If you’ve read Wish You Were Here, you’ll have been introduced to Brookford. But where is Brookford? Unlike Queenstown – which is, of course, a real place – Brookford is mostly from my imagination.
Essentially it’s an amalgam of any number of quintessentially Cotswolds villages. It has symmetrical streets lined with old yellow stone-walled cottages similar to those in Burford and Broadway and many other Cotswolds villages. It has a village pub – like all good Cotswolds villages do – named The Lamb.
Given the Cotswolds tradition of wool and fortunes made from wool, there are a number of pubs with similar names, although The Lamb in my story is actually based on the Crown Inn – a 16th century pub in Frampton Mansell.
As an aside, The Bell at Sapperton (mentioned in Chapter 1) does exist – and does have a fabulous wine list, great food, and even a place to tether your horse. If you’re in the area, I’d recommend both it and The Crown Inn for a good meal.
As for physical location? If Brookford were to exist outside of the pages of Wish You Were Here, it would be located roughly somewhere between Stroud and Cirencester. It’s a gorgeous part of the general gorgeousness that is the Cotswolds. It’s an area with sweeping green hills dotted with sheep, dry-stone walls, and views that go for miles. According to Instagram, those fields are dotted with buttercups in the summer- although I’ve never visited in the summer. Max and Richie’s bluebell wood is a figment of my imagination, but could very easily be there. Somewhere.
Max and James’s cottage in Brookford was inspired by Star Cottage in Burford, and Old Balwil in Buchlyvie, Scotland. Curlew Cottage is modelled on a cottage we stayed in last December – Cockshutt Cottage at Westley Farm, Cowcombe Hill, near Chalford and Minchinhampton. Don’t you just love those names?
It was in that cottage that at least 10,000 words of this book were written. And yes, the donkeys down the lane exist – as does Bella the collie. I recall watching a group of kids attempting to herd a gaggle of geese up the dirt road one grey morning.
Just up the road at Frampton Mansell is Jolly Nice – a farm shop, café, butchery, and maker of great coffee and (in the summer) ice-cream. When we were there in December, the area behind the shop was dedicated to Christmas trees – real ones – and the yurt out the back was full of produce for Christmas. The sorts of food that made you wish you had an old stone house with a huge fireplace – lavishly decorated for Christmas – and a long wooden table with enough photogenic family (who got along with each other) to make it all look like an ad from a Christmas catalogue.
I remember that when the owner of Westley told us they had Jolly Nice food shop up the road, I thought she was saying that the shop up the road stocked some jolly nice food. Anyways, Blossoms & Buds – the garden centre that Max and Richie work at – is partly modelled on Jolly Nice; and partly on a nursery we bought firewood from in Aberfoyle (near Buchlyvie in the Trossachs); and partly on Woodhouse Farm Shop at Kippen on the road to Stirling (in Scotland) where I bought a journal with a spaniel on the front cover.
As for Queenstown, the other major location in Wish You Were Here? Obviously it does exist, and I’m heading back there on Friday to tramp Milford Track – and to get some more location ideas for a future bookie project. In the meantime, keep your eyes open for some pics and posts as I show you around this vibrant and remarkably picturesque city.