I’m writing this blog in what was once the croquet lawn of the fabulous Jacobean residence, Crook Hall, situated high on a hill overlooking the river Wear. It’s an idyllic spring afternoon, the garden is awash with narcissi and to my left buds of rhododendron are just beginning to open into fists of streaky pink blooms. I’m working on my children’s novel , a faerie-themed fantasy, of which I have just completed the first chapter of the fourth and final section. But I’m finding it difficult, sat here with the thrill of birdsong in my ears and the warmth mid-afternoon sun on my neck, to conjure up the bitter cold of a forest in winter. I’ve revisited my section notes, but although this has helped remind me of the climax and conclusion I’m working towards, it hasn’t given me the inspiration I’d hoped to move the plot into the next chapter and scene.
I’m not worried. This is a corner I’ve turned many times before. When I return home and before I open my file to write again, I’ll use some of the many resources I have at hand – books about nature and the seasons, a DVD with inspirational images of forests throughout the seasons and more resources both paper-based and digital.
My mother and I have just bought annual passes so this is the first of what I hope will become a series of many visits to Crook Hall. The Hall and gardens has much to offer as a writing venue: from the shelter of the ancient hall itself (in which I wrote a chapter or two of my first novel, Red God Black God), to a patchwork of delightful gardens, each with their own individual personalities, there is ample opportunity to find a place to write, read or just wander in search of the writing muse.
Mam and I had a coffee on arrival in the new café, before taking a gentle stroll up into the Cathedral Garden, where we wrote with a backdrop of the beautiful cathedral. We lunched in the Hall itself before settling to write once again in the Georgian wall garden. I hope to complete the first draft of my novel by summer, and who knows, perhaps my planned visits to Crook Hall will result in another children’s novel, this time inspired by the great hall itself? It certainly oozes with possibilities.