A Journey Through Ambeth


‘Together they walked to the Gate, the sun waning as the day began to end, a cool breeze blowing through the glowing green woodland.’

Over the weekend I visited a park I’ve known for years. I used to go there as a child, and my mother and grandmother also played there as children, so it’s somewhere very dear to me. It holds magic, as well – the magic of living close to somewhere so wonderful, exploring hidden pathways and sunken gardens, of watching my own daughter play where three generations of her family played before her.

'The War Memorial loomed like a golden tower'

‘The War Memorial loomed like a golden tower’

It’s also the inspiration for my Ambeth Chronicles. In the books it’s the park near to Alma’s house, the place she goes when she needs time to think. It’s also where she is attacked and pushed through the tree gate into Ambeth, emerging on the other side into a different world. So it was wonderful to walk the familiar pathways and see them through my character’s eyes, another layer of magic added to an already special place.

'past the tennis courts and playground and the small cafe'

‘past the tennis courts and playground and the small cafe’

I took photos as I walked, wanting to capture some of the places on film. The park features all the way through the series of books, and so I considered words already written and twists yet to come, drawing more inspiration from the leafy green.

'she wandered through the Gardens with Caleb... Hedges rose around them like a maze and every corner revealed something new...'

‘she wandered through the Gardens with Caleb… Hedges rose around them like a maze and every corner revealed something new…’

And then I thought I’d share them with you 🙂

'Alma saw she was near to a gap between two oak trees, beyond which she knew was a track that would take her to the end of the park and home.'

‘Alma saw she was near to a gap between two oak trees, beyond which she knew was a track that would take her to the end of the park and home.’

Into The Blue


I went to the woods the other day.

I love the woods – they have always been a place of magic to me. My grandmother used to take me to the woods near her village to gather snowdrops in Spring, hunt for fairies at Midsummer and take long autumn walks golden with leaves. We visit the woods near our own house quite often, a place to run and hunt for treasure, to find strange stones and pretty leaves as we watch squirrels dance lightfooted, birds rustling overhead. A forest features in my Ambeth stories, home to a gate between worlds, the seasons changing as you pass from one side to another.

The woods we visited are a short drive away. (They are also featured in the header image on this blog). There is a rather good pub on the way where we stopped for lunch, then the road continues through ancient countryside dotted with half timbered cottages, old bridges and small villages, gardens heavy with flowers and fruit trees. When we arrived the place was packed. Or at least, the entrance way was. Cars arriving and leaving, lining the roads, people in wellies and waterproof jackets, kids with sticks, dogs on and off leads, all of them going to the same place we were. However, we were not deterred. We parked, did the obligatory toilet check (as part of a National Trust Estate there is a nice cafe on site), bought ice-creams and then took one of the green-brown paths leading off into the trees. At first there were a few people heading the same way we were, but as we moved deeper into the woods they were gone, leaving us alone amongst the trees and heavenly bluebell scented air.


The bluebells were the real British ones, where the bells hang on one side of the stem only and the scent fills the air with every waft of breeze. Then, to make things even more perfect, we spotted two small deer making their dainty way through the trees. And so we followed, taking the narrow trail dotted with tiny hoof-prints as we went further and deeper into the blue, careful not to tread on the delicate flowers as we walked as quietly as we could, not wanting to frighten the deer away. But they didn’t seem bothered, trotting ahead, stopping to munch on whatever it is they munch on, then, finally, disappearing behind a dense hedge.

If you use a magnifying glass :-) you might be able to see a little deer disappearing into the woods...

If you use a magnifying glass 🙂 you might be able to see a little deer disappearing into the woods…

It was time to go and, as we made our slow way back through the trees we started to see more and more people, hear voices and dogs barking and motors revving. It felt as though we had been somewhere else, and were just now returning to the real world. A world of cars and families and ice creams, of driving home through country lanes as the first spots of rain began to fall.

It was completely magical, and a beautiful way to end the day.


Treasure Hunting

Last summer my husband, daughter and I went metal detecting in our local woods. Of course we had dreams of uncovering some sort of golden hoard, left in days past by desperate refugees fleeing advancing armies, but we figured the reality was more likely to be an array of soft drink cans and old screws and nails, left by not-so desperate people who just couldn’t be arsed to find a bin (but that’s a whole other rant).


It seemed like a fun thing to do, the weather was nice, the woods green and glowing, and an afternoon in the fresh air searching for treasure was an afternoon well spent, as far as we were concerned.

So, what did we find?

Well, it was a surprisingly fruitful mission. The woods in question were once part of the grounds of a Jacobean manor, sadly demolished in the 1950’s when death duties and a collective sort of madness seemed to grip those in charge of our heritage homes. So the house was gone but the woods remained, and into the green we went, venturing off the beaten path in hopes of finding something special. We found loads of coins, actually. Coppers and a few no-longer shiny twenty pence pieces, enough to keep the gorgeous girl very excited. Sure, there were a few bits of tinfoil, some old rusty nails and, on one lengthy dig, the sad realisation that the large response we were getting was from a nearby drain cover, but for the most part we found stuff that was worth digging for. We even found an old penny, George V by the very faint silhouette barely visible on its worn surface, the edges nibbled away by its time in the ground. And then we found this:


What is it? It was fairly deep down, six or seven inches below the surface. It’s obviously man made, but for what purpose? For me, and this is entirely a gut instinct kind of thing, it feels as though it had something to do with the war. Like it was a gun sight or something. The piece is surprisingly heavy and very solid under all the rust, measuring about 15cm long. We were all fascinated by it, our first piece of ‘treasure.’

As we walked and listened for beeps and talked and enjoyed the day, a small boy and his mother came along the path. We were digging at that moment, and the little boy was fascinated, asking us what we were doing. I replied ‘we’re looking for treasure,’ and his face lit up.

‘Can I help?’ he asked, but his mother, smiling, told him they needed to keep going, and perhaps they could look for treasure themselves another day. So he watched for a few moments more and then they went on their way. And, as we went home under the fading sun, dirty and tired and clutching our little bag of booty, we all appreciated what a good day it had been and that maybe, the treasure we found was not something that could be measured or weighed, but something infinitely more valuable.