Research in England

I just returned from a trip to England, where my husband and I walked on the Shropshire Way with a group of friends. Afterward, we visited several towns so I could get a firsthand look at architecture, artifacts, landscape, history, and anything else to help me create believable settings for my books. Here are some highlights:


North Tower

Situated in Derbyshire, it overlooks the River Dove. The first recorded history of the castle dates from 1071, when the Normans wanted to establish their authority across the midlands. It is best known as the place in which Mary Queen of Scots was held prisoner on four separate occasions, which is why I wanted to see it. John of Gaunt, who became the Duke of Lancaster, is also associated with the castle. If you’ve read the much beloved novel, Katherine, by Anya Seton, you’ll recognize that name.


Our walking trip ended in Ludlow, where Ludlow Castle dominates the landscape. The highlight for me was seeing a performance of Twelfth Night at the castle. To the left is a view of it as we approached on foot after a long day of walking (12.5 miles). I was so happy to see it!


Originally known as Coalbrookdale, Ironbridge is now home to ten different museums. It boasts the first cast iron bridge in the world. Primarily a recreation of the Victorian experience, Ironbridge also features the “Darby houses,” fine examples of Georgian architecture. Ironbridge would make a lovely setting for a novel!

Rosehill House, Ironbridge


After two buses and four train rides, we arrived in Haslemere, in Surrey. The high street is charming, though it’s tough to envision how it would have looked in the nineteenth century. There are several wonderful examples of half-timbered and tile-hung buildings, with the lush backdrop of the Surrey downs.

View from our B&B, Foxhill House, Haslemere

There’s a helpful article in the August issue of The Writer titled, “Use Your Camera As Your Notebook,” by Tanya Egan Gibson. I wish I’d read it before the trip. She gives some great tips about things to photograph you may not necessarily think of, such as the ground, the sky, and different kinds of light and shadow. She suggests photographing from multiple angles and perspectives.

During my visits to all these sites, I did take dozens of photographs. But I wish I’d thought about some of these less obvious views to capture while I was at it.

How do you use photographs to help with your writing?

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