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Sue Moorcroft: Why I set my new book in North Norfolk

Sometimes my books are set in countries such as Italy or France but for A Summer to Remember I decided on a UK setting.

Why?

It was after reading an article about a tiny village for sale - yes, a whole village! I didn’t follow up the angle of one person buying Nelson’s Bar but my imagination was seized by beautiful cottages, a lack of mobile signal and only scant broadband access. Memories whizzed back to me of family holidays spent in north Norfolk fifteen years ago when mobile phones didn’t work - which can be a good thing - so that’s where I centred my research.

Thornham

Many of the places I travelled between Hunstanton and Wells-next-the-sea turned out to now have a signal, even out on the salt marshes, but I did find a few ‘not-spots’ and as I put Nelson’s Bar up on a headland that protrudes out to sea I was pretty convinced it would be one of these gaps in the connectivity map. (For the avoidance of doubt, Nelson’s Bar exists only in my imagination. I apologise to any resident of Norfolk who objects to the shifting around of scenery in order to accommodate my plot.)

Once the idea had taken hold of a seaside setting in Norfolk for A Summer to Remember I booked into a pub and prepared to be entertained with long walks with my camera and notebook. I’m not sure how much time I spent up and down the A149 but I felt newly in love with villages, beaches and harbours. The weather was glorious too.

A149 road trip

Thornham

Contrary to my expectations, the resorts of Hunstanton and Wells-next-the-sea were not my favourite destinations. They’re lovely places and as traditionally ‘seaside’ as fish ’n’ chips and candy floss but I was looking for the unexpected.

The village of Thornham, in contrast, seized my imagination. I managed to miss the road to the harbour so parked up on The Green and, feeling adventurous, set off across the salt marsh on foot. Under the hot afternoon sun the colours of the reeds and grasses seemed to pop.

Out of earshot of traffic I could hear nothing but the calling of the birds and the soughing of the breeze. The paths were so well sign-posted that even a townie like me could find her way and soon I was at the old harbour. I’d been expecting something much bigger than a creek lined with boats lying on their sides awaiting the tide to set them afloat. Gazing around, I overheard a woman saying sniffily, ‘Not much to look at here!’ What was she talking about? It was beautiful and raw and unspoilt, a perfect walk providing perfect peace.

Thornham
Back in the village I strolled around quiet lanes, taking my photos so I could identify local building materials and native plants later. All I had to do was shrink the village in my imagination and move it off the beaten track and I pretty much had Nelson’s Bar.

I always widen my research outside what I expect to use so spent plenty of time exploring further afield, watching the yachts at the larger harbour of Brancaster Staithe, wandering around the nature reserve at Titchwell, trying out local cafés while I read the literature I had accrued and used the internet to garner something about the history of the area.

I came away perfectly content that I’d made the right decision in setting A Summer to Remember in Norfolk. It was a wonderful, unhurried getaway when I visited on holiday as a young parent and it is still. It would provide my character Clancy with exactly the escape from London she needed and Aaron with a home county to love and be reluctant to leave.

And, you know what? Heading back to Northamptonshire later I was reluctant to leave myself.

Sue Moorcroft's A Summer To Remember is out in paperback with Harper Collins. It's the perfect read for when you visit Norfolk.

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Sue Moocroft's A Summer To Remember

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