Friday, November 28, 2014

Adventure stories inspired by Portland and Chesil Beach by Carol Hunt

Chesil Beach is a fantastic place with a history of shipwrecks, sea monsters, smugglers and pirates. This intriguing history inspired The Portland Chronicles, my time-travelling stories for children set on the Isle of Portland, following the adventures of Isabel, her annoying little sister Suzie, a badly behaved sheepdog called Gregor, and Ryder, a local surfer.

Chesil reaches in a giant arc of pebbles from Portland to West Bay. Its bank of jewel-bright stones shields Chiswell and Ferrybridge from the Atlantic storms, but the many shipwrecks that lie within the arc of Chesil are evidence of the deadly power of its waves.

Intriguingly it is home to the Veasta, a mysterious sea monster that inspired my first story, The Portland Sea Dragon. The Veasta was first seen in 1457 and its last recorded sighting was on the day of the solar eclipse in 1999. Flintlock, my 17th-century smuggler, describes it as a fiendish creature that rises from Chesil waves: ‘Some folk see a great fish with a curved tail. Others a giant sea horse.’

Inspired by this strange monster and the ever-changing seas of West Bay, the Portland Sea Dragon is a green and gold sea-weedy creature. In the story, Isabel travels into the past, encountering smugglers, witches and a sinister mermaid, to find this elusive dragon. Lucky Isabel flies with the dragon along Chesil Beach, heading into the mists of Moonfleet country.

The Portland Sea Dragon.
Artist Domini Deane worked closely with Carol to get the dragon just right.
Smugglers and pirates have long been associated with Chesil Beach. Smugglers arriving late at night on the dangerous, sloping bank could tell their exact position from the size of the stones, and pirate ships lie beneath the waves.

One of the 'pirate' headstone in the old graveyard of ruined St Andrew’s Church above Church Ope Cove. Photo taken from Dorset Voices, by photographer Scott Irvine.
In Portland Pirates, while marauding pirates are busy a’piratin’ the Isle, Isabel finds their ghost ship, the Fortune, lurking off Chesil Beach, its honey-coloured wood gleaming in the golden light of the famous Chesil sunset.

          I grew up on Hayling Island, in some ways a similar world to the Isle of Portland. I was often free to roam and explore, to study the sea and its moods, dreaming of ghostly pirate ships, bottles with secret messages and terrifyingly huge waves.

Cave Hole on Portland

About Carol

Carol took a degree in English Literature and History at University College, Chichester, trained as a teacher, and worked in publishing for several years in Petersfield. She left work to bring up her three children and moved to Portland in 2005, then later to Wyke Regis. She has been adviser to young people for Connexions South Central and Waves, Weymouth, and enjoys meeting youngsters and talking to them. She regularly gives talks to school children about her inspiration and writing.

Carol also writes a blog and is on Facebook and Twitter.
For an interview with her see Cyderscribes.

The Portland Chronicles

‘Carol has the knack of bringing to life the local myths of the island, in such a way that a girl of 66 can enjoy the fantasy of it all. In this story, Suzie even shares my enthusiasm for cats!’
(Barbara aged 66)

‘I love spotting the real place names in Portland Pirates. Now I want to go to Portland Bill and look for the mermaid.’
(Madelaine aged 9)

‘I like it that it’s kind of a ghostly pirate ship and crew from the past, but they’re also real, raiding the shops and eating baked beans. The chapter endings are good cliffhangers, you wonder what’s going to happen next.’
(William aged 11)

Her series of four books can be read in any order. And so you can explore some of the places and things she mentions on Portland, each book contains a unique map, designed by local artist Domini Deane, who also drew the beautiful motifs inside the book and painted the stunning covers.

Her books are on sale locally and available from publisher Roving Press

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Roving Press - November Newsletter

Roving Press – Remembering Dorset  Newsletter

Some of our local-history books look back at life in Dorset in days gone by, so we've featured them in this month’s ‘Remembering’ Newsletter, along with some literary snippets and events coming up.
Dorchester Remembers front cover image
by Brian Bates

A good read this centenary year and a great social history of the time. Author royalties are being given to charities Sense and Sightsavers.
Brian’s book tells the stories of local individuals and their families, highlighting the large part the military played in the life of the town. It’s hard to imagine Dorchester as a garrison town with regimental buildings (long gone), barracks and Royal Horse Artillery. Not many people know that Dorchester had the largest German PoW camp in Britain – on Poundbury hill-fort.
Helen Hartely, writing in Dorchester Parish Magazine, says: ‘many people are feeling the need to search for local and personal connections to 1914 … The book is an excellent place to start. Brian Bates has traced all those who are commemorated on the WWI memorial in Dorchester, and the result is a fascinating book stuffed full of ordinary and extraordinary local lives.’
Various local events are taking place to commemorate the centenary year. Brian often gives talks and walks exploring this hidden side of Dorchester. Contact us if you’d like to get in touch with him. The other day he was at Puddletown First School talking about the part played by children and animals in the Great War. Brian says, ‘It was a very rewarding experience. The 7–9 year olds were the most enthusiastic bunch; I could have spent another couple of hours with them!’
      Brian has also given some material to use on the cards of a geocache around Dorchester, devised by Dorchester Youth Association.
Fordington Remembered: Growing up in and around Dorchester
by David J. Forrester

Dee Adcock, reviewing the book inBlackmore Vale Magazine, describes it as ‘... a vivid and affectionate look back at the good old bad old days of a post-war childhood ... the fun and freedom of growing up in and around Dorchester ... Sunday School, singing with St George’s Church choir, market days, mischief and memories of characters and places now gone or transformed add up to a delightful account of the county town and its unruly neighbouring parish in the 1940s and 1950s ... full of fine old photographs that will take many a reader down Memory Lane with David as the perfect companion.’
The book has featured much in the Dorset Echo; see Harry Hogger’s write-up, among others. 
Thanks to everyone who bought a copy, David recently presented cheques to the Rotary Foundation and Dorset ME Support Group amounting to £450 from his author royalties.

Interest in his book on Fordington has been so great that David is now working on a second book, incorporating interviews with people, recording their oral histories of the Mill Street area of Dorchester (Thomas Hardy’s Mixen Lane). See our Roving Press blog.

Anyone with memories of Mill Street should call David on 01305 250882, or to help with the project contact Mill Street Housing Society (01305 261622). 
Discover Old Swanage
by David Haysom

Explore Swanage through old photographs, following seven different routes around the town. The 350+ photos, old advertisements and maps depict local people, businesses and buildings, some of whom/which are still around today. It captures the story behind the photos, and the author has really done his homework researching and providing intriguing, detailed captions. It’s a real social history and a great way to explore Swanage.
Purbeck! Journal writes: ‘This qualifies as the surprise book of the decade … it’s an utterly engaging read. … As respected historian and honorary curator of the Swanage Museum, David Haysom is eminently qualified to bring us the story … open at random and you’re hooked. Anyone with even a passing interest in Swanage will find it more than useful as an historical record; it has a genuine ooh-aah factor that is difficult to convey. Time and again I’ve watched as friends pick it up and won’t put it down, delighted by what they’ve discovered – in old Swanage.’

8 Nov - The Art of Travel Writing with Paul Dodgson. A day spent investigating how to turn your travel experiences into sparkling prose. Hear examples of travel writing through the ages and undertake exercises to put what you have learned into practice. Tickets from Bridport Arts Centre: £25.

9–16 Nov – Bridport Literary Festival celebrates its tenth year with a programme of events even more varied and eclectic than before to lighten the days of November.

A new play touring Dorset – Passion: A Story of Love and War – looks at soldiers in WWI up to the present day. As-One Theatre Company’s Jane McKell says: The play at its heart is about the effect of war on families'. Don't miss it.

For Dorset Library events, take a look here.

If you like travel writing, short stories and poetry, see Story Mundo.

South Dorset Ridgeway – join an online discussion blog following the progress of two new reading groups exploring works inspired by and written about the South Dorset Ridgeway. View session notes and discuss the themes explored with other followers online.

Somerset and Dorset Family History Society helps people research their family history. Benefits of membership also include talks, workshops, a quarterly journal, and access to the library and bookshop.

Literary Tourist - a big searchable directory of book stores, literary destinations, activities and events from around the world. It's filled with detailed reviews and information designed to help book-lovers plan their travel.

Literature Live Bulletin lists events, groups, competitions and new publications.
If you have enjoyed this newsletter please share with others and Like/Follow us on social media. All past and present newsletters are now available to view on our blog.

Thanks and regards
Roving Press
© 2014 Roving Press. All rights reserved.
4 Southover Cottages, Frampton, Dorset DT2 9NQ, tel 01300 321531,,
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Monday, November 3, 2014

Roving Press Newsletter (2) - spooky Dorset

Roving Press - October Newsletter

Some of our books have an esoteric angle, so we've featured them in this month’s ‘Halloween’ Newsletter, along with some useful websites and literary events coming up to fill those dark days.
Paranormal Purbeck front cover
by David Leadbetter
‘One of the most fascinating books to have come into my hands for a long time.’ George Willey, Swanage and Wareham Advertiser. Find out why understanding what we term 'paranormal' is of fundamental importance to comprehending the world we live in.
Editor Jerry Bird reviews David's book in Merry Meet: Journal of Folklore & Pagan Heritage. Issue 51 of Merry Meet also features the Swing Riots in Fordington, demise of the White Hart in Dorchester (with a great photo of the old place in Thomas Hardy’s day on the back cover), Stonehenge’s new visitor centre, a handy folklore diary and events, and other book reviews.

Thanks to Geoff Stubbs 
for reviewing Paranormal Purbeck in Purbeck Journal.
Author David Leadbetter is now on Amazon. See also interview at Cyderscribes.

Dorset Life (March issue) features the 'Three Lighthouses Walk’. It's only 1.5 miles to walk round Portland Bill lighthouses.
   To extend it you could tag on one of the walks in Gary Biltcliffe's The Spirit of Portland. Walk 4 takes in Culverwell and Sweet Hill.
    Portland is steeped in myth and legend and Gary does a great job of explaining it all. Here's the map to go with the walk.
Below is an extract from the book describing mysterious Nicodemus Knob.
"Less than a mile north of the Grove is a freestanding pillar left by quarrymen as a monument or marker called Nicodemus Knob. Its height at 30 ft gives a good indication of the vast amount of stone quarried away to provide the building material for the Verne Citadel and Breakwater. Its purpose is uncertain; some believe it to be a landmark for ships, while others say it is a boundary marking the eastern end of the commons.
    Rock columns such as Nicodemus Knob, whether they are natural or man-made, continue to attract the pagan and the ‘sensitive’ in many places around Britain. 
    The aboriginal natives of many countries around the world also revere these formations. In the work of Professor Callahan, stone towers, obelisks, spires and natural rock pillars act as magnetic antennae because their shape and type of stone attract cosmic forces. Alternatively, the pillar could mark a place of sanctity as Mr Pearce mentions that a group of  druidical stones were down in the Weares below Nicodemus Knob. Elizabeth Pearce also refers to these stones in her memoirs (c 1805). While overlooking a gap in the cliff above Nicodemus Knob, she saw the remains of a circle of stones still part-standing that had fallen with the cliff in one of the many landslides."
Dorset Dorset
Dorset History Walk 1 - The Easton Massacre

A walk and look at St George's Church, Reforne, and some of the headstones and stories behind them, thanks to Ian Dick and his blog. The following extract from The Spirit of Portland has more to say about this intriguing Portland place:
"The church is a fine example of Georgian architecture influenced by Wren and built by Thomas Gilbert. Inside the church a metal stud on the floor marks the spot where the circle of St Andrew passes under the dome. The meridian line, mentioned in Chapter 6, passes through the altar, above which is a memorial to Thomas Gilbert. The pentagonal line from Weston Chapel to the Jehovah’s Witness Hall passes through the tower. The stairs up to the gallery take you past an unusual little room in the tower.
    Among the impressive graves in the churchyard is a rather unusual Islamic-style tomb, situated along the northern side of the graveyard. Here is the resting place of two of the main characters who have inspired this book, Clara King Warry and her grandmother Elizabeth Pearce, descendants of the Whit Jutes whose distant ancestors may have originated from the Middle East."

Belinus Line UK

After writing The Spirit of PortlandGary Biltcliffe and partner Caroline Hoare produced a second book – about Britain's longest north–south axis, the Belinus Line. Fascinating!
   Their views are essential reading for anyone with an interest in our sacred landscape and heritage.

Amazon page
YouTube video
From another book to do with 'the Web of Life':  “Spirit is the essence of creation, the unifying force that is present throughout the universe, the energy possessed by all things. Spirit connects us with each other, but also with animals, plants, rocks, water, air, the stars and the space between the stars. It is the skein of being beyond the physical, the otherworld that can be accessed for communication, healing and understanding. ... The fundamental link in the web is energy. All of us are aware of energy on an instinctive level... The extent to which we can be affected by these energetic communications depends upon how receptive we are."
Secret Places of West Dorset
Anyone with an interest in West Dorset's beautiful untouched places should take a look at our book Secret Places of West Dorset. Author Louise Hodgson has taught Landscape and Spirituality at Frome Community College and currently runs a tour company Secret Landscape Tours. For over 30 years she's been exploring Dorset and her most thought-provoking observations are captured in this book.
    Plaque for 'father of witchcraft' unveiled. In Secret Places Louise says:

“Gardner’s work in uncovering the various strands that make up the Craft and his publishing of various rites gained him followers. He formed a coven and started a form of  witchcraft  that became known as ‘Gardnerian’. Many of his ideas were triggered by other magical organisations, such as the Golden Dawn, which were flourishing at the time. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, founded in 1888, incorporated  Masonic, Celtic, Egyptian and Hermetic beliefs into a system of ritual magic. The Order attracted some of the luminaries of the day, including the Irish poet  W.B. Yeats, actress  Florence Farr and the infamous Aleister Crowley, who went on to found his own magical order.”
DORSET DORSET – The Hidden Chapel

In woods above Abbotsbury is a ruined chapel. This special place is on the cover of Louise's book.

Until the dissolution of Netley Abbey in 1538, monks and lay brethren would have farmed Ashley as a secluded outpost of the abbey. A small chapel, dedicated to St Luke, was built near the farm for the use of the community there ... With the dissolution of the abbey, the monks scattered, their abbey dismantled. 
    The chapel would have seen occasional use over a hundred years or so, but as people died or left the area the building became increasingly less frequented. Abandoned, apart from the odd solitary pilgrim, the mediaeval chapel deteriorated as the years passed, becoming increasingly ruinous. The farm and land passed through various owners until 1925 when it was purchased by Sir David and Lady Milne-Watson. The couple built a large house near the farm that they named Ashley Chase. They also took an interest in the chapel. Woodland surrounded the small areas of wall and western gable, all that remained of the chapel, and even that was close to collapse. Efforts were made to shore up the gable and it still stands."
Dorset Folkore 5
The Chesil Beach mermaid

Isn't Dorset folklore great?
Carol Hunt, author of The Portland Sea Dragon and other books in The Portland Chronicles series, bases her stories on Portland’s history and legends, including Veasta, mermaids, black dogs and giants. For an interview with Carol about what inspires her to write see here.

Dark Dorset – Dorset's premier website devoted to local folklore, customs, mysteries and the unexplained
Dorset Paranormal Research Team – focused on spontaneous anomalous phenomena and ghost research
Dorset Dowsers – 
searching for answers to questions that may be out of our view or knowledge
Haunted Wiltshire – for some interesting posts about the paranormal

14–18 Oct – Bridport Open Book Festival
Incorporating the Bridport Prize Awards ceremony, Story Slam, poetry readings, writing workshops and lyrical lunchtimes.

14 Oct – The Dorset Writers' Network Bridport Story Slam at the Beach & Barnicott, South Street, 7.15 for 7.30 pm start. An excellent opportunity for Dorset prose writers to present their work. Register in advance ( or turn up on the night. Names of all those wanting to read their work will be put in a hat and ten drawn during the evening. Each time slot is 5 mins max - roughly 750 words. To ensure fairness to all competitors, this time limit will be strictly enforced! All genres and styles of original prose fiction are welcome. Please note this is not a poetry event. Tickets available only on the door £5. Profits to Dorset Writers’ Network.

15–19 Oct – Sherborne Literary Festival, a week of events for book lovers.

24–26 Oct – Tears in the Fence Poetry Festival. Readings, talks, discussion, music, bookstalls and displays, a Festival Supper and open readings in a large marquee next to the White Horse, Stourpaine.

2 Nov – Literature Works New Writers Conference  
If you are a new or aspiring writer this packed day will provide everything you need to know to get your work through to publication. Tickets £50 incl. lunch and refreshments, early bird £40 before 7 Oct. £30 students with valid NUS card. Tickets via Eventbrite

Literary Festivals – click here for dates and details of over 300 literary festivals.
Let us know if you are involved in any local events, etc. we might mention. And if you enjoy and find any of this useful please share with friends and Like/Follow our social media links below.

Thanks and regards
Roving Press
© 2014 Roving Press. All rights reserved.
4 Southover Cottages, Frampton, Dorset DT2 9NQ, tel 01300 321531,,
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