The one where we escaped the fog to visit Sandsend and Whitby

I learned a new phrase about the weather on Saturday from watching Celebrity Catchphrase of all things and it was spookily appropriate to describe the weather in Scarborough that day – a ‘pea-souper’. I am familiar with the phrase ‘the fog’s as thick as pea soup’ to describe particularly thick fog, but I’ve never heard of the shorter version ‘pea-souper’.

The munchkin had planned a day out with her friends so hubby and I had decided to take a trip up the coast to Whitby. We were a little apprehensive looking at the thick fog but hoped it would clear by the time we got to Whitby. It actually cleared as soon as we were out of Scarborough and what a contrast just a short distance up the coast with blue skies and sunshine!

We started with a trip to Sandsend just north of Whitby. I thought I was familiar with Sandsend but it appears I’m not as there’s a whole section of village I’ve never explored before as I usually park on the south side and explore the area round the beach there.

Transected by a river, half of this unfamiliar part of the village was bathed in bright sunshine but the other half was still covered in frost so it’s amazing to think that these photos were taken minutes apart of houses on the opposite side of the river!

From what we could tell, this part of the village mainly seemed to be holiday cottages owned by an estate but they were some sympathetically-build new builds nestling among very pretty old period cottages and a church.

We moved onto Whitby for a chippy lunch (rude not to) and caught the swing bridge opening for a couple of yachts to come through. Although the geography of Whitsborough Bay is predominantly modelled on Scarborough, I do have a river with a swing bridge which brings in this aspect of Whitby.

Whitby has always been one of my favourite places and I love being there on days like Saturday where it’s cold and crisp and there’s a buzz but it’s not heaving with people.

We spotted the most fabulous aeroplane trail which looked like it was coming straight out of the 199 steps up to St Mary’s Church!

I wish I’d thought to take a photo of Scarborough as, when we got back, it was still a pea-souper and it would have been great to compare the two. But I didn’t so here’s a few more pictures of Whitby looking fabulous…

It’s Blue Monday today – allegedly the most ‘depressing’ day of the year because of the combination of post-Christmas, cold days/dark nights and time since last payday – so I hope these help bring a smile to your face instead.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where I spent a day in the REAL Hedgehog Hollow

The Hedgehog Hollow books are the gift that keeps on giving. They bring escapism, pleasure and knowledge to thousands of readers and listeners. For me, they are an absolute joy to write.

Those hedgehogs kept scampering up the charts on publication day yesterday for A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow acquiring a #1 Best Seller flag, reaching #39 on the overall Kindle UK chart, #88 on Audible and #11 on AppleBooks.

And they have brought me two unexpected new friends and a special new role…

I set up a Facebook community about a year ago called Redland’s Readers for those who love my books and would like to find out more about the worlds and characters I’ve created. A lovely reader called Angela joined after discovering my Hedgehog Hollow books and told me she was a real life hedgehog rescuer for a rescue centre in the Yorkshire Wolds – the real life Hedgehog Hollow country!

I immediately followed Wolds Hedgehog Rescue on Facebook and enjoyed seeing posts of the hedgehogs and hoglets being treated by the team. I’d had an open invitation to visit all year but with Covid restrictions, holidays and book deadlines, only managed to get my act together to visit in mid-November.

What a fabulous day I had! Ann runs the rescue centre’s base from ‘The Hoghouse’ in her back garden in a village called Hutton, not too far from Driffield in East Yorkshire (Reddfield in my books!) She works closely and supportively with another rescue centre – Walkington Rescue Centre – in the area although they are two independent set-ups.

A team of volunteers are essential for the amazing work they do. Wolds Hedgehog Rescue has foster carers who rehabilitate hedgehogs whose needs are no longer urgent enough to hog a crate (excuse the pun!) in the Hog House e.g. hedgehogs who need to gain weight ahead of hibernation.

Angela’s role is very specific as a hoglet nanny although she’s a foster carer outside hoglets season. She runs a nursery from her home in Hull during hoglets season (spring and autumn), feeding the hoglets around the clock, toileting them and cleaning up after them because hoglets (and many adult hogs too) tend to be a smidge (or a lot!) on the messy side!

The help doesn’t end with Angela and the foster carers. There are volunteers with a variety of other roles – fundraising, helping in/cleaning out the Hog House, making crafts to sell for funds and so on.

Ann’s husband – ‘Man Who Can’ – makes hedgehog houses and can turn his hand at anything practical. Angela’s husband – Mr Hedgehog – turns wood, creating beautiful products for sale. Nobody is asked to do anything they wouldn’t feel comfortable doing and any skills are very much welcomed.

So, back to my visit, I asked Ann and Angela lots of questions (just stopped short of an interrogation!) about how they both became involved with rescuing, what sorts of cases they dealt with, highs and lows, the practicalities of running a rescue centre. It was such a valuable opportunity to gather more information for my future books. I do loads of research and I have an auntie who runs a small-scale operation but it was great to see firsthand how a bigger set-up runs.

In theory I helped Ann with the daily activities. In reality, I probably got in the way as I took photos and wrote copious notes, but I was made to feel so very welcome.

When Angela arrived, I looked under a microscope at the poo samples from a new admission to work out the treatments required, after which came my absolute highlight: an opportunity to hold a hedgehog. Found on Remembrance Day and appropriately named by the person bringing him in as Poppy, he had a slight name change to Mr Poppy after he was sexed.

You’l notice I’m appropriately dressed in a hedgehog Popsy dress!

Ann has a beautiful long garden with a log pile, trees, leaves and lots of hedgehog houses and feeding stations: a hedgehog paradise.

I had such a wonderful day with a spot of lunch and a chance to meet another rescuer (and interrogate her too!) I’ll be back again soon and will also visit the nursery during hoglets season.

Yesterday, to celebrate launch day, I was absolutely thrilled when Ann and Angela agreed to be my guests on a Facebook Live. What an inspiring, engaging and passionate duo they were, full of fascinating insights.

We had a special guest appearance from Cactus, currently in Angela’s care, and she talked us through the equipment needed in the nursery. If you would like to be captivated, entertained and learn so much along the way, please do check out the video on my publisher’s Facebook page here.

I mentioned at the start that I now have a special role. I came off the Facebook Live feeling inspired and eager to help out. The reality is that I can’t be a hedgehog rescuer or foster carer. While it’s not something I’d completely rule out at some point down the line, my home, career and personal circumstances just now mean this isn’t an option for me. I don’t have the time or the facilities. I’m also local but not handy local.

I thought about what Ann said about different volunteers coming with different skills and I realised I had a set of skills that I could contribute remotely. As an author, I regularly engage with my readers and listeners on social media and prepare visuals to support the messages/news I have to share so I put a proposal to Ann and Angela.

I’m delighted to say that I’ve been welcomed into Team Wolds Hedgehog Rescue and am now an Admin on their Facebook page where my first task today was to activate the reviews facility and encourage service users to leave feedback. Within five minutes of doing this, the first review came in. I’m so thrilled!

Ann, Angela and I need to get together to talk about how I can bring the best benefit them in my new role. We also need to decide on a job title for me. If anyone has any inspired ideas, do shout up! I’m looking forward to seeing them already, especially as cake might be involved!

The Facebook links for both rescue centres are below:
Wolds Hedgehog Rescue
Walkington Hedgehog Rescue

As well as the team of volunteers I mentioned earlier, rescue centres also need the support of the general public to provide funds and equipment. Wolds Hedgehog Rescue have a PayPal donation facility but most valuable and helpful for them is having items purchased from their wish list which includes food, cleaning materials, and equipment. This is set up on Amazon and Ann regularly updates it with the priority items and quantities needed. If you don’t wish to shop on Amazon or would like to shop around for different deals, you can always use the wish list for inspiration; it’s not essential you make your purchase there. There are items on it to suit all budgets and all donations are gratefully received. The links are:
PayPal
Wish list

And, of course, you can support by attending open days or events. A date for your diary is Sunday 1st May for an open day at the Hutton Hoghouse where there’ll be tours, talks, stalls, tombola, raffle and a whole pile more to entertain and enlighten the family. More details will be advertised nearer the time. I won’t be there as I have a landmark birthday that day but I’ll do whatever I can to promo and support the event before.

Finally, as well as leaving the Hoghouse in November with lots of pictures, information and some new friends, I left with a chair which was a little unexpected! Ann’s an upholsterer and she created this gorgeous chair which I knew would be perfect in the corner of my office so I had to make a swift purchase. It only just fit in the back of my car as I’d forgotten there was already a dog crate in there!

In theory, it’s a reading nook. In reality, it’s home for my ever-growing hedgehog cushions and soft toy collection!

What’s even more special about this chair is that it’s stuffed with the fleece from the two sheep, Rosie and Rita, who live in Ann’s neighbour’s garden who you can just see in the background of this photo (one is central and the other is to the left just behind the cluster of leaves on the branch). How delightful is that?

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at the photos and I really hope you’ve watched the video. Believe me, I could have chatted to Ann and Angela all night as they were absolutely brilliant! A huge thank you to them both from me, the team at Boldwood Books and all the listeners who absolutely loved it.

The great news is the dynamic duo have already agreed to come back for another Live in hoglets season and I can hardly contain my excitement at the idea of a live hoglet feeding session.

Whether you’re local or not, if you can help out with any donations, that would be amazing.

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx

The one where Whitsborough Bay Harbour looks so pretty

On Monday night we took our dog, Ella, for a walk along Scarborough’s South Bay. The less commercial of the two bays – North Bay – is actually my favourite but South Bay has the pull of the harbour and the lighthouse and both of these look so pretty lit up at Christmas.

So I won’t witter. I’ll just show you some photos of Scarborough aka Whitsborough Bay looking all Christmassy and gorgeous. They’re not the best photos in the world – still haven’t mastered taking them on my phone despite having had the same phone for years – but it should give you a feel anyway…

Big hugs
Jessica xx

For the Whitsborough Bay fans, you see the shops/cafes/pubs all lit up? Behind that is the Old Town which is mentioned in several of my books. Seashell Cottage which appears in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series is in the Old Town and Jake from Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café lives in Lighthouse View there.

The large building above left is The Grand which is The Ramparts Hotel in my books (and very much a 5-star hotel which The Grand hasn’t been for a long time). The arcade next to it with the red lights is The Olympia which appears in my second Starfish Café book, Spring Tides at The Starfish Café (out 5th April) renamed as the Golden Galleon.

The one with 2 audiobook offers, 2 milestones & a trip to Whitby

Five more sleeps until Christmas. Eek! Are you all sorted? We had a quick nip into town first thing, before it got busy, and bought the last of our gifts. I wrapped them as soon as I got back so I think we’re there now.

AUDIOBOOK OFFERS

If you’re an Audible UK subscriber and fancy something Christmassy to listen to while you’re wrapping the gifts or preparing the Christmas dinner, look no further because Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop is in their sale for £3 right now. It was a thrill to see the audiobooks storming straight into the Top 100 and almost getting into the Top 50, peaking (so far) at #51.

If you’d like something non-Christmassy to listen to, the third book in my ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series, Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove, is also £3 in the sale. It was meant to be on this offer a few weeks back but it didn’t get activated so they’ve added it in now. It also went straight into the Top 100, peaking (so far) at #65 which is so lovely to see.

It was also special to see them side by side in the two top positions in the audio Women’s Fiction chart…

These sales usually last a week but, because of Christmas, they’re on for a fortnight, ending on 3rd January 2022.

Thank you to all the lovely listeners who have bought them during the Audible sale so far. Please do spread the word!

MILESTONES

I’ve had a couple more reviews/ratings milestones on Amazon in the past few days. Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop has hit the 1,000 mark and Coming Home to Seashell Cottage, the fourth and final book in the ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series has hit 1,500.

An enormous thank you to anyone who has helped them get to these amazing milestones. I have to still pinch myself to see my books having so many reviews.

A TRIP TO WHITBY

And, finally, we had a lovely trip up the coast to Whitby yesterday. I was concerned it might be a little busy as there are lots of delightful gift shops, ideal for Christmas gifts, but it was actually fairly deserted. The weather probably didn’t help as it was cold, misty and damp as you can probably tell from the photos.

There’s a fabulous heritage trail with amazing wire sculptures depicting the fishing industry in Whitby. Hubby snapped these couple of pics. I love how you can see iconic images in the background like the lighthouse on the one on the left and St Mary’s Church (near Whitby Abbey) in the one on the right. There were several other sculptures and hopefully we’ll return soon and go round them all.

There’s s a lifeboat station at Whitby and, on the other side of the river, an RNLI shop where the lifeboat station used to be. I couldn’t resist a few purchases, especially when Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café strongly features the RNLI in its storyline.

The quote on the tote bag and the wooden box – the call from Sir William Hillary, founder of the RNLI in 1823 to form a national institution to save lives at sea – appears at the start of the book and is a recurring theme throughout. I love it so much.

There’s a branch of The Works there so we popped in to see if they had any of my books in. Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café appeared to have sold through but the hedgehogs were there. I definitely don’t think they’ll sell through quickly this side of Christmas when readers of this genre are after their festive reads, but hopefully they’ll fly off the shelves in the New Year.

On the Abbey side of the river, there are two lovely discount bookshops on the same street almost opposite each other, one having a range of books, jigsaws and toys – Good Reads Whitby – and the other focusing purely on Whitby with Whitby-based books, merchandise, photographs etc.

Whenever we see an independent bookshop, I like to go inside to see whether there are any of my books or books by Boldwood Buddies. This is because, when there’s a print run from The Works, more books than they need are printed to make the low cost of selling them financially viable. The excess are bought by a third party and distributed round the UK to indie bookshops, garden centres, post offices, local supermarkets etc., and others go abroad, particularly to Canada to an online retailer/bookstore called Indigo.

We paused to look in the window and how delighted was I to see Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café in there! What a treat!

Inside, there were loads of Boldwood Buddies which is always so exciting to see. And two more of my books! There were copies of Making Wishes at Bay View and The Secret to Happiness.

So if you live in or near Whitby and didn’t get a chance to pick up these books while they were in The Works, now’s your chance!

Big Christmassy hugs
Jessica xx

The one where I visited Nunnington Hall

Those who follow me on Instagram will already have seen a few photos but I wanted to share them here. Last Friday, I met up with author Eliza J Scott for a wander around Nunnington Hall in North Yorkshire. It’s not too far from the pretty market town of Helmsley and was a good meet-up location for both of us.

Eliza has visited before but I haven’t. It’s owned by the National Trust and you can find more details about it on their website here. The friendly guide in the entrance hall advised us that it is constructed of three different parts added over 450 years and was actually lived in as recently as the 1970s.

I’ve developed a love for visiting grand properties dressed for Christmas. There’s something extra special about seeing them dressed with wreaths and swags and trees, all gently lit by fairy lights.

Nunnington Hall didn’t disappoint with it’s first impressions. Isn’t it lovely? And that entrance is so inviting.

The grand hall had the most amazing fire blazing in it – perfect for a chilly day – but the lovely guide was standing by it so I don’t have a picture of it. I do have a picture of the lovely Christmas tree, though. Look at all those lovely gifts!

The rooms were dressed in different themes. If I’ve remembered this correctly a week on, it was Victorian, Georgian, 1950s and 1980s although I’m not 100% sure which was the Victorian v Georgian (or was it Edwardian). Don’t think I’ll secure a job there as a tour guide!

The low winter sun was streaming through the windows so it was tricky to get pictures but hopefully you’ll be able to get a feel for the feast set up. The costumes were really interesting as I’d always known that people were shorter back then but I stood next to the dress and the mannequin was much shorter than me and I’m only 5′ 2″!

In one of the bedrooms, there was the most delightful scene. The children from a local primary school had made Christmas trees from paper cones and there were fairy lights weaved between them and moving lights projected onto the ceiling. You really can’t get the feel from my photos but, believe me, it was beautiful.

One of the things I really love seeing when I visit stately homes are writing desks and I can never resist taking a photo of one and wondering if I’d have written books at such a desk if I’d lived in that era.

There was a lovely children’s bedroom. Look at those teddy bears. Awww!

I didn’t take photos of the 1980s living room but it was fun seeing the sorts of childhood toys I remembered like Sindys and the various games popular in that era. The Christmas tree was decked out with tinsel and baubles that reminded me of growing up too and there was a buffet table with some 1980s classic foods. Memories!

I enjoyed the 1950s bedroom and all the lovely gifts.

There were some art and craft exhibitions displayed in some rooms and I was in awe of how creative some people are.

When we’d finished our tour round the house, we retired to the tearooms and had the most delicious warm turkey & stuffing bap. It was served with rocket and homemade coleslaw and, tell you what, I’m still craving it a week later. It was absolutely delicious. And I couldn’t resist a hot chocolate and a piece of Victoria sponge too, although I completely forgot to take photos in my eagerness to eat!

We walked off our lunch in the gardens where there was a different view of the house in the late afternoon sunshine.

There were some activities for children set up and I couldn’t resist taking this photo of an adorable hedgehog illustration on one of them. I was also fascinated to spot one of the groundskeepers cutting down mistletoe from one of the trees. I’ve actually never seen mistletoe growing in the wild myself and the trees were covered in it. I took a photo but it hasn’t come out that well. You can just make out the clumps top right, bottom left and in the middle.

All too soon, it was time to leave but, on the way out, we spotted some more activities and couldn’t resist a go on the welly wanging! With a throw of a pair of wellington boots, I managed to knock over all the skittles which was pretty surprising considering I’ve never done that before. Eliza managed all but one so we both uncovered an unexpected ‘talent’. Who knew?!

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where I travelled to Narnia

When I was little, one of my favourite books was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis. I read it stacks of times and was completely captivated by the idea of four evacuees entering the land of Narnia through a wardrobe. So magical! I was therefore very excited that this year’s theme for Christmas at Castle Howard was ‘Christmas in Narnia.’

Each year, Castle Howard – a gorgeous stately home between Scarborough and York – is dressed for Christmas and it’s seriously impressive.

Castle Howard in the summer

In 2019, when we had no idea that a global pandemic was about to change the world beyond recognition, I visited with my bestie and fellow author Sharon Booth. The theme was ‘Masquerade’ and you can read about it/see my photos in a blog post I wrote at the time here. On the back of that, I knew Narnia would be pretty special.

Castle Howard last night

We were originally booked to go to ‘Christmas in Narnia’ a few Saturdays back but Storm Arwen hit and Castle Howard made the decision to close for safety. There are so many trees in the grounds that there was too great a risk with the high winds. Worried that we couldn’t go, I panicked and re-booked pretty much the only slots available – an after-school visit last night – but received an email later saying to bear with them as they would be squeezing in some extra slots for those who’d had theirs cancelled so we could probably have done a weekend after all.

The imagination and attention to detail that goes into creating these Christmas themes is quite astonishing. There’s actually a Channel 4 series running at the moment called ‘Christmas at…’ which documents how various stately homes transform for Christmas. It started with the ‘real Downton Abbey’ – Highclere Castle, then Warwick Castle and, spookily enough, Castle Howard was aired last night. My in-laws mentioned this when we collected the dog from theirs … and I promptly forgot. I need to watch it on catch-up.

Visitors need to book and there are 15-minute time slots to keep a steady flow moving through the house. Some whizz through and others pause to take in all the detail and there are no staff moving you on; the flow happens naturally.

Four of the bedrooms were dressed for each of the four siblings, Susan, Lucy, Edmund and Peter. Susan’s room was clamorous, Lucy’s full of toys, Edmund’s as a ‘war camp’ and Peter’s grand and representing courage.

Lady Georgiana’s Bedroom aka Susan’s Room
Lady Georgiana’s Dressing Room aka Lucy’s Room (photo credit Mark Heslington)
Castle Howard Dressing Room aka Edmund’s Room (photo credit Mark Heslington)
Castle Howard Bedroom aka Peter’s Room

I absolutely loved the move down the old passageways with all the snowy-looking flowers, candles and lights.

Antique Passage through Narnia (photo credit Mark Heslington)

Then we reached the wardrobe of fur coats through which Lucy first enters Narnia, and the lamppost where she meets Mr Tumnus. Note the fawn’s red scarf tied around it – lovely detail – and his packages on the ground.

We soon arrived in the Great Hall with the most enormous Christmas tree – 28 feet high – which is frozen in time awaiting Christmas returning to Narnia. Wouldn’t have liked the job of dressing that!

As we passed through the Great Hall, we reached the Garden Hall where the White Witch is on her sleigh and there’s a box of Turkish Delight waiting to tempt Edmund.

(photo credit Mark Heslington)

The Music Room was an imagining of Mr Tumnus’s home where Lucy enjoys tea with the fawn. There was so much to look at here and I loved the detail of the undecorated trees symbolising the forest coming into his home (although they’re not in my photo).

The next room had even more detail. The Crimson Dining Room showed the woodland animals celebrating as they sensed victory for good over evil. There were animals everywhere and toadstools under the table. Absolutely gorgeous.

(photo credit Mark Heslington)

The Museum Room becomes the Professor’s study

When we visited the Masquerade decorations, the Long Gallery was packed full of figures and bridges and a ‘river’ but it was more understated this time with the colours of the Northern Lights now that Aslan is back and triumphant. Before we meet the great lion himself…

(photo credit Mark Heslington)
(photo credit Mark Heslington)
Christmas has returned to Narnia (photo credit Mark Heslington)

In the courtyard near the visitor’s entrance, there was a fire pit. Hubby had a coffee and the munchkin and I had a couple of giant marshmallows to toast. They were absolutely amazing.

I really enjoyed our evening. I’d loved to have lingered in some of the rooms for even longer to catch all the detail and I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with next year as the two times I’ve attended have been brilliant.

Hope you enjoyed the pics as much as I enjoyed my marshmallow!

Big lion hugs
Jessica xx

Our Yorkshire Dales Adventure Part 3 – All Things Bright and Beautiful

This is the final part of my blog about our family week away in the Yorkshire Dales. Apologies it’s a day late – something urgent cropped up yesterday (work-wise).

Still staying with the James Herriot theme, I’ve selected another book title – All Things Bright and Beautiful – which is, of course, part of the hymn from which All Creatures Great and Small comes.

I’m focusing on an eclectic mix of beautiful things for this part, whether that’s beauty in nature, food, or simply things that make me happy.

Gayle Beck which runs off the River Ure passes through Hawes and we were staying in a holiday cottage just round the corner from it called The Old Surgery. It was a brilliant location, right at the edge of the town centre so very accessible for everything.

On Sunday morning, the day after we arrived, we went for a little wander and I took a photo of the waterfall – probably one of the most photographed sights in Hawes. As you can see, there was a gentle but steady flow of water. Very beautiful.

As the week progressed and the rain persisted, the flow strengthened…

And by the time we left, it was a raging torrent!

There used to be a mill across the beck from our holiday cottage on the other side of the bridge that that waterfall above flows under. There was an old enlarged photo in the cottage showing what it used to look like with the mill wheel. On the bottom photo, you can clearly see the wall around the wheel although the wheel itself is long gone. What’s particularly interesting is that there appears to have been a wall across the beck, presumably to keep the water higher for the wheel to turn. That’s gone too.

Hawes has a few lovely gifts shops and a particular favourite was one called The Mulberry Bush which stocked Jellycats (I love them) and some gorgeous Christmassy gifts.

A shop I always love to visit is Bear Cottage. It’s an interior designs business but it stocks some lovely gifts and I like to have a hug with the two bears outside although I was conscious this time of not putting my paws on them in this strange Covid world so I had to do a sort of hover thing!

There was a gorgeous bear inside too although it wasn’t so easy to get his photo. I wished I could have taken him home. He’s so gorgeous.

Mid-week, the rain was so torrential with no sign of let up so the munchkin and I left hubby back in the cottage with Ella (our sprocker spaniel) and took a walk to the other end of the town to visit the Wensleydale Creamery.

There’s a visitor centre there and a visit includes cheese-making demonstrations but we were on a mission for a cream scone! We were the only ones in the café at first. The scones were still warm – mmm. I’m not a massive fan of fruit scones, preferring a plain or cheese one. They had cheese but I wanted jam and cream so it had to be fruit. I will eat some of the fruit but then I hit the point where I have to remove it as it’s too much. If you’ve read Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café you’ll know what I mean when I said I did a Mrs Sultana.

Various pictures by my favourite artist, Lucy Pittaway, were displayed around the café and I was particularly pleased to see two of the images from ‘The Home Collection’ hanging right next to each other as, combined, they remind me so much of my Hedgehog Hollow series. I have the print of ‘Happiness is Homemade’ with the hedgehogs surrounded by wildflowers, just like in Thomas’s meadow. The three-storey house in ‘Dream Big’ reminds me of the farmhouse as shown on the cover of Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow.

Lucy Pittaway’s art also inspires part of the storyline in Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café.

The gift shop at The Creamery is lovely and we had a good browse (and little purchase) before stepping back out into the torrential rain.

In the afternoon, we went over to the Dales Countryside Museum a few minutes’ walk from the cottage. It’s all about the people and activities in the Dales over the years and there are lots of activities to keep young children amused – or 14 year olds on a wet miserable day! 

We managed to catch a break in the rain with a trip out to Richmond and Leyburn, including a visit to Richmond Castle. There are fabulous views from the castle and the changing colours of the trees looked lovely, but the photos on a gloomy day like that don’t quite do justice to them.

While we were away, we celebrated a special publication day with the release of my very first foreign rights translation – Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café being translated into Italian. It’s called Festa Sotto La Neve and I hope sales in Italy go well.

And how do you celebrate an Italian publication day? With a takeaway pizza of course! We’re so sophisticated!

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing the photos from another beautiful part of North Yorkshire, mainly caught during rare breaks in the rain. The ones I posted in Part 2 on our walk were the only day we saw blue sky across the whole week which was a shame and did somewhat hamper our plans for the week, although I’m just grateful for the opportunity to get out and about a bit after so long at home.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Our Yorkshire Dales Adventure Part 2 – It Shouldn’t Happen to an Author

I posted yesterday about our visit to All Creatures Great and Small country as part of our week-long break in the Yorkshire Dales, and thought I’d continue with the James Herriot theme in this post. It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet is one of Herriot’s books and I had an incident that shouldn’t happen to an author!

My parents don’t live too far away from Hawes where we were staying and my dad has always loved hiking but doesn’t get much of a chance to go these days. We’d suggested that Mum might like to spend some time in the holiday cottage with the munchkin while Dad, the hubby, Ella our sprocker spaniel, and I went for a walk.

The weather forecast for the whole week was pretty dire all week but it looked as though Monday would be the best day so they drove over then. We waited for a break in the rain after lunch and set off on a 2-hour circular walk – about the maximum we were willing to brave knowing it would bucket it down again. For me personally, there’s no pleasure in walking in torrential rain because the joy of walking is the beautiful scenery and if that’s obliterated by cloud and rain, there’s no point.

It was a lovely walk but we certainly encountered some weather during it! Bright sunshine gave way to torrential rain and then back to sunshine. I caught a rainbow but was gutted to realise that taking the time to do a panoramic shot meant I missed a red squirrel! And I wouldn’t care but the panoramic shot didn’t even work so I could have ditched it and seen the squirrel!

Dad had completed this particular circular walk before and had told us that there’d be various stiles across the fields. What we hadn’t appreciated was that many of these would be squeeze stiles. I’m not sure I’ve come across these before. They’re basically a narrow gap in a dry stone wall with a fence on one side to stop sheep getting through them. Did I mention they’re narrow? Did I mention the name ‘squeeze’ stile. Oh my goodness! They are not designed for short fat authors!

This is what a squeeze stile looks like, but this was actually one of the easy ones. As you can see, the stones are all fairly even and the gap is a reasonable size. I wish I’d taken a photo of one of the really challenging ones…

… although you can probably get a pretty good idea from this picture of me being ‘stuck’ in one.

Some of the stiles were up a step and others were up several steps, and this meant that the amount of wall the walker needed to squeeze through varied. Even where there was a lot of wall to pass through, someone of average height or above would pass through the gap with their legs only. But someone who’s 5 ft 2” like me is trying to squeeze the top of their thighs, their backside and their belly through the gap. And that’s one heck of a challenge when the person is as wide as I am, as you can see from the very flattering photo above!

I had to breathe in for every single stile and even sit on top of one of the walls and shuffle across because the gap was way too narrow. I was at serious risk of being wedged and feared we might have to call out the fire brigade to release me! It definitely shouldn’t happen to an author!

At another point, there was a stile by a gate and a metal pin stuck into the ‘gap’ at one side and the solid wooden gatepost was at an angle at the other, making a narrow gap even narrower. This presented another challenge. I couldn’t squeeze my backside or belly through because of the metal pin, and I couldn’t get my boobs past the sloped gatepost! The men tried to open the gate but the string closing it was too tangled so I had to climb over it and hope it would take my weight. That could have been mortifying, although I’d already had significant embarrassment from the squeeze stiles.

My dad, in the meantime, was as spritely as a mountain goat making easy work of the hills and stiles. He’s 76! 

There were only a couple of normal gates on our walk and one opening with no gate at all. What a sight for sore eyes!

My legs are still covered in bruises and my stomach muscles were killing me on Monday night and the following day from all the breathing in. But I did enjoy the walk. And it was worth it for the amazing views.

We joined the Gayle Beck (which runs off the River Ure) at the south of Hawes. The water was pretty fast-flowing and the ford fairly deep. A couple walking their dog at the other side were obviously looking to cross the ford and let the dog test the depth first. They soon turned round and retreated!

Didn’t stop me having a large cream scone at the Wensleydale Creamery the following day, but more about that in Part 3 coming tomorrow.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Our Yorkshire Dales Adventure Part 1 – All Creatures Great and Small

The hubby, daughter, dog and I have just returned from a week holidaying in the Yorkshire Dales. We live in North Yorkshire ourselves but it’s such a huge county with lots of slow country roads that you can easily travel for several hours and still not have left it! We stayed n a small market town called Hawes, which we’ve visited several times before.

The Yorkshire Dales is James Herriot country. I remember watching the TV series back in the 1970s/1980s and really enjoying it so I was a little unsure about the C5 remake but, my goodness, have they done an amazing job on it. I absolutely love it and the cast are fabulous. It’s heartwarming, funny and the scenery is simply stunning.

We took a drive to Grassington one day which is Darrowby in the C5 version of the programme. It’s only 22 miles from Hawes but the roads are slow and narrow so we’re talking a one-hour journey! The original series was filmed in Askrigg and Thirsk but there has been more development in these towns in recent years and the roads around them in particular did not lend themselves to the 1930s authenticity of the series.

There’s a great article in the Yorkshire Post online about some of the shop transformations here.

It was a wet soggy day (the whole holiday was wet and soggy) so the photos are a little dull but I had a chance to pose outside the building used for the exterior of Skeldale House where the veterinary practice is based and the vets live.

The actual house used in Grassington doesn’t have pillars outside – these are added for the filming along with metal railings and shrubs – but the location is so recognisable on the top corner of the market square that we knew for sure we had the right building. The scenes inside Skeldale House are shot in a studio.

‘Skeldale House’ is the one on the top right by the lamp post

I also posed outside The Drovers Arms which is really called The Devonshire. If you look closely at the frosting on the windows in the second photo, it says The Drovers Arms.

We actually had our lunch in there (and it was delicious). The walls are covered with photos of the cast. As with Skeldale House, only the exterior here is used. The inside was too modern for filming but the inside scenes are within a pub rather than a studio – The Green Dragon Inn at nearby Hardraw. We’ve been there before but didn’t get a chance to visit this time.

Grassington is a very pretty Dales village with lots of cafes and gift shops although there were quite a few closed the day we visited which was a shame. We didn’t think a Tuesday was a typical day for closures but presumably it’s not busy enough out of season (even in half term) to justify the full-time opening hours. One of the closed shops had some fabulous All Creatures Great and Small signs in the window and a wonderful painting above the door.

Although not featured in the series (or at least I don’t think it is), I couldn’t resist taking this photo of The Cake House. Who doesn’t love the idea of a Cake House? It was a café, but also closed so I couldn’t gaze at or sample the cakey loveliness.

On our journey back to Scarborough at the end of our holiday, we stopped off in Thirsk where some filming took place in the second series. James and Helen queued outside the Ritz Cinema shown here.

We would have liked to visit the James Herriot Museum in Thirsk – the World of Jame Herriot – but, being an indoor museum, dogs can’t go in (except assistance dogs), so we’ll hopefully visit another time.

And if you love All Creatures Great and Small, you might also love my Hedgehog Hollow series. There’s a vet, lots of stunning countryside, and hedgehogs.

Watch out for Part 2 of our Yorkshire Dales Adventure – It Shouldn’t Happen to an Author – coming soon.

Big hugs
Jessica xx 

An amazing visit to Scarborough Lifeboat Station

Anyone who has read my latest release, Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café, will be aware that there is a very strong connection to the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) in the story. It isn’t mentioned in the blurb because it’s all part of how the story unfolds and explaining the connection would give spoilers.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I originally had the idea for this book back in 2017 and had planned to release it as a Christmas novella that year. I visited Scarborough’s lifeboat station over the summer to undertake some vital research but, when I started writing the story, it soon became apparent it was much bigger than a novella so I parked it and returned to it this year.

A photo opportunity with some of the crew before they changed for launch

I am in awe of the amazing work that all the staff and volunteers at the RNLI undertake. Living on the coast, I am very much aware of the danger of the sea and how quickly things can change. The town has been affected by many tragedies over the years, some of which have inspired aspects of this book.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to be invited to Scarborough Lifeboat Station as a special guest. Covid-based restrictions are gradually easing but the stations aren’t yet open again to the public, so I was very honoured to have a special invite and the chance to meet some crew, bombard the Lifeboat Chairman – a lovely man called Colin – with a million questions, and watch a launch.

Me with the ILB. Check out my starfish-themed Popsy dress to match my book!

Actually, I got to watch three launches. It was their training evening and the ALB – the Shannon-class All Weather lifeboat (the big one) was going out to see to practice anchoring. The ILB – the D-class inshore lifeboat (the little one) was out for practicing capsizing and righting the craft. Scarborough’s ILB is brand new so they also had its predecessor in the water and it was that boat they were capsizing, not wanting to risk damaging the brand new one.

It started raining shortly after I arrived and it was absolutely bucketing it down by the time the ALB and ILB were launched so I watched from inside, hence some blurry pics a bit later as I took them through a rain-battered window! The fabulous side-on ones are from my husband who was waiting for me on the pier.

The Shannon-class ALB being pushed by the tractor ready for launch
The shore crew are there to ensure a safe launch and to keep the public back – although that wasn’t so much of an issue in the torrential rain!
The kit room before the crew arrived

The boats and equipment they have are seriously impressive. There’s a large tractor (right below) and trailer for the ALB and a smaller version for the ILB (left below) and there are crew whose specific role it is to drive the tractors.

The ALB pre-launch beside the old ILB
All 3 boats and the door open to the ramp
The ramp. At high tide, this will be partially under water
The tractor returning to the beach after launching the ALB
The ILB being taken down the ramp with the ALB in the background
Both ILBs in the water ready for the capsizing practice

I’ve selected Scarborough Lifeboat Station as my charity for this year and will be making a donation in the New Year to thank the crew for their help and support and the amazing work they do to save lives at sea.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the photos. Apologies for the grey grainy ones but I firmly blame the weather for those! A huge thank you to all the crew at Scarborough Lifeboat Station for this amazing opportunity which has given me loads of inspiration for the second book in the series, Summer Nights at The Starfish Café, out on 5th April 2022 and available for pre-order now.

I’ve delayed posting this as I was hoping that our local paper would be running an article but there’ve been two editions since my visit and nothing has appeared so far. Hopefully it will still be covered at a later date but I didn’t want to not share the photos in case it doesn’t, especially when I was granted special permission to visit the lifeboat station for this photo opportunity.

For more information about the RNLI, please click here.

Big hugs
Jessica xx