It’s almost here – publication day for Escape To Curlew Cottage.
I knew that I wanted to go back to Brookford – and Curlew Cottage – almost as soon as I finished writing about it in Wish You Were Here. What I needed, though, was the right set of characters and the right story – and that took a little longer. (As a side note, if you haven’t read Wish You Were Here yet, there’s a special offer coming in my March newsletter for subscribers only, so make sure that you’ve signed up…)
I told you a little bit about Brookford back when Wish You Were Here was published, but to save you looking that up, here goes.
Located towards the southern end of the Cotswolds, Brookford is between Stroud and Cirencester – but don’t look for it on a map, it exists only in my imagination. 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. I’ve only ever visited in the autumn and winter but according to Instagram, the woods are full of bluebells in late spring and the fields dotted with buttercups in the summer.
Essentially it’s an amalgam of any number of quintessentially Cotswolds villages.
It has a village pub – as 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 scattered throughout the region.
The Lamb in Brookford is actually based partly on the Crown Inn – a 16th-century pub in Frampton Mansell – and partly on The Bell at Sapperton. In fact, I borrowed some of the decor from The Bell, and this fabulous picture from The Lamb Inn in Burford for my fictional pub.
Like the Lamb Inn in Burford (and many other pubs in the area) The Lamb at Brookford has a restaurant attached to it as well that does posher food than you get in the pub part. And, like any self-respecting English pub, it does a cracker of a Sunday roast.
The high street looks much like the one in Burford with a bookshop, a couple of delis, a butcher, a cheese shop, a sweetie shop, and a few antique shops and galleries – and a bakery that sells lardy cakes.
There’s even a market square like the one (below) in Burford, although I borrowed the market cross from one in Malmesbury (apologies for the bad pic).
At the end of the high street, you cross a little bridge – a curved stone one that looks a little like this one in Bibury. There are always ducks in the river and children play “pooh sticks” as they cross the bridge – throw sticks in from one side and then run to the other to see them floating down.
On the other side of the rive up a little rise is the 16th century church. Like many churches in The Cotswolds it’s a wool church ie built from fortunes made from the wool trade.
There’s a cemetery in the church yard and plenty of yew trees.
As for Curlew Cottage itself, well, that’s based on one that we stayed at in December 2015 – Cockshutt Cottage at Westley Farm, Cowcombe Hill, near Chalford and Minchinhampton. Don’t you just love those names?
There were donkeys down the lane and a collie named Bella. I recall watching a group of kids attempting to herd a gaggle of geese up the dirt road one grey morning. I’ve used both the donkeys and the geese in Escape To Curlew Cottage.
The front door is at the back of the house and you enter straight into the stone-floor kitchen. It’s tiny and has a wooden table in the centre, but with views across the valley.
Off to the right is an equally tiny bathroom, but to the left is the living area with a lovely fire and beyond that two bedrooms. The back door into the walled kitchen garden is actually between the bedrooms.
Just up the road at Frampton Mansell is Jolly Nice – a farm shop, café, deli, butcher, and maker of great coffee and ice-cream. It also appears in the novel.
Each time we’ve been there it’s been close to Christmas and 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. They even had reindeers.
Next time I’ll introduce you to the main characters – Claire, Owen and the women of The Cotswold Culinary and Cookbook Society.
Escape to Curlew Cottage will be published on March 12 and is available for preorder now on Amazon. This link is for the Australian store, but it will take you to your region.