Happy Yorkshire Day 2021

It’s 1st August which means it’s Yorkshire Day. Happy Yorkshire Day 2021 to everyone who who was born in Yorkshire, lives here now or has ever lived here, to all those who’ve visited this beautiful part of the country or would love to do so, to those who write about it/read about it/watch it on TV, those who drink Yorkshire Tea and anyone who has any connection to or fondness for Yorkshire.

I love Yorkshire. I was actually born in Teesside but was raised in a market town called Guisborough which borders the North Yorkshire Moors so I very much think of myself as a Yorkshire lass. And I’ve lived in North Yorkshire since 2003 and Scarborough since 2004; the longest time I’ve lived anywhere.

All my books (so far) are set in Yorkshire. North Yorkshire alone is the largest county in England. Add in East, West and South Yorkshire and we’re massive. So it’s no surprise that an area this size has so many inspiring settings from coast to country to city.

I’m delighted to present some of our local scenery and the books that are inspired by it…

The ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series, a location inspired by Scarborough, Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay
The Hedgehog Hollow series (so far) set in the stunning Yorkshire Wolds
Take a trip to Castle Street, inspired by Scarborough’s Bar Street and the cobbled streets of Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay, full of independent shops and cafes
Whitsborough Bay’s North Bay (heavily inspired by Scarborough’s North Bay) features in many of my books but especially All You Need is Love and The Secret to Happiness
Scarborough Spa at the far end of South Bay is the inspiration behind The Bay Pavilion which features in Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café
The views over Scarborough’s South Bay are stunning. This is one of the first views Tara sees when she moves to Whitsborough Bay in Starry Skies and, in new release Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café, it’s an area called Sea Cliff where heroine Hollie lives
The Starfish Café is the setting for a new series. The location is completely fictional but the beach below – Starfish Point – is a colony to 200 grey and common seals, inspired by the beach at Ravenscar
Scarborough’s harbour aka Whitsborough Bay harbour is mentioned in several books and there’s a key scene set there in Christmas at Carly’s Cupakes

I hope you’ve enjoyed a little glimpse into the real Yorkshire inspiration behind Whitsborough Bay and Hedgehog Hollow.

Do you love Yorkshire? Do you live here/have connections here/have fond memories of holidays here? I’d love to hear from you in the comments if you do.

Big Yorkshire hugs
Jessica xx

Exploring Wharram Percy – a deserted Medieval village

Yesterday, it didn’t look like the forecasted rain was going to make an appearance so we piled into the car to drive around part of the Yorkshire Wolds – Hedgehog Hollow country – to get some more photos.

It was a lovely drive out, stopping to take the occasional photo of stunning rolling countryside, and it was a bit of a mystery tour, arriving at each junction and hubby asking ‘right or left?’ We picked up signs to the English Heritage site of Wharram Percy which is somewhere we’ve wanted to visit for ages so we ended up there. You can find details about it on English Heritage’s website here.

Bit of history for you here: There are roughly 3,000 known deserted Medieval villages around Britain but this is one of the most famous because it’s one of the largest and best preserved. For the past 60 years, archeologists have worked on this site, keen to understand more about this era and why the village was deserted.

Wharram Percy can be found in a valley, surrounded by stunning Yorkshire Wolds countryside. It’s quite a remote site but was occupied for six centuries before being abandoned in the early sixteenth century (around 1520 they reckon).

You can read the full history on English Heritage’s website here and it seems a combination of various tragic and unfortunate circumstances around lack of heirs in the Percy family, forced eviction, famine and the plague resulted in the downfall of a once-thriving village. There’s also an interesting blog post about the ‘ghost village’ here from fantasy author Angus Watson.

I’d heard tales of Wharram Percy being haunted and about dogs in particular, who tend to be more attuned to these things, having strong reactions when visiting the area. So I did some research on this.

There’s a short but interesting clip from presenter Clive Anderson on YouTube about a grisly discovery archaeologists made when excavating the site in 2017 which you can watch here – a pit containing 137 human bones from 10 different people. A little strange when there’s a church with a graveyard and the villagers would all be christians and therefore buried there.

Frustratingly this clip didn’t explain why the archaeologists thought the pit was there so I did some further digging. There still isn’t a definitive answer for this discovery. There is evidence of decapitation and dismemberment with many bones being broken and/or burned after death. The only plausible explanation for the moment is that this may have happened because of Medieval folklore. Back then, it was believed that the dead could rise and spread disease or violently attack the living so this gruesome way of disposing of the bodies (presumably of those who’d died from the plague?) may have been a way of preventing that. Eek!

The Clive Anderson video shows amazing arial footage where the full extent of the remains of the village can be seen; something you don’t appreciate when on foot. Definitely worth watching to see that.

I wanted to find some ‘evidence’ of ghost encounters but all the posts I found seemed to focus on the village being abandoned and the bones rather than anything specific from visitors. I’m sure if I’d spent longer looking, I’d have eventually come across something but I have a huge to-do list today so I’ve abandoned that search!

Did we feel anything spooky? No. Just hunger pangs because we hadn’t expected to visit Wharram Percy and should have been hunting out lunch when we got distracted by a visit there! Ella (our sprocker spaniel) showed no reactions either. When I was at 19, I went to the Isle of Wight on holiday and visited Golden Hill Fort, a former army barracks near Freshwater. It’s now apartments but it was open to visitors back then and was reputed to be haunted. I felt something very strongly there which spooked me big time so I had wondered if I was susceptible to things like this… but Wharram Percy didn’t affect me at all.

My 14-year-old daughter claims to like horror films and spooky books so we got her to stand by the farmhouse which is still standing but boarded up. We couldn’t resist winding her up as she posed in the blocked-up doorway. ‘Just stand by the woman and little girl,’ hubby instructed. ‘You don’t have to hold the little girl’s hand,’ I added. Hubby then couldn’t resist photoshopping the image when we got home! (Look closely at the doorway). Mwah ha ha ha!

I’d definitely recommend a visit to Wharram Percy. It’s £2 for parking unless you’re an English Heritage member (which we are). It’s a 3/4 mile walk there which is mainly downhill although that means uphill on the way back. It’s mainly a gentle slope, though, with just one slightly steeper part.

You’ll then cover a bit more ground wandering round the site itself which is a bit hilly, as you can see on one of the photos below. It’s a lovely walk with lots of wildflowers and pretty countryside to look at as well as the remains of the site, although I realised after I got home that I’d only taken photos of the intact buildings and not the ‘footprints’.

My daughter now has an idea for a story inspired by Wharram Percy. It’s actually quite a brilliant idea and made me excited for her when she mentioned it. I just wish she’d get beyond chapter 1! She has started writing so many stories then abandoned them because it takes too much effort. Probably not going to follow in my footsteps!

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Brontës, Bella, books, and a busy beach

Strictly-speaking, it’s still spring but I can’t bring myself to put ‘out and about – spring’ as the header after the gorgeous weather we’ve had this weekend, so I’ve declared summer!

I went out this weekend. Proper out. Among people! Eek!

It was Scarborough’s Books by the Beach Festival this weekend – a slightly shorter (and later in the year) event than usual. When the line-up was announced, I was excited to see that Rowan Coleman would be speaking. What made Rowan’s presence extra special is that many of the events this year were in a change of venue: St Mary’s Church in Scarborough’s old town near the castle. Anne Brontë died in Scarborough and is buried in the churchyard there and Rowan is both passionate and extremely knowledgeable about the Brontë family. She is two books into a series called The Brontë mysteries under the pen name Bella Ellis imagining that, before the sisters became authors, they were sleuths. Isn’t that a delightful idea? So where better for Rowan to speak about this series than in the resting place of one of the sisters?

I took my fourteen-year-old along for company (with the bribe of an ice cream afterwards). She doesn’t know anything about the Brontës but she enjoyed hearing about the mysteries and, after reading the blurb on the back of the couple of books I bought and had signed, she declared she may well snaffle them for a read. The hour-long talk and Q&A session was really interesting and Rowan was, as always, exceptionally engaging.

It was lovely to spot another writing friend outside, albeit briefly, before going in and it was lovely to be out, even if being at an event meant wearing masks and being socially distanced in the church. I couldn’t take any photos during it as we were struggling to find somewhere to sit that wouldn’t be too close to anyone and ended up off to a side with a column partly blocking our view. We could still hear perfectly, though.

Congratulations to the team at the Books by the Beach Festival for organising a safe, enjoyable event. I’d imagine that there’s a lot of work goes into organising an event like this anyway but even more so when trying to make it Covid-safe.

The munchkin and I went for our ice cream afterwards. Scarborough’s South Bay was absolutely heaving. Wandering along the seafront, it would be so easy to believe that life is back to normal with no masks in sight and very little social distancing. I thought I’d feel a bit more anxious than I did. I think being double-jabbed probably helped with that.

We had an ice cream and leaned on the railings above the heaving beach, took a walk along the pier, past the harbour, then walked back up to town. It was great to be out in that sunshine but I was relieved to be away from the crowds. That wasn’t just pandemic-related. I’m okay with crowds but I don’t enjoy being in places that are heaving. I much prefer peace and quiet.

On the way back up to town, we had a chance to pay a visit to my favourite shop – White Beach Designs – and maybe make a couple of purchases.

I went out again on the evening. I know! Get me! I know Rowan, having attended a writing retreat she ran in West Yorkshire a little over three years ago. She gave me some really helpful advice about my writing career for which I’m very grateful. As she was staying over in Scarborough, she’d asked if I fancied meeting up outside of her talk so we’d booked to go for dinner. I really enjoyed the chance to have a catch-up. It is so long since I’ve spoken face to face to someone who isn’t family and it was great to feel some sort of normality. Thank you so much, Rowan, for the wonderful company xxx

As we walked to the restaurant, Rowan asked how come I hadn’t been speaking at the festival. It would be an absolute dream come true – Scarborough author who writes about Scarborough on the bill of a Scarborough-based festival – and I did put my name forward. Maybe one day.

Hope you enjoy the pics of Scarborough aka Whitsborough Bay looking resplendent in the sunshine. Ooh, and I’m going out again tomorrow! There’s no stopping me. I’m off to Beverley to meet my bestie and fellow author Sharon Booth. We used to meet up a couple of times a month but obviously haven’t been able to for a long time and video chat isn’t the same. Really looking forward to seeing her face to face again.

If you’re venturing out and about again, hope it’s going well for you. It certainly helps that the nice weather means we can be outside seeing the people we love.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Venturing into real Hedgehog Hollow countryside

One of the things readers love about my Whitsborough Bay series is that, while the setting is fictional, it is inspired by real places. The biggest inspiration comes from Scarborough but there are elements of Whitby, Robin Hood’s Bay and a couple of other local coastal towns and villages. Readers who are familiar with the area like to guess which pubs, cafes and landmarks they think I’m referring to.

When I started writing the Hedgehog Hollow series, my intention was to to do the same thing: to create villages in the books that were inspired by specific villages on the Yorkshire Wolds. But Covid hit and we couldn’t go out and about so I couldn’t do that and I didn’t know the area well enough myself. I only live a few miles away from the northern tip of The Wolds and I have travelled through the area oodles of times but I’ve never veered from the main roads to thoroughly explore the villages. I do, however, have a really good understanding of the beauty of the countryside.

What’s been interesting is that, although I haven’t used specific villages as inspiration, some readers who live in the area think they recognise certain villages on The Wolds. I love that because it means that I have properly captured the essence of Wolds villages in my writing.

Yesterday afternoon, hubby and I planned to go exploring for the afternoon but our plans were slightly thwarted. He had a last-minute opportunity to go for his 2nd Covid jab so we set off much later than intended, but then our daughter called us from her after school photography club to say the teacher had an appointment so it was finishing half an hour earlier so we had to cut our trip short at the other end.

We managed a stop in the middle of the countryside although the photos really don’t do justice to the stunning rolling hills and fields surrounding us – the real Hedgehog Hollow countryside.

We explored a village called Wold Newton with a pretty church and a village green with a pond. Check out that blue sky! I had flip flops on so some careful navigation was needed round the pond as there was goose poo everywhere!

How fabulous is this bus shelter? It was full of books, DVDs and games. I wondered if it had started during the pandemic to keep people entertained or whether it has been a community scheme running much longer than that.

I checked the shelves but couldn’t see any Jessica Redland’s loitering! I loved this book with what we call a Steven lighthouse on it. When New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms was first issued, it was called Searching for Steven and, as the book features a red and white striped lighthouse, we have since referred to striped ones as Steven lighthouses.

We also walked around a smaller village called Thwing but I forgot to take any photos.

Our next stop was driving through Butterwick, Weaverthorpe and Helperthorpe intending to park at the furthest and explore, but that’s when we got the call to go to school early so no more photo opps. My husband’s dad was born and brought up in Helperthorpe so I definitely wanted a good look around.

I will share more photos when we return and I continue on my mission to find some villages that are how I would imagine Huggleswick, Umplesthorpe, Fimberley, Little Tilbury and Great Tilbury.

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx

A lovely May Day birthday

I cancelled my birthday last year. We were only a few weeks into lockdown when I was asked the ‘what would you like for your birthday?’ question and I had a mini-meltdown. Even though I’ve never really made a huge thing out of my birthday in previous years, I didn’t like the idea that I couldn’t even if I wanted to so I told hubby and the munchkin not to bother with gifts and we’d do a birthday later in the year. Then I found a couple of Lucy Pittaway prints which I ordered for the office so I did get a gift after all even if there was no celebration 😉

This year, we’re not in lockdown but restrictions are only just easing so it we still couldn’t plan much. I did, however, lift the ‘no presents’ thing and was spoilt with some lovely gifts.

There was a bit of a hedgehog theme with the most adorable plush Steiff hedgehog from the hubby, a sewing project for a hedgehog and hoglet and a cute pen holder with a hedgehog reading a book in it.

Loving my new lighthouse and looking forward to featuring it on some photos with my books soon.

A huge thank you to my amazing friend Sharon for the gorgeous flowers, candle, bear and chocolates and to my lovely friend Jo for the hedgehog and bear scarves.

Sharon also sent me the most amazing card. It’s a card containing cake. I never knew such a thing existed and, being the huge fan of cake that I am, it made me very happy. I can’t wait to dive in and would have had a piece today but my in-laws dropped round surprise afternoon tea so we ditched our plans for a takeaway and had that instead and I am now full of cake. It was sooooo yummy. But there’s always tomorrow. Nom nom. And I have a birthday cake too!

Thank you to everyone who has sent me lovely messages on social media. Very much appreciated.

Back to editing tomorrow but it’s been nice to have a rare day off today.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

An Altogether Eggcellent Easter

Happy Easter!

How was your bank holiday weekend? I blinked and missed mine because I spent it in my editing cave but I am absolutely thrilled to report that book 13 is now written and with my editor so I can take a deep breath, relax, watch some TV and eat lots of chocolate over the next few days!

I did manage to take five minutes outside my cave to get creative with my books and some Easter-themed friends. How cute is my Forever Friends bunny? I won her on a grab machine on my hen do so she’s very special to me. Back then (September 2005), I was just studying my craft and ‘playing’ with my first novel. It was a decade before it was finished and published but I got my act together and speeded up after that. Thirteen books later…

Book 13 is currently untitled but is a return to Whitsborough Bay. The last three books I wrote were all set in Hedgehog Hollow so it has been lovely to return to the place it all started and I look forward to bringing you more detail very soon.

I did manage to escape from my editing cave for a day on Thursday. I haven’t seen my parents since October but, with with some restrictions eased, made plans to see them next week after I’d submitted my book. Then we spotted the weather forecast. Snow in April? Really? So we thought we’d better move meeting up forward! It was a bit chilly, mind. Completely missed those few days of gorgeous blue skies as you can see from the photos.

Because we couldn’t be inside, it made sense to meet somewhere outside where we could have a little wander so we met them at Thorp Perrow Arboretum near Bedale (North Yorkshire). Hubby and I went there last September near our wedding anniversary and loved it.

As we drove over, I looked at all the lovely daffodils by the roadside and mused, ‘I wonder if they’ll have some daffodils at Thorp Perrow’. Ha ha ha! Just a few! The photos don’t do justice to them, especially as it was a dull (and very cold) day, but I think we can safely confirm there were daffodils everywhere and all different varieties.

It was difficult not having hugs but hopefully we’ll hit the day very soon where we can do that. Gosh, I miss hugs! My parents are due their second vaccination any time in the next week or so and hubby and I have both had our first so that day feels like it’s in sight.

Despite the chilly weather, we did have a lovely wander. There was a fabulous Easter Egg Trail running for children so I grabbed a few pics of that.

And Thorp Perrow is such an interesting place to wander round anyway with woodland trails, fascinating trees and lots of wood carvings.

I’m now going to be completely disorientated because I feel like my weekend starts tomorrow but it will be a Tuesday. Isn’t it a strange sensation when you feel convinced it’s a different day of the week?

Wishing you a fabulous week.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where I visit the ‘real’ Castle Street at Christmas

A theme that comes through in reviews of my Whitsborough Bay books, particularly my Christmas ones, is how much readers would love to visit Castle Street and I sometimes get asked if it’s real.

Castle Street is not real. Sorry. But it is definitely inspired by real places and I see it as a blend of three, which I’ll come to in a moment.

Whitsborough Bay is a fictional North Yorkshire seaside town but it’s predominantly inspired by my hometown of Scarborough. It has the same geographical set-up as Scarborough: North Bay and South Bay separated by a headland with a castle on it, and the town up the cliff from South Bay. The large image below is a view of South Bay and the castle on the cliff from an area called South Cliff.

In my books, I’ve even called these areas North Bay and South Bay. I originally called them North Beach and South Beach to be different but decided ‘beach’ didn’t make sense when the town was called Whitsborough BAY so I stuck with bays.

There are many much-loved locations and landmarks in Scarborough that appear in my Whitsborough Bay stories but with different names:

  • The Sea Life Centre in North Bay becomes the Sea Rescue Sanctuary (bottom left above)
  • Peasholm Park, also in North Bay, is Hearnshaw Park in my books
  • The colourful beach huts in Whitsborough Bay’s North Bay (top right above) are a direct match to those in Scarborough but the shops and cafés nearby take on different identities
  • In Scarborough’s South Bay, there’s a lighthouse and harbour and I have the same in Whitsborough Bay but the lighthouse is red and white striped in my books instead of white (bottom right above), and the approach to it is different

The main difference geographically between Scarborough and Whitsborough Bay is that Whitsborough Bay has a river which runs through the Old Town and along the South Bay side of the castle. It is crossed by a swing bridge. This is very much inspired by Whitby up the coast from Scarborough; a place I’ve adored since childhood.

Back to Castle Street, it is fictional but, as I said before, it is inspired by a blend of three places:

  • Bar Street in Scarborough (which is a narrow street housing independent shops and cafés)
  • The cobbled streets of Whitby’s south side
  • The cobbled streets of Robin Hood’s Bay (which is between Scarborough and Whitby but closer to Whitby)

I imagine Castle Street to be wider than any of these streets (more the width of Huntriss Row if anyone is familiar with Scarborough) and with old-fashioned grey cobbles, more like these ones in this photo of Whitby at the bottom of the famous 199 steps up to St Mary’s Church and Whitby Abbey.

I love Bar Street at Christmas. It has waves of simple white lights running down the street from one end to the other and I describe these in my Christmas books but have them connecting between the buildings instead.

Last week, hubby, munchkin and I took our sprocker spaniel, Ella, for a wander round the lights just as the shops were closing (so we could capture the lights in the shops but visit when there weren’t many folk about).

The large picture below is looking down Bar Street with our backs to the town. The shops are Steampuss Cat Lounge (which I visited with the munchkin a few months back) and a bridal shop which is partial inspiration for The Wedding Emporium which I mention in a few books. In Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes, Bethany gets her wedding dress and the bridesmaid dresses for her Christmas wedding from there.

I’d been eager to get a photo of the giant illuminated teddy bear on the main precinct when I spotted him in town last month but the lights didn’t show very well during the day. So much better at night. I love him!

On Boxing Day evening, we took Ella down to the harbour where many of the boats were lit up, as was the viewing wheel along the seafront. Very pretty. But very cold!

I think I might need to make more of the harbour in future books as it really is beautiful with all the lights on the masts and sails. My pretty poor phone photography doesn’t even come close to doing it justice. On the top row, the lit-up building on the top left pic which is bigger on top right (at the far left of the pic) is The Grand Hotel. Owned by Britannia Group it has changed a lot over the years but it was once one of the largest and most impressive hotels in Europe. You can see it in daylight in the top set of images, bottom middle.

In my stories, The Grand is The Ramparts Hotel (Alison works there in The Secret to Happiness and Callie has a meal there near the end of Making Wishes at Bay View) and I position it as Whitsborough’s only 5-star hotel and very luxurious.

In the top middle photo, you can just about make out Scarborough’s Lighthouse. If you look above the boat lit by red lights, there’s a bright light. Move along to the boat behind it and there’s another light and just to the right of that is a triangle shape of light. That’s the lighthouse. Hubby took a better pic of it, though, looking back over the Old Town. What looks to be a strip of lights above the Old Town in his photo is the castle walls illuminated.

Hope you enjoyed your trip to Whitsborough Bay’s Castle Street and harbour at Christmas. If you’d like to read about it, Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes and Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café are both still only 99p but act quickly as Starry Skies will probably have a price increase in the not too distant future. They’re best read in that order as Starry Skies is set after Carly’s Cupcakes and the two businesses are next door and run by friends Carly and Tara so we find out what happens to Carly after her story finishes when Tara picks up the reins.

You can find all my books for Kindle here although they’re also available as eBooks for Kobo and Apple and a gazillion other formats depending on your reading or listening preferences.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where Halloween was a bit different

It’s always extra special when a fixed date event like your birthday or Christmas falls on a weekend (unless, of course, you work on a weekend in which case it’s not quite as special).

This year, fans of Halloween would have been excited about it falling on a Saturday but this Halloween, for obvious reasons, was different and most plans to party will have been scuppered.

As a child, I used to love dressing up for Halloween and trick or treating. I was brought up on a housing development built in the late 60s/early 70s and it was very family friendly so it felt really safe to go wandering round the nearby streets with our torch-filled turnips (I’m not sure if you could even get hold of pumpkins back then) visiting the many neighbours who we knew well, saying hello to their children who were out doing the same.

My husband did something very similar but our daughter hasn’t had the same experience of Halloween that we’ve had. When she was very little, we lived in the town centre and we didn’t know our neighbours. Everyone’s opinions on this will differ but both my husband and I are of the belief that you shouldn’t be knocking on doors of people you don’t know. There could be a vulnerable person behind the door, fearful of who is knocking, and it seems to contradict the ‘stranger danger’ messages from school.

When we moved out of town, we found ourselves living somewhere with very few children so, again, we didn’t really know our neighbours and the same principles applied so she still didn’t go out and about as where would we go?

Then we started going away over the October half-term and this invariably meant we were away on Halloween itself.

She never missed out on dressing up, though. Over the years, she’s dressed up for school or simply for fun and, one year, we did join friends in a nearby village to trick or treat with them … after they said we’d only be going to people they knew well who wouldn’t mind an infiltrator!

She’s carved pumpkins many times and we bought her a spooky gingerbread house this year which she loved decorating (and eating!)

This Halloween turned out to be unexpectedly special for us. My dad got in touch a couple of weeks ago and said he and mum were missing seeing us (a theme for us all this year) and he proposed a series of Halloween barbecues at their house. I have two brothers who are each married with two girls. Under restrictions, we couldn’t meet as one big family unit but one family per day, outside, would stay within the rule of six.

My parents live in the same county as me but North Yorkshire’s the biggest county in the country and it can be up to two hours to get to them if we get stuck behind a slow driver or tractor; a regular occurrence. We therefore only saw them a few times when restrictions lifted over the summer and I haven’t seen my brothers at all.

Our visit was scheduled for Friday and it’s lucky my dad planned it in as we had the announcement on Saturday of England going into lockdown once more and, with the munchkin back at school this week, would have lost our window of opportunity otherwise.

I rummaged in my dressing-up box and found some of my old Halloween costumes for the munchkin and I to change into. I used to be a Brown Owl, running a pack for 7.5 years. We did a few Halloween parties so I had built up a selection of outfits, my favourite being my pink witch’s hat and my highwayman outfit. I’m proud to say I made the cloaks for both outfits and the highwayman’s face covering (way ahead of my time there!) but they weren’t the most demanding of projects.

If somebody had told me last Halloween that I’d be spending this out having a barbecue outside, I’d have laughed at them. However, this is the new world in which we live and we find ways to adapt. It was really quite lovely with the log burner on and LED heating under the parasols. We had a rainy patch where we sheltered under the parasols and a chilly moment after eating when the sun disappeared behind the clouds and the wind picked up but, generally, it was really pleasant.

As for the day itself, hubby and the munchkin watched a horror film while I cleaned the bathroom. Not sure which was the most scary!

If you don’t like being spooked and prefer to stay cosy at Halloween, I did a reading from one of my favourite cosy scenes in Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes. You can access it on Facebook here.

Wishing you a fabulous start to November and sending best wishes to those who might struggle with a second lockdown. There will be an end to this eventually. It has to rain for us to see a rainbow.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

The one where I visited Thorp Perrow

Last week, hubby and I took a mid-week day trip out to Thorp Perrow. It’s an arboretum, mammal and birds of prey centre in North Yorkshire, not too far from the Yorkshire Dales. The nearest town is Bedale but, unless you’re from the county, you possibly haven’t heard of Bedale so it’s sort of in the middle of a triangle of Northallerton, Thirsk and Ripon. Ish.

Anyway, hubby is a keen (and very talented) photographer. He’d visited Throp Perrow a couple of years ago with a photography friend and decided that the trees would look amazing heading into autumn. As it happens, we caught it just before the changing colours of the leaves and also on far too bright a day so his camera didn’t actually come out its bag but I snapped plenty of pics on my phone.

It was lovely to be able to wander around somewhere I’ve never been before and also somewhere spacious. The car park looked quite busy but, once inside, we found ourselves frequently without anyone in sight which is perfect for a socially-distanced world.

The centre is a family-run business and has been owned by the Ropner family since 1927. Shortly afterwards, the trees started being planted but it was a bit of a hobby rather than done with expertise and, over the years, became a bit of a jungle. In the 1970s, the father of the current owner brought in an expert who said the collection absolutely must be preserved and it’s been a huge task since then to curate the trees and manage this gorgeous woodland.

There’s a cafe, lots of picnic tables and a children’s playground. Various wooden sculptures peeking between the trees including a gorgeous pixie village will also help keep the interest of children as they amble along the pathways. We were touched by the pet cemetery (not of a Stephen King variety) and enjoyed visiting the little islands.

You can take dogs on leads although there are certain areas they’re not allowed in. I left hubby and our dog, Ella, on a picnic bench while I visited the birds of prey centre but didn’t time it right to catch a show. I adore owls and they had a wonderful selection. I didn’t go to the mammals centre, though, but look forward to that on a future visit.

Check out the larger of the photos below. The two trees are hugging! Awww!!!!

I hope you enjoy the photos and, if you’re ever in the area, it’s well worth a visit. Just check the website first for restrictions and also any limit on opening times. You can visit Thorp Perrow’s website here.

I definitely want to visit again but suspect we won’t make it again this year for the changing tree colours. Scarborough is on the watch-list and will probably move into local lockdown soon. It was therefore extra lovely to get out and about on such a gorgeous day before we’re not able to.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

The one where ‘Making Wishes at Bay View’ is in The Works

I adore my Kindle (other eReaders are available!) but I’m sure most people who love reading will admit to getting a little thrill from browsing a bookshop or even simply pausing in a section of a store where books are displayed. A happy place.

As an author, that thrill is multiplied several-fold when the shelves contain one of my own books. I don’t think that feeling will ever get tired!

At the weekend, I was delighted to visit my local The Works store in Scarborough and not only see Making Wishes at Bay View on the shelves but to sign them! The manager in there is lovely and recognised me from when I’d been in to visit The Secret to Happiness at the start of summer just after restrictions were lifted and shops opened again.

Making Wishes at Bay View in the Scarborough branch of The Works with the special home-made ‘signed by author’ sticker

I’d never thought to ask if I could sign copies of Secret but I’d seen photos of other authors signing their books in their local stores and the manager was delighted for me to do so with Making Wishes at Bay View.

What a surreal moment perching on the till and signing the seven remaining copies. They didn’t have any ‘signed by author’ stickers – probably don’t get as many local authors as a large city store might – but she created her own version which was lovely.

Despite the mask, you can probably tell there’s a huge grin on my face!

Today I went into Beverley, East Yorkshire (about 75 mins drive away from me) for a socially-distanced catch-up with my fabulous friend and fellow-author, Sharon Booth. It was the first time since mid-February that we’ve seen each other and we suspect it will be next year before it happens again.

I took the opportunity to nip into town as the branch of The Works in Beverley is about twice the size of the Scarborough one and therefore with much more space dedicated to fiction. Making Wishes at Bay View was in there. I was going to see about signing them too but there was a queue at the till and only one member of staff serving so I thought I’d best not pester anyone!

Making Wishes at Bay View in Beverley’s The Works

It makes me so proud to be on the shelves with other Boldwood authors, a few of whom I met in person at the back end of last year. I’ve taken a few shelfies in Scarborough but, with a bigger selection in Beverley, how lovely it was to see so many Boldwood authors together (okay, so a little re-arrangement was needed to get them all together but I did put them back where they came from!) This is the selection of feel-good books – a mixture of romcoms and contemporaries. That’s twelve amazing titles and, on the 3 for £5 offer, you could therefore get them all for only £20. Bargain!!!

This is the thrillers/crime/other selection looking fabulous too:

You can buy Making Wishes at Bay View from The Works for £2 (or 3 for £5) or online from The Works here. I’ve included the blurb below.

Alternatively, you can download it for Kindle, Kobo and AppleBooks, order a paperback from Amazon or any other good bookstore (it will be a different price as they are printed differently) or on various audio formats including Spotify.

Wishing you a fabulous week.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

Making Wishes at Bay View (Welcome to Whitsborough Bay Book 1)

Never give up on a wish for a happy ever after…


Callie Derbyshire has it all: her dream job as a carer at Bay View, finally she has found the love of her life. Everything is perfect.

Well, almost.

Ex-partners are insistent on stirring up trouble, and Callie’s favourite resident, Ruby, hasn’t been her usual self. 

But after discovering the truth about Ruby’s lost love, Callie is determined to give Ruby’s romantic story the happy ending it deserves. After all, it’s never too late to let love in again. Or is it?