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THE HOPE VALLEY, PEAK DISTRICT, DERBYSHIRE

 Readers often ask me why I’ve chosen to set my Edna Reid Investigates books in the Hope Valley area of Derbyshire. (UK) 

  Here are three good reasons.

  1. Because it’s where I grew up. 

  2. Because the Peak District is one of the most beautiful parts of the country and 

   3. It gives me a good excuse to spend time up there doing my research and having a pub lunch in my favourite place, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Castleton. 

  The Hope Valley is part of what is known as the Dark Peak because of the atmospheric gritstone moors, as opposed to the White Peak known for its limestone and rolling dales. 

 Potholers, trekkers, cyclists, hang-gliders and rock climbers are drawn to its challenging terrain in all weathers as well as its fascinating   Blue John caverns. 

 Winnats Pass is mentioned in my books. A steep, winding road cuts through the towering limestone cliffs and provides a spectacular backdrop to any “cosy crime”. Mam Tor, or Shivering Mountain as the locals call it, dominates the landscape and from here you can take the challenging walk to Losehill and down into the village of Hope, the setting for Love Bytes Back.  The fictitious St Hilda’s is based on Hope Parish Church with its splendid Saxon cross. 

 There are plenty of pubs, cafes and restaurants for when you need a well-deserved break from rambling, and my favourite place to stop is nearby Hathersage with its open air lido and a church famous for its brass rubbings. It’s a busy village with strong literary connections. 

 Charlotte Bronte was a regular visitor and included it in her writings. She probably chose the name Eyre (Jane) as it is local to the area. Its industrial past included the manufacture of pins and needles. 

  The Hope Valley line connects the area with Sheffield and Manchester and passes through some of the most stunning scenery. Rugged hillsides and dramatic cliff edges call intrepid walkers and climbers from all over the country. Be sure you have a good pair of boots and a backpack of necessities as the weather can be unpredictable. 

 Why do I love it so much? It connects me with my long-departed grandfather who used to take me to Surprise View, a spectacular viewpoint to watch sunrises and sunsets. It’s also an official Dark Skies spot for star gazing.

  There used to be an ice cream van every Sunday back in the sixties and, of course, I was always treated to whatever I fancied. 

   The Hope Valley is a place for all seasons but my favourite is winter when the snow frosts the peaks – gone are the days of heavy snowfalls of my childhood – and the skies burn with red and gold. I can see my grandad leaning over on one of the many five bar gates and gazing into the distance. He’d say, “You can travel the world but there’s nowt like Derbyshire, m’duck.’

  

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OATCAKES TO DIE FOR!

As a Derbyshire lass, my favourite Saturday treat was an oatcake with bacon and eggs for breakfast. Sometimes, lunch and even tea.  It’s a cross between a pancake and a crumpet and you wouldn’t think that something so humble could cause rivalry across boundary lines. That’s because they make them in Staffordshire too, a bit different, but I’m not going to get into debate here about which are best. Remember though, I’m Derbyshire born and bred.

My Mum made them by mixing ground oatmeal with yeast and water, setting it aside to activate, I think is the term. She added flour, salt and sugar to the batter before pouring some of the mixture into a frying pan to make neat round circles – except hers came out looking like Iceland a lot of the time. 

They are nutritious and so versatile you can fry or grill them and have them with any filling of your choice.  These days my husband makes them for me with gluten free flour, equally as delicious but I’ve always thought there was something missing.

A well -known maker of oatcakes are the folks out at Owlgreave Farm in Comb, a tiny village in the heart of the High Peak. (near Chapel en le Frith and Castleton).  They’ve been producing oatcakes using a recipe with a secret ingredient since 1949. So that’s it. I knew there was something special about the ones we used to buy in Bakewell. 

  In my new novel, Edna’s Death Café, eighty year old Edna runs a café called The Happy Oatcake. Her speciality is the oatcakes from her mother’s recipe. I wanted readers to discover this delicious product for themselves. She so happens to run meetings where locals can talk about the things in  life that make them happy, (oatcakes) and how they feel about their eventual demise. Set against the stunning backdrop of Castleton in a hard winter, the novel explores community, simple pleasures, good food and how to approach the end of life. They chat over tea and, of course, oatcakes. 

I spent a couple of weeks in Castleton in May 2017, staying at the quaint and utterly delightful Oatcake Cottage whilst polishing the book for publication. It was the time of the Garland Ceremony and this is plays a significant part in the novel.  Here’s a link for those of you interested in English history.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castleton_Garland_Day

It was wonderful revisiting old haunts – Hope, Hathersage where I used to swim in the outdoor Lido, Surprise View where I climbed onto the granite boulders with my grandad and ice-creams by the river in Bakewell. I may have travelled round the world since I left Derbyshire in 1974, but my heart belongs in the Peak District which is why I wanted to bring this new book and a little bit of me to my loyal readers and hopefully some new ones this year.

Edna’s Death Café is available from September 5th 2018 from all on-line retailers. The paperback is planned for early next year. 

https://www.troubador.co.uk/bookshop/contemporary/ednas-death-cafe/

Why not get yourself a copy. Put on the kettle and where ever you are in the world, pop an oatcake under the grill and load with your favourite filling. Enjoy.

http://www.derbyshireoatcakes.co.uk/

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Talking About Death, Celebrating Life

YODO! No, it’s not a new greeting. It’s shorthand for You Only Die Once, so why not make it a good death? There has never been a better time to get talking about those “face behind a cushion” topics we’d all rather pretend weren’t going to happen. At least, not to us.

The international Death Cafe movement has been encouraging us to share what’s on our mind about death, dying and bereavement since 2011 when Jon Underwood set up the first Death Cafe meeting in Hackney, washed down with tea and sweetened with a bit of cake. Over 6000 meetings in 56 countries have been held to date but you won’t find negativity on the menu.

It’s a safe space run with no agenda, no aim to convert to a belief or sign up to a philosophy of life (or death). No one is under pressure to do or say anything. No long lectures or guest speakers pontificating, no funeral services representatives trying to sell you a plan. Just you, others like you and the facilitator wanting to share what’s on their mind. To find out about a meeting in your area or to see what’s involved should you want to set one up, visit www.deathcafe.org Follow them on Twitter @DeathCafe

Let’s get back to YODO. Being near Birmingham, I shall be attending A Matter of Life and Death Festival (May 10th – 26th), an arts of cultural programme of events with death as a core theme. BrumYODO is a local collective set up with the aim of helping the people of Birmingham have more open and honest conversations about death and dying. The collective describes themselves as “a growing group of artists, undertakers, food artists, hospices, palliative care professionals and generally all-round interesting folk. http://brumyodo.org.uk/matter-life-death/

So why am I so passionate about the need to talk about all things mortal?

As someone who has suffered from death anxiety (thanatophobia) ever since my Grandad died when I was ten (fifty years ago), I discovered that I wasn’t alone. Part of any fear is driven by not owning it. Bringing it out into the open is one way of disempowering that fear and empowering ourselves. In doing so, we add more value and quality into our daily lives by making every moment count.

            I’ve attended a number of Death Cafe meetings which have provided the inspiration for my latest novel, EDNA’S DEATH CAFE, set in the Derbyshire Peak District, my childhood stomping ground. Fiction can often reach parts that other communication channels cannot. We can be alone with a book, argue with the characters, ponder on their words and reflect on their lives, hopefully to find resonance with ours.

            I’ll be writing more about the book, about bereavement and my work as a newly trained funeral celebrant. I’ll leave you with my favourite bit of philosophy. Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside is while we live. Norman Cousins.

Edna’s Death Cafe will be published by Matador in September 2018. Keep up to date with the news on Twitter. Follow @Angelena Boden @matadorbooks

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