Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase

IMG_2792

Obviously a book cover can have me at ‘hello’ but does anyone else get seduced by the title of a novel? I think the name Black Rabbit Hall promises so much intrigue, so much magic. This was a book I wasn’t willing to wait until it came out in paperback for. I bought it hot off the hardback press, just in time to sit by my mums swimming pool in France and devour, along with copious glasses of kir royale.

Amber Alton is about to pass a summer in Cornwall at Black Rabbit Hall, her London family’s country estate where no two clocks read the same. Summers there are perfect, timeless. Not much ever happens. Until, one stormy evening in 1968, it does. The idyllic world of the four Alton children is shattered. Fiercely bonded by the tragic events, they grow up fast. But when a glamorous stranger arrives, these loyalties are tested. Forbidden passions simmer. And another catastrophe looms…Decades later, Lorna and her fiance wind their way through the countryside searching for a wedding venue. Lorna is drawn to a beautiful crumbling old house she hazily remembers from her childhood, feels a bond she does not understand. When she finds a disturbing message carved into an old oak tree by one of the Alton children, she begins to realise that Black Rabbit Hall’s secret history is as dark and tangled as its woods, and that, much like her own past, it must be brought into the light. A thrilling spiral into the hearts of two women separated by decades but inescapably linked by Black Rabbit Hall. A story of forgotten childhood and broken dreams, secrets and heartache, and the strength of a family’s love.

Black Rabbit Hall is a gothic, romantic tale told from the two perspectives of present day Lorna and 1960s Amber, seamlessly moving between the two eras. It’s so atmospheric, full of beautiful descriptions of the old house and it’s glorious surroundings. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

 

 

Advertisements

A Bookish Tour of Lacock: Harry Potter

IMG_0734

I need to confess something. I was one of those people who sneered at adults reading ‘those children’s books’ before I saw the first Harry Potter film. I went into the film sneering and I came out of the film frantically back peddling, and trying to factor in a trip to the book shop so I could buy The Chamber of Secrets on the way home from the cinema.  From then on I obsessively read every book as soon as they were published. In fact we even had to make an elaborate detour to visit Exeter Waterstones during our first family holiday with our new son to buy Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (July 16th, 2005 to be precise).

We discovered the beautiful National Trust owned village of Lacock when we moved nearby to Bradford on Avon 10 years ago and it fast became one of our favourite days out.

On out first visit to the Cloisters of Lacock Abbey we saw a sign propped up, proudly declaring that some scenes from the Harry Potter films had been shot in that very location. As soon as I got home I searched the internet for more information and discovered that several scenes from The Philosopher’s Stone, The Chamber of Secrets and The Half-Blood Prince had been shot all over the village.

One grey day in October the children and I (with my husband rolling his eyes in the background) combed through those films and freeze-framed the scenes that we thought looked likely to have been shot at Lacock. A bit more internet searching showed us exactly where to hunt and we planned a Halloween trip to see the locations in real life.

IMG_4885

I thought there might be some likeminded Harry Potter fans who might like to share our excitement, so I’ve produced a map a tour of the village so you too can follow in Harry’s (and Dumbeldore’s, Snape’s, Slughorn’s, Ron’s, Hermione’s…) footsteps.

A Harry Potter Tour of Lacock

If it’s a nice day, pack a picnic. If it’s not, pack a picnic anyway if you don’t mind getting wet, or eat at the tearooms or one of the pubs, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

When you arrive on the outskirts of Lacock, follow the signs to the National Trust car park and park there (small charge for the day, or free if you’re a member of the NT).

Follow the signs to the village, cross a road and walk through a small wooded area, you’ll come out onto a pavement on the other side of the road from the Abbey entrance.

IMG_0763

At the entrance to Lacock Abbey and Cloisters you can decide if you want to just explore the grounds and cloisters which also includes the Fox Talbot museum (that’s what we do!) or go into the house as well.

Interior scenes from The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets were filmed in the Cloisters and the rooms off it, you’ll probably recognise it if you’ve watched the films 12,000 times like we have.

IMG_0732

Small child, massive cauldron.

 

 

The Warming Room, which houses a real 16th century cauldron, was used as Professor Quirrel’s Defence against the Dark Arts classroom in The Philosopher’s Stone.

The Chapter House was where Harry comes across the Mirror of Erised in The Philosopher’s Stone. It was also a classroom in The Chamber of Secrets where Harry speaks Parseltongue.

The Sacristy was Professor Snape’s Potions classroom in The Philosopher’s Stone.

The Cloisters walk is where Harry confronts Lucius Malfoy and tricks him into freeing Dobby in The Chamber of Secrets. And again it’s used for when Harry hears the basilisk’s voice after leaving Lockhart’s detention in the same film.

IMG_0731

Once you’ve finished in the cloisters, go out and explore the grounds. There are lots of interesting little nooks and crannies to discover.

Leaving the abbey, turn right and then right again onto East Street. You can pop into the 14th century Tythe Barn and sometimes there is a craft market just beyond here on your right. At the end of East Street take a right onto Church Street, past the church and at the end of the road you’ll see The Potter’s house  (in Godrick’s Hollow) which appears in flashback in The Philosopher’s Stone when Harry’s parents were killed by Voldemort in their attempts to keep Harry safe.

IMG_2323_2

Do remember people live in the houses in Lacock so please keep a respectful distance and try to avoid peering through windows!

Retrace your steps back along Church street. Lacock Bakery is on the right hand side sells cakes and refreshments. We also like to buy a Harry Potter inspired chocolate frog from there to keep us going.

IMG_4891

At the end of Church Street turn right up Cantax Hill. Here you will find the beautiful red brick Muggle house which is where Horace Slughorn hid from Death Eaters in The Half Blood Prince in the village of Budleigh Babberton. He was discovered by Dumbledore and Harry cleverly concealed as an armchair.

IMG_4887

Leaving the house, walk back along Cantax Hill and keep going back to the junction with Church Street. Here is where Babberton Square was located, where Dumbledore and Harry aperate at the beginning of The Half-Blood Prince. A large stone cross was built and placed in the middle of the road for the filming.

Further along West Street you’ll come to The George Inn where you can stop for a coffee.

Keep walking a little further and turn right, there are a few shops set back, one of which is Barty’s of Lacock. Part of Wiltshire Scrap Store, it is an absolute treasure trove of crafty stuff. You can buy the materials to make your own wand, or cat or frog decorations.

You’re now at the end of our Harry Potter tour and you’re probably ready for that picnic, or lunch in a cafe. Head left down High Street, past the school and you’ll see Lacock Stores & Post Office on your right where you can buy drinks and snacks. If you turn right at The Red Lion you can eat a slap-up meal there or opposite is the Stable Tearoom, where you can buy sandwiches, soup, cakes and coffee as well as ice-creams.

The picnic area is the next right on the way back to the car park. There’s a lovely little play area there too for little ones who still need to run off some energy.

The tour will probably take 1.5 – 2 hours if you take in lunch and a good explore of Lacock Abbey and grounds too.

As a side note, if Lacock looks even more familiar, it has been used as a filming location for many other productions, including: the 1995 adaption of Pride and Prejudice, The Mayor of Casterbridge, The Other Boleyn Girl, Cranford, Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Emma.

Hope you have a magical time!