Although this book was set up on Dartmoor not far from Sheepstor (the name applies equally well to both the village and the tor itself), the inspiration and the brooding all took place back in or around Avonwick where we were living at the time. Marcia and her son are standing in front of the ‘Devil’s Backbone Bridge’ on a path that runs beside the river Avon known as the Cobbly Way.
We lived on the other side of the river, our garden running down to it, a bit further downstream. Even further downstream the river runs through woodland, mainly beech, and Marcia would spend hours walking with the dogs alongside the Avon as she listened to her characters talking to each other and brooded on what they might be up to next.
There is a very silly story behind this (not very good) photograph. Although the inspiration for the book came from around Avonwick, the working title, Blackthorne Bridge, was inspired by this one: Saddle Bridge over the O Brook (what a wonderful name of a stream) in the shadow of Combestone Tor. In those days, we sent a photograph to the publishers on which they would base the cover design. So it was that one cold but sunny day we set off to take a photo of ‘Blackthorne Bridge’. Only as we climbed up onto the moor did we realise that the snow was still lying on the uplands. Anyway, grabbing a passing motorist and asking him to pose with Marcia on the bridge I took this.
I should add that on many of her walks along the Avon, Marcia would see a dipper. One years they nested immediately opposite the bottom of our garden and they have become a quite important part of our lives. Thus when the publisher rejected ‘Blackthorne Bridge’ as a title, Mafrcia was more than happy for the book to be called The Dipper.
Here is the same bridge on a rather less chilly day. Incidentally, when we take a closer look at Forgotten Laugher we shall discover that Brigid’s home is just around the corner.
Much nearer to the Grange, where Quenten and Clemmie live, is Nosworthy Bridge. This takes the lane over the River Meavy just before it tumbles into Burrator Reservoir and all those who travelled between the Grange and Tavistock would cross it on their journey.
I find bridges endlessly fascinating. Whether they are great architectural monuments (such as the ones that grace San Fransico or Sydney in Australia) or simple rugged affairs (such as the ones on Dartmoor) they are all, in their own different ways, beautiful. That is my only excuse for the photographs above and below this paragraph.
Time to return to The Grange . . .
. . . and to Sheepstor, here seen glowing in the late evening sun and looking extremely inhospitable. To be fair, there are many times when most of Dartmoor is inhospitable: in the height of summer, covered in snow in the winter, when the gales from the south west bring in torrential rain and the winds from the east cause the temperature to plunge. And then there are the times when the moor is covered in hill fog or lurking in the clouds. I sometimes wonder why I love it as much as I do.
It has other faces, of course such as here, when the is silence broken only by the sounds of water trickling over the rocks, the call of birds and the occasional comment from one of the sheep.
Talking of which it is always worth remembering that this is their home and they expect you to drive around them VERY CAREFULLY INDEED.
Their somewhat larger cousins are less vulnerable to traffic . . .
But, tragically, quite a few ponies are killed by people driving without ‘moor care’ which involved keeping to a reasonable speed and watching all stock all the time.