I am so happy to be on the blog tour for Heidi Swain’s brand new book ‘Summer at Skylark Farm”.
My Country Childhood…
It will probably come as no surprise to those of you who are familiar with my writing, Tweets and cheery Facebook statuses when I say that my heart belongs to the country, but what you probably don’t know however, is why.
When I first came up with the idea of writing a novel or three set in and around the fictitious town of Wynbridge in the flat Fenland landscape of East Anglia, I had no idea I was going to be writing stories about places which would become quite so close to my heart and would consequently set me thinking back over a plethora of childhood memories and experiences.
When I first began to plan the Wynbridge map in my mind I was totally unaware of how those long gone sunny summer days filled with fruit picking and foraging had lingered on to shape far more than my formative years.
My dad’s side of the family have farmed the never ending expanses of Cambridgeshire land, which stretch far and beyond the twists and turns of the sinuous River Nene, for generations. There is something raw and very real about the big skies and distant horizon of the Fens and along with taking turns in the combine and tractors I can remember a time when the stubble fields were set alight after harvest and the air was thick with smoke and smuts. It might have been a frightening spectacle to some but my goodness it did the land good. Killing off pests and the dreaded black grass (which now grows unchecked by many chemical deterrents), it rejuvenated and replenished the soil ahead of drilling the following year’s crop.
In contrast, my mum’s father, Grandad Herb to me, worked the land he rented from the local council, growing crops to send to auction and which for the most part were picked and packed by mum and I. My school summer holidays always began with strawberry picking. Weeks and weeks were filled with working rows and rows of the prickly leaved commercial variety of plants, all lovingly cosseted with neat paths of straw to protect the fruits which were waiting to be plucked in the searing, shimmering sun.
How I used to wish I could be anywhere other than bent double in the merciless heat! The only consolation was the occasional soaring skylark shooting out of its nest which was hidden deep among the foliage. I remember shielding my eyes to watch the birds soar and madly sing in a desperate attempt to distract me from their vulnerable brood which I always hastily covered back up before moving on.
After strawberry picking came the raspberries, then blackberries, (the hardest of all the berries to gather because of the unforgiving thorns), next were gooseberries, (another thorny fiend), plums, apples and as the weather deteriorated the potatoes. For the most part I was a begrudging teenager who would far rather stay in bed and miss out on the opportunity to earn myself some pocket money, but thank goodness I didn’t.
Looking back it was idyllic really; Darling Buds of May in the eighties, halcyon and quite possibly responsible for my overwhelming desire to write about the Fenland landscape, farming, a charming market town and the community of folk living amongst and within them.
As an adult I have lived in some beautiful countryside, from Dorset to Aberdeenshire, but none has held on as tight to my heart as that of East Anglia. Now living in a busy village in Norfolk I still can’t resist the urge to get out and about, especially when I’ve been sitting at the keyboard for hours.
Even if I haven’t time to go far I still manage to make it as far as the fields which make up my local patch, seek out the first primroses and violets in the spring and the old haunts long favoured by nesting birds. A walk in the fresh air frees the mind, stimulates the brain and in my experience, keeps creativity flowing. Of course I could pull on my boots and pound the streets if I wanted to, but truth be told my heart does, and always will, belong to the country.
Summer At Skylark Farm
Amber is a city girl at heart. So when her boyfriend Jake Somerville suggests they move to the countryside to help out at his family farm, she doesn’t quite know how to react. But work has been hectic and she needs a break so she decides to grasp the opportunity and make the best of it.
Dreaming of organic orchards, paddling in streams and frolicking in fields, Amber packs up her things and moves to Skylark Farm. But life is not quite how she imagined – it’s cold and dirty and the farm buildings are dilapidated and crumbling.
But Amber is determined to make the best of it and throws herself into farm life. But can she really fit in here? And can she and Jake stay together when they are so different?
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Make sure to check out the other bloggers on the tour