When we were in England recently, my husband kindly let me dress him up for the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, as I wrote about in my last post. So when he asked to take a day or two to visit a place he was interested in, I of course agreed. Poor guy had it coming!
He wanted to go to a town called Witney in Oxfordshire. He is interested in the history of the “point blankets” once made there, which were traded for beaver pelts during the fur trade of the 18th and 19th centuries. Those pelts became gentlemen’s top hats—rather like the one he wore that very week.
Then, lo and behold, I stumbled across a reminder that Witney and its neighbor, Wood Green, inspired a series of novels I’ve long enjoyed: The Thrush Green novels by Miss Read, the pen name of Dora Saint, who once lived there. (Thrush Green was loosely based on the village of Wood Green, while Witney played the larger town of Lulling in the books.) Suddenly I was as eager to visit the area as my husband was!
After visiting the museums of Witney, Brian and I drove up the winding hill to the nearby village of Wood Green: a church, pub, and cluster of homes built of golden Cotswold stone around a tree-lined green. Upon the grassy expanse, a father and his young son played cricket. How perfect. Wood Green is still a peaceful, lovely place all these years later, though no doubt the roads are busier than when Dora Saint lived there, and some newer houses have been built among the old.
While I posed for a photo in front of The Three Pigeons (The Two Pheasants in the books), I was photo-bombed by a man from inside the pub. We shared a laugh and then he urged us to come inside.
We were warmly welcomed by a half dozen folks—regulars, the owner (who reminded me very much of curmudgeonly Albert Piggot from the series), and an older woman (and her parrot) who had known Dora Saint.
We enjoyed talking with them all for half an hour or so, accepted some good-natured teasing and gave some in return. It reminded me all over again of why I love English villages and why I decided to write my own series set in one, TALES FROM IVY HILL. Book One, The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill, releases December 1st.
In the meantime, you might want to give the Thrush Green series a try (they’re especially enjoyable in audio versions). I should warn you, however, that these are not action-packed page-turners by today’s standards. But as they transport you to life in a charming English village, they are thoroughly enjoyable anyway.
I was glad to find the birthplace of a favorite series that day. Have you read any of Miss Read’s novels?