With its big skies and stunning scenery, there is little wonder that Norfolk has proven an inspiration for authors and poets over the centuries. For those of us who are not preparing to write a novel or a poem, the pace of life when holidaying in the county is conducive to one of the simpler pleasures in life – delving into a good book.
In the depths of winter, one of the pleasures of staying in our cottages and barns at Rookery Farm is the opportunity to shut off from the world and spend a few happy hours reading. When it is dark outside and you have the luxury of a blazing fire and a comfortable sofa, delving into an imaginary world gives you a chance to switch off and clear your brain before you step back onto the treadmill of modern life. Whether it is an old favourite, a classical text or a thrilling detective story, immersing yourself in a good book is both a joy and a pleasure.
If you want to take your literary interest further, Norfolk has long had literary associations. While it is daylight, you might want to spend a few hours exploring the landscape that inspired some of our great writers and poets.
Literary figures of Norfolk
Children’s adventure writer Arthur Ransome, best known for Swallows and Amazons, uses Horning Staithe in the Broads National Park as the main location for his adventure books, Coot Club (1934) and The Big Six (1940). In the stories, Dick and Dorothea join forces with Tom Dudgeon, the son of the Horning doctor.
Poet John Betjeman’s ghost walks all over East Anglia and it was the sight of St Peter’s church tower at Belaugh that inspired a life time of exploring and writing about Norfolk’s cathedrals and churches. The poem Norfolk features the River Bure.
The king of the detective novel and creator of super sleuth Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle came to Cromer on a golfing holiday. It is believed that Baskerville Hall, featured in The Hound of the Baskervilles, was based on Cromer Hall. Black Shuck, the legendary dog that roams East Anglia is believed to be the inspiration for the ghostly black dog in the novel.
Jack Higgins (The Eagle has Landed) was based in Blakeney while he researched his most famous war-time book. The fictional church in the village of Study Constable is based on St Margarets in Cley.
Hunstanton is the back drop to both LP Hartley’s novel, The Shrimp and the Anemone and in Patrick Hamilton’s novel Rope. The first chapter opens with George Harvey Bone walking along the famous red and white striped cliffs. LP Hartley also stayed at Bradenham Hall, which became Brandham Hall in his novel The Go-Between.
Wild swimmer and wildlife author Roger Deakin took a dip at Holkham’s beautiful sea and relayed his experience in the book, Waterlog. His protege, the nature writer Robert MacFarlane also cites the north Norfolk coast in his book The Old Ways.
In Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe – the eponymous hero experiences his first shipwreck on Winterton-on-Sea beach.
Anna Sewell, the author of Black Beauty, was born in a timber-framed house in Great Yarmouth in 1820. At the age of 14 she suffered a bad fall which left her disabled and dependent on horse drawn transport. Her famous book was published three months before she died and has become an enduring favourite.
Alex Marsh whose work The Resurrection of Frederic Debreu was partly written in the deli’s at Thornham and Great Bircham, says that, although the book is set in France, much of his inspiration was drawn from the characters and places he has encountered in Norfolk.
With the huge skies, stunning scenery and mind-clearing air, there is little wonder that Norfolk continues to be a literary inspiration to authors, poets and artists.