Exploring the rural areas and villages around Kent – 10th June 2013

On May 28th 2013 I finally finished the re-write of my 2nd book, Visions, which has been a quite a long and arduous process. Having promised myself another trip to Kent, just to immerse myself in the setting of this story again – an opportunity arose, when my husband’s parents needed a lift up to Bromley – and with a hankering to explore the countryside, I embarked on yet another research visit.

The Story So far

Readers of ‘Beginnings’ (first book in the series) may recall that the story has moved from London, where the character(s) ended up hiding in a remote country village, named Aldwyck. This is the location where Book 2 ‘Visions’ starts. It is also home to the aristocratic Barton-Wells family, now desperate to save their magnificent country house from ruin.

At the beginning of the story, Eleanor also meets the ill-fated Bailey family, victims of a vindictive property developer whose ruthless scheming has sent them spiralling into poverty. With a strong pledge to help others who have been ‘victims’ like herself, Eleanor realises she has found the first of her ‘followers’ – thus, the two families forge a powerful bond of friendship.

The first part of their story takes place in Bromley (a large suburb of London), a place I took time to explore the last time I was in this area. On the last journey, I explored the routes between the various places by train. But this is the first time I have actually ventured around this county by car which gives quite a different perspective. Just this morning, I was editing a part of the story where the Baileys drove from Bromley down to Eleanor’s neck of the woods.

His mood had lifted, the moment they left their home town via ‘Bromley Common’ – a wide road, where the houses seemed to grow bigger and grander, including elegant Tudor style mansions with leaded bay windows and long front gardens. They were eventually drawn down thickly wooded roads which engulfed them in a cloud of trees.

(For this time of year, the whole county seemed very green - but for a place this close to London, it was hard to imagine there were so many trees on both sides of the road and a lot of the roads are like this.)

(For this time of year, the whole county seemed very green – but for a place this close to London, it was hard to imagine there were so many trees on both sides of the road and a lot of the roads are like this.)

It is not long after this scene, when the two families start comparing their troubled pasts, but with little realisation that they may have fallen foul of the same evil character; and they are destined to try to save the Barton-Wells family from the same people.

‘Her hand tightened around her glass – she had just replenished their drinks. Already, she had heard enough to understand that the man Charlie was describing was utterly ruthless – and this was the property developer James was about to go into partnership with?
“It’s the same man, isn’t it?” Charlie demanded, picking up her thought stream.
“Yes,” Eleanor whispered, glancing fearfully back at him. “You mentioned the son – the clue was in the motorbike – and you said his name was Ben…”
She felt a slither of cold. This had to be the young man Avalon was dating, where the echo of her own words momentarily clanged in her mind – ‘there was something in his eyes, something scary…’ 

The Setting

Returning to the setting of this book, I should point out that Aldwyck is not a real place – it is a fictitious setting based on some of the typical villages found across England. Driving south, the roads gradually became more narrow and winding, enclosed by thickening forests on both side, drawing me through a tunnel of trees – then finally into a picturesque valley where tiny villages and farms were tucked in the hills, surrounded by beautiful woods and countryside.

Long view over the rolling countryside of Kent

Long view over the rolling countryside of Kent

The loveliest village of them all was Shoreham village – and it was almost by fate, I ended up here. If ever I had found a place which resembled my fictitious ‘Aldwyck’, then this was it –  idyllic cottages (some of which were situated on a green) and a prominent, white pub: sliced through with exposed timber beams and surrounded by hanging baskets. The pub (named ‘The Crown’) could so easily have been ‘the Olde House at Home’, which was modelled on the style of a traditional English country pub.

Shoreham Village showing lovely country pub and tudor style half-timber cottage

Shoreham Village showing lovely country pub and tudor style half-timber cottage

Shoreham  has its own field of allotments, tended by local folk who love to grow their own fruit and vegetables – another delightful tradition in this country which I hope we never lose. The cottages reveal many different styles of architecture from a rambling half timber tea shop, to the period houses built from stone, right up to slightly more modern houses, constructed from brick. I think one aspect I will definitely make more mention of is the gardens which are utterly breathtaking – many of which lie behind mossy garden walls, overflowing with colourful flowers.

Cottages in Shoreham from the very old, to the more modern.

Cottages in Shoreham from the very old, to the more modern.

Thick areas of woodland also feature in my book quite a lot, but then woods have so much scope. First of all there are the hidden paths, where residents take walks – secret places for lovers; and of course, a dense forest forms the perfect setting for one of the more nail-biting action scenes – a chase scene where a character is forced to lie low, whilst being relentlessly hunted by deadly pursuers.

‘… it was too late. Everything his mother had feared, was happening to him right now. He was about to be snatched, just as her enemies had threatened all those years ago.
It was this thought alone which drove him relentlessly on – and right now, he had the advantage. His lithe frame designed him to move quickly, as he flitted through the trees with the same agility and speed as his father had done, many years before. It put him yards ahead of his pursuers, who could still be heard crashing their way through the undergrowth…’

Dense surrounding woodland, used within the story.

Dense surrounding woodland, used within the story.

As I complete the final edit of Visions, in preparation for its imminent publication, I hope to have all the inspiration I will need, to depict the rural setting in as much rich detail as I managed for the many places featured in the first book.

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About Helen J. Christmas

I am a budding author and have written the first 3 books of my British series of novels, 'Same Face Different Place. Beginnings is a suspense thriller set in the criminal underworld of 1970s London. The second Book 'Visions' is a psychological thriller, set in Kent - a mystery which ensnares the owners of an historic, English Country House. Book 3 Pleasures contains suspense, thrills and YA romance and the 4th book is being written.
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One Response to Exploring the rural areas and villages around Kent – 10th June 2013

  1. Terry Tyler says:

    Very nice! Really lovely pictures 🙂

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