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Literary-inspired places to visit around the South Coast
The UK is renowned for the many famous poets and authors it has produced over the centuries; thanks to the majesty of this “green and pleasant land” it’s not hard to see where that literary inspiration comes from.
Join us for a stroll across the southern UK, along with some cultural insights into the renowned wordsmiths who have benefitted from its wondrous landscape.
A.A. Milne - Winnie the Pooh
This 6,500 acre woodlands was turned into the fictional home of a popular yellow bear with the catchphrase “Oh, bother”.
A.A. Milne witnessed the adventures that his son, Christopher Robin, had with his toys in the woods by their home in Ashdown Forest, East Sussex. These wonderful journeys formed the inspiration for the treasured "Winnie the Pooh" stories.
On your ‘expotition’ you will come across many of the locations from the Pooh stories, such as, "Hundred Acre Wood" which is actually called Five Hundred Acre Wood. Christopher Robin even described Pooh’s forest and Ashdown Forest as “identical” in his autobiography.
A walk in the woods here wouldn’t be complete without a game of "Pooh sticks" at the aptly names Poohsticks Bridge. First one out from under the bridge wins!
Charles Dickens - Oliver Twist
Kent played a key role in Charles Dickens’ life, and he believed that the seven miles from Rochester to Maidstone was “one of the most beautiful walks in England”.
Dickens made quite the impression on Kent, and it’s because of this there’s much to see and do around the county about one of the greatest novelist of the Victorian era.
You can explore Dickens House Museum, with its wealth of memorabilia and prints. Stay the night at his former regular hangout, The Royal Albion Hotel in Broadstairs. Still further west in Kent is the town of Medway, the location of his former home – Gad’s Hill Place.
And if after all that you’re thinking I want more, then how about attending a festival celebrating his life and work? It has been running for over 80 years and is held annually in the third week of June.
Will you be joining us there?
Enid Blyton - The Famous Five
Enid Blyton was one of the most successful British authors of the twentieth century and is known by most for her incredibly successful novel series "The Famous Five". Spanning a 40 year career, she created over 800 stories, but always found time to visit Dorset several times each year. For most of her getaways, she would either stay at the Grand Hotel in Swanage or the Knoll House Hotel in Studland.
Her love of Dorset flowed into her work as well. Her character Julian once remarked “somehow I feel more English for having seen those Dorset fields, surrounded by hedges basking in the sun” in the novel ‘Five on Finniston Farm’.
Many of the adventures undertaken by "The Famous Five", can in fact be had by you too! (With the likely exception of any criminal-foiling)
The four children and their trusted doggy companion Timothy often enjoyed train journeys on their adventures, which can be re-created with a vintage train ride on the Swanage Railway, between Swanage and Corfe Castle.
Corfe Castle is not only one of Dorset’s most iconic landmarks, but is also believed to be known as "Kirrin Castle" (from the novels). You can enjoy a gait around the castles base or head inside and climb up for lovely views over the village and its surrounding countryside.
Nearby Holiday Parks – Sandhills
Agatha Christie - Murder on the Orient Express
Many great literary minds have frequented Torquay on the English Riviera over the years, but none more celebrated than the iconic crime novelist, Agatha Christie.
Every year in September this delightful Devon town celebrates the birthday of the author of the bestseller, "Murder on the Orient Express" with a week-long International Agatha Christie Festival!
As part of the festival you can witness the official production of her most famous stage drama "The Mousetrap", which is the longest running show of any kind in the history of British theatre. Enjoy a guided mystery walking tour of the Agatha Christie Mile, with 10 incredible landmarks to be spotted and a few surprises to be had along the way.
Or if you really want to feel like one of her characters, how about walking the trail of Agatha Christie and her beloved creations? In small groups, you’ll find Christie’s favourite characters hidden in classic locations around Torre Abbey’s house and gardens – can you solve the murder in the village?
Jane Austen - Pride and Prejudice
The Hampshire born novelist is one of England’s most famous storytellers, spending most of her life in the historic and beautiful county of Hampshire, in the South Downs National Park.
Jane Austen's House Museum in Chawton is the only home where Jane Austen lived (and wrote) that is open to the general public, thus making it the most treasured Austen site in the world. This country cottage house was the location that Jane's literary brilliance came to life and where she created and published many of her celebrated novels, including “Sense and Sensibility”, “Emma”, and of course “Pride and Prejudice”.
Visitors are allowed to roam freely throughout her former home to discover letters written by Jane, some of her personal effects, first editions of her books, furniture, textiles and the very table at which she penned many of her cherished stories. This striking Grade I listed building attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year.
A visit here will provide an insight into the beautiful mind that brought us “To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love”.
Nearby Holiday Parks – Solent Breezes
George Orwell - 1984
Orwell spent much of his life at his family homes in the coastal town of Southwold in Suffolk. Eric Blair was best known under his pseudonym George Orwell – this pen name was influenced by the picturesque River Orwell, which flows through Ipswich and meets the sea at nearby Felixstowe.
Orwell is most recognisable for his acclaimed (and somewhat prophetic) novels, “Animal Farm”, “Homage to Catalonia” and “1984”, the latter of which, remains popular in pop and political culture for the term ‘Orwellian’- used to describe totalitarian and authoritarian social practices.
One of his family homes, the Montague House, now a grade-II listed building, is available for getaways and short breaks. Orwell himself lived here from time to time, most notably in 1935 when he wrote “A Clergyman's Daughter”.
So, if you’re still searching for your own pen name, take a trip to the River Orwell and enjoy a visit at the Montague House to discover the inspiration for your next novel!
H.G. Wells - War of the Worlds
H.G Wells, known by most for his 1898 science-fiction novel “The War of the Worlds”, visited Essex often, and even lived in Easton Glebe near Dunmow, on the Easton Lodge estate, between 1910 and 1928. It was also around this time he wrote “The History of Mr Polly”. The gardens of the estate are still flourishing to this day, with day trips and other events on offer.
Many of his novels are inspired from his time in Essex, for example, “The History of Mr Polly” describes the hustle and bustling of the fictional Fishbourne High Street, which in actual fact is St Botolph’s Street in Colchester. In addition, not all of the characters were fictitious, in fact two of the nine market traders described in the book were real people - Mr H G Polley and J H Clamp - according to a 1911 Census.
Essex also played a keen role in his “The War of the Worlds” novel. As the Martian invasion begins, the narrator’s younger brother flees to the Essex coast for safety, by order of the authorities. Later in the novel the village of Tillingham and the county of Chelmsford are mentioned.
Wells tells the story of the life of a renowned writer and resident of the rural English town of Matching's Easy in his novel ‘Mr Britling Sees It Through’. Wells’ love of Essex overflows into his character Mr Britling, when he beautifully describes the county: “Essex is not a suburban county; it is a characteristic and individualised county which wins the heart.”
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