. We bought an OS map and studied the area, but we weren’t sure where this holloway was until a local told us about a track ominously called Hell Lane. “It’s always wet there,” he told us. “The sun never gets through.”
Well, it certainly was wet and muddy and Hattie couldn’t wait to make a start.
And what a magical place it was with its twisting, leaning trees, its bluebells, its prehistoric ammonite-like ferns just beginning to unfurl and, everywhere, the pungent smell of wild garlic.
It occurred to me that I was a writer following a writer who had been following another writer. It’s curious how a landscape can inspire and link us together and I’m thankful that books encourage us to go out and explore the wonderful world we live in.