'The past is never dead...'
For me, the setting for a book is almost another character – and for The
Cheesemaker’s House, where the reader is asked to travel seamlessly from present
to past, having a real setting was most important.
The Cheesemaker’s House (not its real name) exists. The layout of the house, garden
and barn are exactly as Alice finds them when she first moves in. As is its position
on the village green. Although I had only visited the house a few times it was stamped
indelibly on my mind. Through Alice I came to live there myself, which made it
incredibly hard to say goodbye when we finally came to the decision to put it on
Most of the action takes place in the village of Great Fencote and the surrounding
countryside, a beautiful stretch of farmland on the western banks of the river Swale,
with the Yorkshire Moors rising in the distance behind it. Some of the places are real;
St Andrews Church, the Black Horse pub in Kirkby Fleetham, to name a few. Others
are not. Locals will be quick to point out that there is no vicarage in Great Fencote
and no old bridge over the Swale, but that’s the joy of fiction – if you need
somewhere, you can pluck it from your imagination.
The market town of Northallerton features prominently. It is one of the friendliest places I have ever visited and I am sure Alice would have been made very welcome there. Barkers department store exists and I remembered an alleyway of shops nearby – no Caffe Bianco, sadly. But I was slightly spooked on a visit to the town after the book was finished to discover a tea room only a few streets away in a similar location.
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