‘A Place to Call Home’ – Somerset Life and Inspiration by Fay Keenan.
I’ve lived in Somerset for a long time, but for a long time it wasn’t ‘home’. Despite the stunning scenery, picture postcard villages and wonderful produce that includes World Heritage Cheddar cheese, strawberries and more varieties of cider than you can shake an apple branch at, it wasn’t until my mid-thirties that I finally felt as though I could live in the county for the rest of my days!
I moved to Somerset in my teens, which wasn’t a great time for a fresh start by anyone’s reckoning, and, much like Charlie Thorpe in ‘A Place to Call Home’, when he moves to Willowbury, it was different, removed from everything I’d known up until then. I felt, as he did, like a fish out of water, and definitely a long way out of my comfort zone! But that was more down to being a grumpy teenager than anything else, and when I did come back to put down some roots after university, and with a new husband in tow, the place seemed very different.
It wasn’t until I started writing novels, however, that I realised just how much inspiration there is to be found in this county, but, in comparison to Cornwall and Dorset, what a Cinderella county it was in terms of modern romantic fiction. I definitely felt that I wanted to put Somerset on the map as the romantic place it is! And, what better way to do that with than with the fictional Willowbury, a town that, in the right light, is a dead ringer for iconic settlement of Glastonbury. The town, and the wonderful countryside that surrounds it, was all I needed for inspiration.
These days, I’m much more settled in Somerset than I was as a teenager, and with the Mendip Hills and Cheddar Gorge on my doorstep, it’s not surprising. Whenever I need a spiritual recharge, I just head out of the door with my Weimaraner dog Bertie and straight up onto the hills, where, standing by the trig point on Wavering Down, you can see across the whole county, and if you’re lucky, spend time with the wild ponies who roam up there. And when you see the views from Cheddar Gorge, Glastonbury Tor or Crook Peak, you can see exactly why I’m inspired by the county. It’s no accident that so many of the intensely emotional moments in my novels take place in the breathtaking Somerset countryside. There’s one destination, in ‘A Place to Call Home’, that is the backdrop for both passion and heartbreak at different points in the novel, and it’s very closely based on the iconic Glastonbury Tor for very good reason!
So, although in these strange times of COVID-19 and lockdown it’s still difficult to get to places that might inspire us, I hope that, by reading ‘A Place to Call Home’, you might get a sense of why Somerset is such a beautiful and inspiring place to be. And, maybe, when things return to a more recognisable way of life, you might also be inspired to visit and see for yourself!