Christmas at Chatsworth – a Photo Essay

Christmas trees, sugar plum fairies, toy soldiers, ballerinas … it’s Christmas at Chatsworth.

I’ve walked along the River Derwent and through the Chatsworth estate many a time, but I’ve only actually visited the house once before. And that was a very long time ago.

The house from the side

The house is beautiful at any time of year, but I imagined it would be absolutely gorgeous decorated for Christmas and as my brother and nieces are visiting I thought it would be nice to take a trip to see the house in all its festive glory. Continue reading “Christmas at Chatsworth – a Photo Essay”

The Heights of Abraham at Matlock

The only time I’ve travelled by cable car to visit a cave.

I’ve visited Matlock in the south of England’s Peak District several times, but always stayed at the bottom of the gorge wandering round the shops and walking along the river.

When a friend and her seven year old son visited for the weekend, we decided to take a trip in the cable car up to the Heights of Abraham at the top of the gorge. Continue reading “The Heights of Abraham at Matlock”

Looking for Blue John

Exploring caverns and mines in the Peak District seeking a special kind of rock.

The southern half of the Peak District is known as the White Peak because of its limestone geology. As limestone is porous, the area is riddled with caves and mines. Continue reading “Looking for Blue John”

Monsal Head – A Circular Walk

This walk was great for introducing a seven year old to the Peak District.

I had a friend and her seven year old son stay with me for a few days over half term. In the past this friend and I have enjoyed some wonderful walks in the Peak District and now her son is getting a bit older we decided it was time we got out there again and introduced him to the delights of the Peaks. Continue reading “Monsal Head – A Circular Walk”

Friday Flickr – How Cows Chill Out

What to do on a hot day? Go to the beach or have a paddle in the river of course. Even if you’re a cow.

I like cows.

I’ve met a few grumpy ones and a few over-boisterous ones, but usually they’re docile and occasionally they’re curious. I like their their big soulful eyes and the fact that they make chocolate. And ice-cream. And cheese.

I take far too many pictures of cows, but by far my favourite ones are when they are doing what they do best; relaxing and watching the world go by.

I especially like photographing cows when they are in the water or sunbathing on a beach. They just look so chilled out. We could learn a lot from them.

The photos in this week’s Friday Flickr album were taken in the Outer Hebrides, along the Thames Path and in the Peak District.

Click on the image below to access the album.

How cows chill out


Up, up and away

Finally! After waiting a year and a half and booking it nine times, I finally got to go up in a hot air balloon.


A year and a half after buying the vouchers and after booking it nine times, I finally got to climb into a giant picnic basket and dangle from a big red balloon floating a kilometre above the earth.

I carefully monitored the weather reports all week. After all this time I feel like a bit of expert when it comes to knowing what weather is considered suitable and safe for a balloon flight to be able to take place. It can’t be rainy or foggy or misty. The wind speed can’t be over 6mph. The wind speed has to be checked at different altitudes, not just on the ground. The wind has to be in the right direction so the balloon doesn’t blow over built-up areas or anywhere it might be dangerous to land. Etc, etc, etc. I wrote about it here.

This time the weather actually seemed quite favourable; in fact, I was mainly worried that it wouldn’t be windy enough as the forecast was showing speeds of 1mph. If it’s not windy enough, the balloon would go straight up, hover around on the spot for a while and come straight back down again.

At the designated time of 11pm the night before the flight I rang the flight line number. Instead of the usual apology and explanation of why the flight was cancelled, I pricked up my ears as the pilot on the recording said ‘Please listen to the following information very carefully’.

He went on to say that the flight would be going ahead, but not from Bakewell as originally planned. Instead we would be taking off from the back-up site of Tissington. He gave the meeting time and directions of where to park and how to get to the launch site from the car park.

Instructions duly noted, it was then it a mad rush to get everything ready and still try to get a bit of sleep before my alarm went off at 2.30am.

After a detour for petrol, I got to my co-balloonist’s house before 3.30am and gulped down the coffee she had waiting for me.

It was starting to get light as we headed on empty roads towards the Peak District ticking off a (near) hit list of the kamikaze animals and birds determined to die under the wheels of my van. I like to think it’s because of my superior driving skills that I managed to avoid them all.

Arriving in Tissington at the same time as several other people, we parked up and walked the 10 minutes up the lane to the launch site. Through an open gate and into a field containing a very large (and very flat) balloon, a large basket and a herd of very curious cows. 

The cows were so intrigued at the strange goings on in their field they milled around us, stretching out their noses to sniff us and then skittering away when we turned round. They tried to get on the trailer that had brought the basket and balloon to the site. They wanted to get in the basket and they thought standing on a large piece of red nylon made a nice change from grass. 

The basket, which was already attached to the balloon, was lying on its side. A large fan stood to either side of it. Two men volunteered to hold the ropes of the balloon as the cows were shooed away and the fans were switched on. The balloon slowly inflated as it filled with cold air from the fans. As the insides expanded to cavernous proportions, the pilot walked around inside checking everything out. 

Once the balloon was fully inflated, the gas jets were turned on and flames roared into the balloon’s innards, heating the air and causing the balloon to slowly rise. As it rose from the ground it pulled the basket upright and we were instructed to quickly climb in. 

Climbing aboard was harder than it looked. Gaps in the side of the basket acted as steps so it all looked quite simple. But the basket was angled slightly outwards meaning gravity was working against us as we tried to hoist ourselves up and get our legs over the side. It was then quite a long drop into the inside, particularly when you were trying to not flail about too much and kick a fellow passenger in the face. 

The basket was divided into five high-sided sections. The pilot was in the middle section with the gas jets directly above him. The sixteen passengers were divided into the four corner sections. The sections were narrow and the four people in each were close enough together to offer cushioning and support in case of any wobbles, but not packed so closely that it was uncomfortable.

Once we were all safely inside, the guy lines tying us to the back of the trailer were released and, waving goodbye to the cows, we drifted up into space. It was a very smooth take-off and we were surprised at how suddenly the ground seemed a long way below. 

Tissington Hall
A rival balloon

As we spent about an hour and a quarter floating above the Peak District, two things I’d been told about still managed to surprise me. The first is that the trees really do look like broccoli. When I’d heard this I assumed it was a reference to how children refer to broccoli as ‘baby trees’ and that because the trees look so small from this height they could be the broccoli trees referred to by children. Not so. They actually, really and truly do look like they are made from heads of broccoli. 


Campsite in a quarry

The second thing was the silence. Yes, I’d been told it would be quiet. Yes, I knew that apart from the odd time when the gas jets were blasting extra heat into the balloon there would be no noise from the balloon and that there would be no engines to give a constant background hum. What I hadn’t realised is how much background noise there is usually in our daily lives and how we are so accustomed to it that we don’t even notice it most of the time. Even in a quiet place you can usually hear cars in the distance, cows mooing, birds singing, the wind rustling the leaves in the trees, a stream trickling by. Up here, there was nothing. Nothing. It was so quiet and still it was almost eerie. 

The eerie feeling was intensified by the lack of life below. We passed over campsites, villages, quarries, a factory. It was broad daylight but no-one was about. Of course this was because it was still unreasonably early on a Sunday morning, but as we’d been up for hours, it felt like it should be the middle of the day. 

Tiny sheep

The pilot had his GPS connected to a laptop and pointed out places of interest below us. We got a really good view of the ancient stone circle Arbor Low and saw lots of other mounds that looked like tumuli. I’m used to walking in the Peak District and feel I know it quite well. Floating above it gave me such a different perspective though. 

Arbor Low

About an hour after we taken off the pilot started to look for a suitable field to land in. It had to have access for the truck and trailer to enter to collect the balloon and basket. It had to be flat and preferably without crops or animals. And of course away from telegraph wires. 

About 15 minutes later we found a field and slowly descended. As we got close to the ground we were instructed to sit down on the foam seat that ran along the sides of the basket. With backs, bums and heads pressed across the side we gripped the rope handles opposite. Sitting in this position meant our heads and limbs were all fully inside the basket and we were braced in case the basket tipped over when we landed.

Two gentle bumps and we were down and remained upright. The whole flight had been so smooth and it really hadn’t felt like we were moving at all. At one point we were travelling at over 8mph, but it felt like we were still and it was earth below us that was reeling past. 

Climbing out of the balloon was a lot easier than climbing in. The truck driver was telephoned and informed as to where we were. Before we could deflate the balloon we had to get permission from the farmer whose field we’d landed in. The pilot told us that this is not usually a problem and the farmers generally get a bottle of whisky as a thank you. And of course, if any damage is caused, it would be paid for. 

I wondered how the farmer would feel being woken up at 7.30am on a Sunday morning by someone requesting permission to deflate a large balloon in his field, but then thought, ‘it’s a farmer, he’ll be up anyway at this time’. Unfortunately, this turned out to be one of the few days in the year when he’d felt able to have a lie-in. He was in a good mood though and not only gave permission, but came out on his quad-bike to have a chat and open more gates so we’d have easier access to the road.

It took quite a long time to deflate the balloon and involved everyone tugging on a long rope to try to pull the sides down and then lots of rolling and stuffing to get it into its bag. The balloon and basket were loaded onto the trailer and we followed it out to the roadside where chamagne was served as we waited for the minibus to arrive to take us back to Tissington.

The half glass of champagne was quite nice, but felt like a bit of a contrived attempt at being classy. And at this time in the morning and after being up so long, I would have preferred a cup of coffee and an egg butty. 

We were presented with certificates and looked at a series of photos on the laptop. A camera had been strung from the balloon taking photos of us all as we floated about. We could purchase the 30+ photos for £15, but as they were all pretty much the same, one would have been enough. £15 seemed quite a lot for what was effectively the same photo, so I didn’t bother. If I could’ve bought one or two for a reduced price I’d definitely have done so as it would have been nice to have a picture of us all inside the balloon.

The minibus arrived and we were soon back in Tissington where I made coffee and egg butties in the back of the van.

Was it worth the wait?

Yes, definitely. The whole experience was even better than I thought it would be and we got a perfect day for it.

Would I do it again?

Probably not. Partly because it’s expensive, but mainly because of all the hassle of having to keep so many weekends free; having to stay up to make the phone call; finding out it’s cancelled; having to book again, and so on. I don’t blame Virgin for this (and I’m very glad they take safety seriously and also try to ensure that the flight is enjoyable by only going on good days) as I realise no matter how powerful Richard Branson is, he has no control over the weather.

Would I recommend it?

Absolutely. But only in a place near to where you live so it’s easy to get to at short notice. 

Duke of Edinburgh Weekends

Losing four weekends means I’m tired and behind with everything, but it was well worth it.

Last weekend was the last of my four Duke of Edinburgh Award expedition weekends. I’ve been wanting to get involved with this for years and it has been every bit as good as I was hoping it would be. Of course losing four weekends in close succession means I’m knackered and behind with everything else, but I think it was worth it. Even when it’s been chucking it down and nearly blowing me off the tops I’ve still enjoyed it. I’ve worked with a good team of people and the kids have all been great. We’ve dealt with issues and problems as they’ve arisen and I think we’ve dealt with them well. I’m so glad I’ve had the opportunity to do this before starting my BELA (Basic Expedition Leader’s Award) course in September as I feel really confident about it now. I think I really could enjoy doing this kind of thing full-time – I just have to think of a way of actually making a decent living out of it!

Silver weekend #1

Is it possible to have a great weekend even though a zillion things go wrong? Apparently the answer is yes, as I found out this weekend.

Is it possible to have a great weekend even though a zillion things go wrong? Apparently the answer is yes, as I found out this weekend.

Way back about a year ago, when school first mooted the idea of an enrichment programme every Friday afternoon to give our students, many of whom are from a disadvantaged background, a bit of, well, enrichment in their lives I jumped at the idea of getting involved with a Duke of Edinburgh Award group. We had over 80 students interested, as well as several members of staff. It was a logistical nightmare, but bit by bit, we got everyone registered, sorted out activities, arranged funding, got parental permission slips signed and gathered relevant medical information. I tried to organise a series of archery lessons for one group of students, but we ended up going climbing instead. They did this over 6 months and all got their level 1 and 2 NICAS awards.

School then decided that the whole idea of enrichment was way too expensive (I suppose I can see their point) and pulled it. Of course, Duke of Edinburgh is not just a one term only activity and some of these kids had made a serious commitment to see it through. They were getting a lot out of it and were devastated at the thought of not being able to continue. The lightweights dropped out and we were left with a (hard) core of 40+ students who really wanted to carry on.

Enrichment was pulled at the February half term which is halfway through the school year. During the first half of the year we’d concentrated on activities which would count towards the skill, physical and volunteering sections of the award. We’d planned from February onwards to run a series of first aid courses, and then focus on expedition skills e.g. navigation, camping skills, route planning, and so on. We also planned to get some Friday afternoon walks in to give them some actual walking experience. A couple of Saturday or Sunday walks out in the Peaks wouldn’t have gone a amiss either. As we no longer had Friday afternoons for enrichment, staff and students were all assigned other lessons. This meant anything to do with the Duke of Edinburgh had to take place after school during the week. This is usually how it would be run anyway, but as we hadn’t planned it this way, it threw everything into disarray and we didn’t get half of what we wanted to do done.

We split our students up into 2 rather uneven groups. The silver students are the older ones who had completed their bronze awards over the last year or two and had wanted to continue. There are only 8 of them. The other 30 odd of them are bronze award candidates who signed up when they had to choose an enrichment activity last year. We also have a few younger students (you have to be 14 or about to turn 14 to do the Duke of Edinburgh) who wanted to get involved. We thought it would be great for them to have a taster so they’d know what to expect when they’re a bit older and come to do the real thing, and so created a special school award that runs along the same lines but is a little easier.

This weekend was the first of our expedition weekends. We decided to take the silver group out first as we have to fit the practice and assessed weekends around their GCSEs. Also as it was our first expedition, having a smaller group of experienced students made a lot of sense.

So what are all the things that went wrong? Apart from us not being nearly prepared enough in the first place?

1) It snowed when we were supposed to recce the route and we weren’t able to rearrange it, so we were heading out on un-recced routes. Not ideal, but we didn’t anticipate any major problems.

2) We found out that we needed a BELA person at all times (BELA stands for basic expedition leader’s award) and not many staff have this particular qualification. I’m starting the course for it in September and my colleague, who has done most of the work for this expedition, won’t be doing her course until next month. So we had to go all out with our powers of persuasion, to powerfully persuade enough relevant people to ‘volunteer’ so we’d be covered all weekend. Job done. We had the people.

3) Two days before the expedition one of our BELA people dropped out. We flung a panic-stricken net far and wide to try to recruit anybody, ANYBODY, who could replace the missing person. Friends of friends of friends, passing acquaintances, anyone we thought might just happen to have a BELA qualification. No luck. Being bank holiday weekend, most outdoorsy, BELAy type people already had plans to be outdoors.

4) Two days before the expedition, but a bit later, another one of our BELA people was in hospital having surgery. We really didn’t want to cancel the expedition as, it being the GCSE season, we wouldn’t be able to rearrange it and our students would completely miss out. Cue massive hair-pulling, hand-wringing, head banging against wall session.

5) One day before the expedition our one remaining BELA person changed her time with us to cover both Friday and Saturday, and the hospitalised member said he’d be out and fit enough to cover Sunday. Big PHEWs all round.

6) On the day of the expedition, both my colleague and I were given covers to do during our free lessons. We were hoping to get away straight after period 3 at the start of lunch. As we’d lost our frees all the last minute getting together of gear and paperwork, getting ourselves changed, loading the minibus and Landrover, etc, just didn’t happen. So we ended up an hour late leaving.

7) Just before we left, my colleague thought she’d better double-check we really were insured to drive the Landrover which had been lent to us by the local authority Duke of Edinburgh people. Er, no. We’re not. As our school is an Academy, we are no longer covered by anything to do with the local authority. We couldn’t put all the luggage in the minibus with the students as there are safety requirements we have to abide by like not blocking the aisle or burying the students under mounds of backpacks. Isn’t it lucky I bought a van last year? So we transferred all the bags from the Landrover into my van.

8) I then had to go and get fuel which made me later at the rendezvous point than the minibus and so they’d all had to sit around waiting for me.

9) It was getting so late by this time that we decided to start the day’s walk 2 hours in and so drove to a layby where we could park my van and myself, my BELA colleague and the students started walking. The other two staff members took the minibus to the campsite.

10) Once we arrived at the campsite I had to get a lift back to my van to collect it. We were going to pick up a takeaway on the way back (for the staff; the students have to be self-sufficient and carry and cook all their own food). It took us quite a long time to get back to the van and we were finally on the way to Bakewell to get our takeaway when we got a tired and despondent phone call from our students. Their tents were up, they were unpacked, they were tired and hungry and ready to cook. But the meths for their camp stoves was on my van (as a safety precaution the fuel is the one thing we carry for them and just give them the amount they need when they are cooking). So we had to turn around and head back to the campsite so they could have a very late, but well-earned dinner.

11) The next day, started off rainy, but by the time we set off walking it had brightened up. I didn’t start the walk as we decided to take my van to the next campsite and leave it there and get us checked in at the same time. This would mean the students could go straight to our allocated sites and pitch their tents when they arrived rather than hanging about waiting for us to get them checked in. As we arrived there was a big notice at the front of the campsite saying no arrivals before 1pm. Then another notice saying ‘do not enter this campsite before the 1pm check-in’. So we entered and went to check in. We left the minibus part-way up the track and I drove down to the reception area to park up and deal with checking in and paying. The young guy behind reception was quite happy to get us checked in and for me to leave my van, despite the 1pm rule.

12) So far, so good. He opened his bookings book, checked his computer and … no sign of our booking. Thank goodness we’d come early. He was able to create a new booking for us and showed us where we could pitch our tents later on when we all officially arrived.

13) My colleague drove me out on the minibus to meet up with the walkers so I could walk with them for the rest of the day. For the final part of the walk we decided to let them walk on their own as this is what they will have to do the entire time on their assessed expedition. We drove round to a point where we knew they would have to cross the road and waited to see them. We waited and then waited a bit longer. It really shouldn’t take them this long. We finally spotted them walking along the road. They’d missed the turnoff for the footpath and so walked the long way round by the road. Minus a few points for missing the footpath, but full points for figuring out exactly where they were and working out an alternative route to get them where they needed to be.

14) That evening I came to put my stove on for only the second time ever. It’s a super-trendy stove bought for me as a present last year by my brother. As it was the end of the camping season when I got it, apart from checking it was working okay, this trip is the first time it’s been used. When I boiled water in the morning it was fine. It has an ignition switch that just needs pressing when the gas is on and it ignites automatically. No need for matches or a lighter. Great idea. I came to put it on in the evening and the ignition wouldn’t work. It just wouldn’t press in at all. Closer inspection showed the plastic switch had melted. So it was back to using a lighter. I’m not at all impressed as it was quite an expensive stove. I can feel a strongly worded email coming on. The area near the switch does get quite hot which is probably the problem. My brother has used one of these stoves for a long time and never had a problem with the ignition so this is probably just a faulty one. Hopefully Primus will do the decent thing and replace it for me.

15) Our students came to put their stoves on to cook their evening meal and asked for the meths. The meths had gone home with the teacher who’d been picked up by her husband an hour of two earlier. We broke the rules (it’s only a practice after all) and once the replacement teacher arrived, took them all into Bakewell so they could go to the chip shop.

16) By Sunday, our third day, the students were suffering. The lack of training was having an effect. We cut the route and part way through let them leave their backpacks in the minibus so they could finish it. This is something we won’t be able to do on the assessed expedition, so is a bit of a worry.

17) We climbed up to Monsal Head and met the minibus. The last part of the walk was along the Monsal Trail into Bakewell. We decided I’d get taken back to the campsite in the minibus to pick up my van and we’d meet the students at one of the disused train stations along the route to check they were still ok to finish the walk. They were fine and seemed a lot more cheerful now they were near the end. I came to reverse my van out of its parking space so I could drive to Bakewell, but nothing happened. After an awful lot of trying I finally got it to reverse. I then had a bit of a hair-raising drive into Bakewell in which, for some of the time, I was driving in neutral down a hill because I couldn’t get it to go into any gear. I followed the minibus into the car park in Bakewell and my gears went completely on me.

18) I had all the students’ backpacks and other miscellaneous camping gear in my van and so we really needed to get it back to school. Especially as it’s a bank holiday and so it will be Tuesday before I see them again and if my van is in the garage being fixed it could be even later than that before I can get their stuff to them. I called Greenflag and they said someone should be with me within the hour. We needed to get the students back so we unloaded the van and they took everything they thought they’d need into the minibus with them. It was probably too much to be strictly legal but not as piled high as it could have been.

19) The Greenflag man arrived at the car park well within the hour but then took about another half hour to get to me. It’s a massive car park and was chocca with stationery vehicles (and I don’t mean the parked ones) trying to get out. Bakewell is busy at the best of times, so on a bank holiday and with a funfair just up the road it was a nightmare.

20) The Greenflag man was very nice and soon figured out the problem. He wasn’t able to do a proper repair as it needs a part, but he said he would try to do a ‘bodge job’ (his words) so I could get home safely. If he had to tow me it would have cost around 100 quid. Cable ties came to the rescue and he spent over an hour securely tying numerous of them onto my dodgy gear linkage to hold it in place so I could drive again. As I drove home the gears actually felt better than they had done before, so thank you very, very much Warren for your bodge job. He’s also told me the part should only cost about £15 and take about an hour’s labour to fix. As I had visions of £100 towing fee plus a new gear box, you can imagine how relieved I was to hear this.

21) Once home, a lot later than expected, I had to empty the van into my house. I can’t leave anything in it overnight as one of the problems of living in a dodgy area is car thieves will break into a car if there’s a much as an old carrier bag left in it. My living room now contains, amongst other things, enough tents to start my own branch of Go Outdoors, several packets of teabags, some random socks and two guitars.

So was it a successful weekend? I think so, as despite all the obstacles and problems we overcame them and still managed to enjoy ourselves and fit in plenty of laughter. I’m looking forward to the next three expedition weekends and to doing my BELA. Once I’ve done that, I’ll feel a lot more confident to start working towards my actual walking group leader’s qualification.

Snow Stops Recce

I like snow, just not when it stops me doing important things.

This weekend I should have been camping and recceing the walks we’ll do in May and June with our Duke of Edinburgh students. After hearing reports of possible bad weather earlier in the week we decided to just go out on Sunday instead. But now with snow causing road closures we’ve called our Sunday only recce off as well.

Just over a week ago I did an afternoon course for expedition leaders which went over all the basics. Some of it was obvious, but I did get a few new things to think about and met some interesting people, so it was worth it. Obviously in just an afternoon I wasn’t going to become an expert leader but it has strengthened my confidence in that my prior knowledge and experience should stand me in good stead.

So I was all enthused and ready to get out and start doing practical stuff. A colleague and I had pored over maps and worked out a route, my colleague (who’s far more proactive and practical than me) has booked the campsites for the practice and the assessed expeditions. Because we have such a large group and because we have both silver and bronze students, we’re going to have to divide them into two separate groups and go out different weekends with them. As the silver walk 3 days and the bronze walk two days we’ve worked out 3 day routes of which the bronze students will walk 2 days worth. The assessed route has to be different to the practice route so even with the bronze students walking part of the silver routes that’s still 6 days walking in total that needs to be recced.

Now that we haven’t got out this weekend and I’ll be away for the next 3 weekends over the Easter holidays I really don’t know how we’re going to fit this in before we start taking students out in May. I can see me having no free time between the end of Easter right up until the summer, but at least I’ll be doing something I enjoy and getting back out into the Peaks.

Stephen Booth and the Chinley Book Festival

A tiny book festival and a talk by one of my favourite authors.

This afternoon I went along to the first ever Chinley book festival. It hadn’t been well advertised – I only found out about it when I saw Stephen Booth mention on his website that he would be speaking at it. A google search didn’t turn up much more information. I arrived not really knowing what to expect but hoping that the Stephen Booth talk wouldn’t be sold out as I’ve wanted to attend one of his talks for a while now. 

Chinley is a village in the Peak District not too far from Chapel-en-le-Frith. Booth’s books are about two police officers who are based in the fictional town of Edendale in the Peak District. They have an alarming number of murders to solve and their cases take them all over the Peak to many real locations as well as fictional ones. 

The book festival was rather small scale, but then I wasn’t expecting a Derbyshire equivalent of Hay-on-Wye. One hall had a few stalls including one which had second hand books for sale very cheaply. I bought eight. Another stall was advising people on the advantages of e-readers and had a Kindle and a Kobo to show people. After talking to the lady on the stall I’m finally thinking seriously about getting one.

My entry ticket which cost £1 included a free drink, so I had a bowl of broccoli soup and then indulged in a piece of banana cake with my free coffee. There were tables and chairs set out in the middle of the room so I was able to sit with food and coffee and peruse my new books. 

At 3pm I went to another hall a couple of minutes away for the talk. I think most of the talks had been quite poorly attended, but Booth’s talk had about 40 people in the audience. As the hall was only small this was quite a lot. He talked for the best part of an hour and it was really interesting. He spoke about how he decides on the locations for his books (the 12th is coming out in June) and why he has a mix of real and fictional places. He realised quite early on that the locations were really important to his readers and that many readers try to work out either where the places are that the fictional places are based on or where the places are that he only vaguely refers to and doesn’t actually name. He gets lots of emails from readers who go to specific places just because they are in the books. 

I can understand this. Although I wouldn’t go out of my way to look for a telephone box just because it had been mentioned in a book (as one reader did), if I was near that telephone box and someone pointed it out to me, I’d be quite interested and would probably take a photo. 

All in all it was quite an interesting talk and I was glad I’d made the effort to go.