When you’re out and about exploring new places, do you find yourself instinctively drawn to a particular sort of landscape? In spite of yourself, do you sense an affinity with the open, flat countryside of the Fens, or the dramatic ranges of the Peak District? I can’t imagine living anywhere that wasn’t within reach of the sea, but at the same time, I’m in love with the hills and combes, the trees and hedgerows of the West Country.
Do our childhood surroundings imprint us with a love of a certain type of landscape? Even in towns and cities, you’re aware of the topography underlying the buildings and streets. When I used to catch the bus home from work in Islington, I loved the ride northwards, climbing up through Holloway and Highgate to Finchley. But how delighted I was when I first took the Metropolitan Line as far as Uxbridge, to discover so much unspoilt countryside still remaining there.
As a child growing up in the Midlands, I lived on the edge of countryside that was to be completely built over during the 1960s. Kinver Edge was a local beauty spot where we always meant to go for a picnic but somehow never did. Mum and I set off on the bus but got lost, settling for a picnic in a newly mown hayfield instead.
Mum loved the sweeping bleakness of Salisbury Plain but it took me many years to appreciate its sculptural beauty. The train journey between Salisbury and Westbury is a fine way to see the Wiltshire’s downland: not only are these hills full of history – with names like Scratchbury, Battlesbury, Breakheart – but they are simply beautiful, whatever the season.
What’s your favourite landscape? Does it influence what you enjoy reading? Do you gravitate towards books set in a landscape you know, or do you seek somewhere new to explore on the printed page? Probably a mixture of both, but I bet you’ve got a favourite landscape in your heart!