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A Creative Setting, Frozen in Time

View from the Cabin, Bucks Mills, North Devon

View from the ground floor window of the Cabin, Bucks Mills

The Cabin at Bucks Mills in North Devon, a National Trust property, is rarely open to the public. It is a memorial to two local artists, Judith Ackland and Mary Stella Edwards, who followed the traditions of British romantic landscape painting. Their studio remains exactly as it was left decades ago, frozen in time.  I am one of seven local authors who have been invited to use it over the coming holiday weekend and take inspiration from it.

Devon artists, Judith Ackland & Mary Stella Edwards

Local Devon artists, Judith Ackland & Mary Stella Edwards

The stone-built cabin is tucked away in a secluded spot, on the cliff-side above the East Lime-kiln, in the hamlet of Bucks Mills. It’s surrounded by a rugged, natural landscape: the westward-facing sea, a shingle beach and towering Devon cliffs. It is an ideal spot, as Mary Stella Edwards said, for ‘the spring light on the high land.’

By contrast, the inside of the cabin is quite spartan and purely functional (and no electricity), apart from a dresser of pretty patterned cups and plates which add a splash of colour. It was the two women’s studio between 1935-1971. After Judith Ackland’s death in 1971 the cabin was abandoned. It looks, however, as if they have just stepped out and intended to come back.

Artists materials Ackland/Edwards

Original artists’ materials used by Judith Ackland and Stella Edwards

Hopefully, we authors will find our own muse in the location and setting. I wonder whether we’ll feel the spirit of Judith Ackland and Mary Stella Edwards encouraging us?

Authors Ruth Downie, Janet Few, Susan Hughes, Wendy Percival, PJ Reed, Liz Shakespeare and Pamela Vass will be at the cabin over the May Day Bank Holiday Weekend, 29 April-1 May 2017, 10am – 4pm.

Crockery in the Cabin, Bucks Mills

Crockery in the Cabin, left untouched for decades


The Ackland-Edwards Collection of watercolours, drawings and dioramas of local topographical or historical interest, is on permanent display at The Burton Art Gallery and Museum in Bideford, North Devon.


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Only Connect: Inspiration from WW1

A Kiss from France WW1 NovelWhen I picked out a hundred year old silk postcard from among my late grandmother’s possessions, I had no idea that it would lead me to a WW1 battle, a scandal which many believed caused the Liberal government to fall in 1915 and a tiny detail about a dangerous munitions factory – and to writing my debut novel, ‘A Kiss from France’.

Initially, the postcard fascinated me and I often found myself looking at it because of its romantic greeting.  Gradually an idea began to take root in my mind and prompted me to find out more about the circumstances in which the sender and recipient might have found themselves between 1914-1918.

Picture of a WW1 embroidered silk postcard

I discovered that a scandalous shortage of ammunition shells, after the battle of Neuve Chapelle (1915), was one of the reasons the British government was brought down and that it led to the establishment of munitions factories to increase armaments production.  When Conscription (1916) took away most of the able-bodied men who had not already enlisted, hundreds of thousands of women rallied to the call to step up and support the war effort by making munitions. I became interested in these women’s stories. Then I picked out a tiny nugget of information, which lit the imaginative spark. These munitionettes (as the female munitions workers became known) put ‘Good Luck’ notes in random boxes of ammunition shells, destined for the British Army fighting in Europe.

Imagined letter from a WW1 munitionette

My imagined letter from a WW1 munitionette

Suddenly, there it was! I saw a British Tommy standing in a trench, finding one of these notes from a girl he had never met and sending a patriotic silk postcard in reply. Immediately I knew this was going to provide the inciting incident for the whole novel and that all of the twists and turns in the story would stem from this – and also that the romantic greeting on the postcard I had in my possession would be the title of my novel.

 A Kiss from France is available as an e-book or paperback from Amazon. Paperback is also available to order from bookshops.




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