Monday, July 06, 2015

Visiting Camlet Moat

Of all the places Danielle and I planned to visit while we were in London, Camlet Moat--the site of so much of When Maidens Mourn--excited me perhaps more than anything else. I couldn't classify going there as research since the book was written long ago. I suppose in a sense it was something of a pilgrimage.

Believe it or not, the Piccadilly Line runs all the way out to Cockfosters, so it is possible to get there on the Tube (it runs above ground once it gets out of London). Then all you need do is turn right after leaving the station, walk up the road a ways, and you're at an entrance to what is now Trent Park.

Once part of Enfield Chase, the vast hunting grounds of Henry IV, Trent Park has been a public park since the 1970s. When I was writing When Maidens Mourn, the great house was used as part of Middlesex University, but that has now closed, with the buildings sold to some Asian outfit that is attracting local ire by allowing the historic structure to fall into disrepair. It was drastically rebuilt in the early 20th century, and this is about all that we could see of it:

But the grounds--320 acres in all--are public, and they are lovely. And huge. Danielle and I walked forever, since Camlet Moat itself is on the far side of the park from Cockfosters.

Much of the park consists of wide open vistas and rolling farmland, but the elevated area around Camlet Moat is wooded and dark and--I don't think I imagined it--decidedly atmospheric. I was afraid I'd be disappointed, but I wasn't. The moat has silted up dreadfully over the years and is choked with algae, but it was actually wider than I expected it to be (at least on three sides). The little land bridge to the isle is still there.

The ground on the isle is very uneven, presumably because whoever filled in the trenches from the various digs didn't do a very good job. Whatever buildings were once there have vanished. The ancient well was likewise destroyed long ago, although I did find a wet depression I thought might be its site.

The pictures don't lie, by the way; that really is the quality of the light.

And then, after a wonderful ramble over hill and dale, we found a lovely tea shop and simply sat.


JustWingingIt said...

How wonderful that you got to visit a site that was so crucial to one of your stories. The scenery is lovely. I can just picture Sebastian making his way through the landscape. Thanks for sharing.


Charles Gramlich said...

Sounds like a most wonderful day.

Susan J. said...

It's very interesting to be able to picture what was described in the book. It does indeed look a peaceful atmospheric place to visit, I can understand how you felt good there. It's funny how some places give one that feeling. I felt it when we walked about the grounds of Walsingham Abbey in Norfolk, particularly in the Well Garden there, it has a lovely atmosphere,. I believe it was sighted in the place of what had been a holy well. Walsingham was a great place of pilgrimage before the Reformation, from early Medieval times, to the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. The pilgrimage was revived in the 1930's and the first mass to be held there since the Reformation, was actually instigated by American servicemen in 1945 who were stationed in the area during World War II! We're going on holiday to the seaside town of Cromer in Norfolk in August and I can't wait to visit the abbey again. Seeing your pictures made me think of it!

cs harris said...

Veronica, it was such a lovely day.

Charles, it really was.

Susan, I've never been to that abbey, but it looks wonderful. I love old abbeys; one plays an important part in WHEN FALCONS FALL. Sounds like a lovely holiday.

paz said...

Great post. I loved your references to digs and indentations... Once the archeologist, always the archeologist ;-) The pictures are indeed serenely beautiful. I can see some of the wildness you described in Maidens; I could almost picture the cover, with the boat and the crumbling wall, in your last picture.

Lynne said...

What a wonderful place! Susan is right - very atmospheric and the light is just a little eerie! Just as I would picture it in the book. Great photos that really capture the imagination. So much of England is that way...full of settings waiting to become a book!

Susan, Walsingham sounds fascinating and your holiday destination has me just a little envious.

Susan J. said...

Candy and Lynne: Yes it is a beautiful spot, I love Norfolk and Suffolk, I wish we could afford to live there but the houses have got very expensive over the recent years. There are lots of tiny old fisherman's cottages in the seaside towns which make one think of smugglers.
I'm looking forward to the abbey in 'When Falcons Fall'! Do hope Paul Gibson will be in it though!

cs harris said...

Paz, oh, yes; it never leaves you!

Lynne, the light was definitely eerie. And I'm with you in the envy column.

Susan, no, alas, no Gibson! But he's back in force in WHERE THE DEAD LIE (or whatever it will be called).

hwueste said...

I start rereading "When Maidens Mourn" again today. I am a big rereader and will enjoy the atmosphere with the pictures. Too cool! Thanks

hwueste said...

I start rereading "When Maidens Mourn" again today. I am a big rereader and will enjoy the atmosphere with the pictures. Too cool! Thanks

hwueste said...

I start rereading "When Maidens Mourn" again today. I am a big rereader and will enjoy the atmosphere with the pictures. Too cool! Thanks

Susan J. said...

Disappointed about Paul Gibson but glad he's not been written out completely, I do hope you let him get the opium addiction sorted out sometime!

Anonymous said...

Candy - what great pictures. and it sounds like an amazing trip - and they really resemble what you described in When Maidens Mourn. It was so easy to picture it. I would love to get back to England and do something similar. Best,Ali

cs harris said...

hwueste, hope you enjoy it!

Susan, I have a lot planned for Gibson.

Ali, it is a lovely place to visit.

Susan J. said...

I'm looking forward to Paul Gibson coming back with a vengeance, although I'll have to wait about 18 months but I expect it will be worth the wait!

bramosenos said...

I've just finished *When Maiden's Mourn* and enjoyed it very much. Well constructed. A couple of comments:

I don't know about your other books with Devlin, but it sure seems to rain a lot in this one, and I'm certainly cured of ever wishing to time travel to that period in Britain. ;-)

I was initially a little peeved when the King Arthur legend turned up English, but then, the English have never been shy about appropriating anything Celtic for their own purposes, so, since it apparently is based in fact, I let it go. (I have a good part of my ancestry in England.)

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