Sunday, 17 June 2012

Wildlife on Wirral

The Faerie Pond on Caldy Hill

In a recent blog post, Jennifer Rainey included some photos of the Hocking Hills region in southeast Ohio, where she sets some of her fiction.  As most readers of my blog will already know, my fiction tends to be set locally to me, and one of the locations I use is Caldy Hill.  Why?  Well, it's a beautiful place, it's only a short walk from my home, it's peaceful and ancient, and the air is full of birdsong and the fragrances of heather and broom carried on salty breezes coming off the Dee estuary.  Jays, crows, wood pigeons, turtle doves, goldfinches, bullfinches and owls nest there.  There are rabbits, bats, foxes, lizards, adders and badgers.  There are benches perfect for meditating while gazing along the River Dee, over to Flintshire or out to sea.

In my fiction, Caldy Hill is home to the notorious Caldy fae.  If you're expecting sugary-cute, tutu-wearing, small faeries probably clutching a sparkly wand, and who might offer you three wishes, then you're barking up the wrong oak tree.  The Caldy fae are descended from a fusion of Scythians, Picts and various Celtic tribes.  They can readily pass for human when it is convenient for them to do so.  They appear in several short stories, and also in some of my novels.

I include selkies in my fiction, too, as one of the fae races.  The Dee Estuary is home to a large herd of seals.  They often lounge around on one of the bigger sandbanks beyond Hilbre Island.  Without binoculars, they look like dark lozenge shapes on the golden-brown sand.  But sometimes, especially when there aren't many people around, they swim close to the rear of Hilbre Island and poke their heads out of the water to say hello in their own way.

A few years ago, Richard and I were enjoying a picnic on the rocks around Middle Eye.  This is one of the three small islands off the Wirral coast, and is little more than a rocky hillock topped with grass, set in miles of pristine sand en route to Hilbre.  It would have been idyllic apart from an awful pong wafting on the brisk breeze.  Then we noticed how one rock was pale and mottled, whereas all the rest are dark red sandstone.  We looked a bit closer.  It was a dead seal.  We were eating our meal right next to it.

Woodland track on Caldy Hill

Sometimes the best thing any writer can do is to stop writing, switch the computer off and go walking in the open air. Sitting at a computer for hours on end isn't too healthy anyway, and it's easy to get too obsessional about the latest project. Yes, there's a deadline - but there always will be, and a fresh mind is more efficient and productive than one which is frazzled from hours of editing.

It does feel odd walking there with just one dog, though.  I really miss Ygraine.  Our other dog, Emily, is only just getting over losing her life-long buddy.  On walks, she would keep looking behind her as if Ygraine might appear from behind the trees.  If we meet a Westie while out, Emily still becomes excited until she gets the scent of the other dog and realises it's not Ygraine, and then she grows morose.  She's slowly getting better, though.

Birch trees on Caldy Hill

I've been glued to the computer lately, giving Bethany Rose a penultimate edit before setting up the paperback proof copy.  This is the next novel in the Artisan-Sorcerer series.  So far I'm 78,500 words into a 100,000 word MS.  A break from editing was in order!  So off I headed into the woods - and here are some of the photos I took while there.

Old Oaks on Caldy Hill


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