Reading around my area

I am very lucky to live in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty called the Surrey Hills.  I am an in-comer to this area, but having now lived here for several years I definitely feel like this is home.  Despite its reputation as serious commuter-belt-land, Surrey is one of the most wooded counties in Britain.  Lodged between the North and South Downs those of us who live in this part of Surrey are fortunate enough to enjoy the woodland, ancient heathland and commons that haven’t changed in generations.

I absolutely adore these outdoor areas and appreciate the efforts and commitment of organisations such as The National Trust, Natural England and The Surrey Hills Board to maintain and keep them open to people like me.

I recently read a quote by a writer who said “place has such a huge influence on writers” and it got me thinking.  Places like the Surrey Hills are inspiring to artists in all forms of media.  Maybe not as much as the Yorkshire Moors and Dales, the Lake District or the Cornish coast, but still beautiful enough to get some creative juices flowing.

As part of my blog I’ve decided to start a little feature looking at writers who were or are from here, lived here at some point or set their works of fiction nearby.  By here I mean within half an hour of where I live, which takes in most of the Surrey Hills and a bit of the South Downs (the UK’s newest national park).

Having done some research I have put together a list of writers born or who lived in this area.  It’s a short list at the moment and only includes one living writer but is quite interesting and varied.  Here is a flavour:

  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle built a home in Hindhead where he lived for 10 years.
  • Aldous Huxley was born and partly educated in Godalming.   His ashes are interred in the village of Compton nearby.
  • HG Wells spent much of his childhood in Midhurst
  • Jane Austen lived in Chawton near Alton
  • Louis de Bernières grew up in the village of Hambledon
  • Flora Thompson lived and worked as a Post Mistress in a village near to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s house
  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson had a home on Blackdown Hill near Haslemere where he lived during his years as Poet Laureate
  • Lewis Carroll owned a house in Guildford for over 30 years
  • Edward Thomas lived in Steep before the First World War
Tonight I am hoping to attend an event at my local library as part of World Book Night showcasing local authors, so I may meet some writers living and working in the area today. 

I might not post about everyone on the list but my idea is to write a piece about the writer and over the following weeks review a couple of their works and discover how their surroundings have influenced their writing, if at all.

I’m going to start with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and hope to write an initial post about him and his famous home, Undershaw sometime later this week.

I’ve added a map so you can see the places I will be talking about and follow my little journey!

Watch this space!

(pics my own)

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4 thoughts on “Reading around my area”

  1. What an interesting idea. I think I would probably do better with authors who’ve lived around Cambridge, where I live now, rather than in Essex, where I grew up! You’ve got a very good list there, what with Arthur Conan Doyle, Aldous Huxley, HG Wells… Have you read Arthur and George by Julian Barnes? Only I think it must be set all around your area. It’s several years since I read that book and alas, I can’t remember the details!

    1. I did read Arthur and George some years back. It follows ACD’s investigation into the case of George Edalji, a man accused of writing threatening letters and animal mutilation. He took up this cause in the latter years of his life at Undershaw. I’m sure Cambridge is as rich in writers as this area.

  2. What a wonderful idea! I look forward to reading them all. My only contribution is a comment I came across about Sherlock Holmes, that far from investigating crimes in urban London, he spent much of his time in the Home Counties. I don’t know if that would include Hindhead. And more maps please!

  3. I love your challenge! I live just off the top of your map, but I’d love to read books set/influenced by Surrey. I haven’t found any good ones yet. Let me know when you come across any.

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