Euphoria Photography - Isle of Skye Wedding Photography, in the Highlands and Islands and throughout Scotland

Isle of Skye Wedding Photographer Heads South - on the Monica Edward's Trail Part I
11 May 2015

This month, leaving everything in Roz' capable hands, I took off south with my husband for a much needed break.

We opted to tour England, along with visiting some of my husband's relatives, go into Wales to see his brother but, my husband kindly indulged a life-long desire to visit Rye Harbour, Sussex, early home of the writer Monica Edwards.


Having read her stories since childhood, I was impressed with her vivid and lively description of life in the Romney Marsh area and was especially thrilled to actually stay in her home at The Old Vicarage (now a luxury, welcoming Bed and Breakfast run by Simon and Tracey.)  There you can check out Mr Grey's study, enjoy breakfast in the dining room, figure out which drainpipe Tamzin climbed down in Summer of the Great Secret and find out where the tennis court was.  It was an emotional journey as I discovered, not only the locations I had read about so often but also the real people who had inspired the characters within Monica's books.  In the local graveyard, stands a tall memorial to the crew of the Mary Stamford lifeboat who all lost their lives as they went to help others.


I was to discover that Monica's very first boyfriend - the youngest crew member - died in that tragedy and that, along with other seamen, she found his body washed up.  It was a disaster which need never have happened.  The message to call out the lifeboat was considered a priority, the message to recall it was not.  The crew of the vessel they were to assist were rescued by another ship.  The Mary Stamford crew went on searching needlessly.  It is thought that, as the Mary Stamford was returning home, a crew member may have gone overboard and it is possible that as the lifeboat turned in its search, it sank.  To a small village, not long after a war, the loss and trauma was enormous and the funeral hugely moving.  It is this event upon which Monica centres her Storm Ahead novel.  We made our pilgrimage to the now-disused Mary Stamford lifeboat house.

Monica Edwards

On a lighter note, I got to see the Martello tower which featured in Hidden in a Dream and formed temporary accommodation for family and friends.  

Martello Tower

Camber Castle, now stranded from the sea, was a surprisingly beautiful castle considering it was built as a fort.  It is included, along with Castle Farm, in a number of the author's books including Cargo of Horses and Stranger to the Marsh.  


Nearby Rye - an intriguingly romantic, historic town - also appears in her books including the ancient Mermaid Inn.


However, there is an exciting freedom, exuberance and vitality in her portrayal of her love of marsh, river and sea life.  (Possibly, much of that wild freedom was because her parents forgot to enroll her for school and she did as she pleased!)  


A large area of the shingle and march is now a nature reserve where a variety of birds are safe and prospering, including Sandwich Terns and Little Gulls.  We even were surprised by a leisurely grass snake weaving across our path!

Our hosts, at The Old Vicarage, had a number of books about Monica Edwards and by her.  One was a biography with input from Monica's two children.  I read a good part of this but stopped.  When asked to write her autobiography, Monica had refused saying that everything had been said already in her books.  As I read on into the biography, I felt as though I were intruding into information Monica never endorsed or wanted revealed.  As she had stated, she had portrayed what she wanted known and it seemed to me that she wouldn't have wanted me to read any further.  Simon kindly provided me with a number of vintage photographs of the location from Monica's era.  These enabled me to see how little had changed in the village including The William the Conqueror pub, where I just had to have a ginger ale(!) and the village shop (Smiling Morn's in her novels.)



On a very light note, I turned around from The Old Vicarage to see two intriguing "Town-Crier-type" men, in full costume, disappearing into yes, the Ladies' toilet!  They literally did disappear because moments later, they were nowhere to be seen!!  There's a mystery for Monica!

Norma x



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