“Noon was chill and misty when they reached the park. Although a scattering of hopeful crocuses had pushed their way through the grassland, the chill damp of winter continued to hang in the air. She had swathed herself in a woolly scarf and hat. Only her eyes and broad cheekbones were showing, invigorated by the fresh air. Kurt had thrown on a thin fleece. She could see him visibly relaxing as they left the traffic-filled streets and entered the wide green space of the park.”
This is a passage from The Antique Love, and it’s the part where the two main characters, Penny and Kurt, first take a walk in London’s Richmond Park.
When I first started writing this story, I had a vague idea of the characters and setting. I always find it strange how my vague ideas seem to solidify, and how everything comes together eventually to fit the theme of my novel.
Richmond Park is the largest Royal Park in London, and it hasn’t changed much for hundreds of years. It was originally grassland and common land used by the people, but was established as a Royal Park by Charles I in 1625. Charles came to Richmond to escape the plague in the city. He loved the hunting there so much, he decided to turn the place into his own park, and he walled it in with eight foot stone walls. As you can imagine, his decision wasn’t too popular with the commoners who’d been using it. The King allowed pedestrians a right of way, though, which was big of him. To this day, the walls remain, and the Park is still full of deer – although the Queen and her family no longer hunt them :)
Nowadays Richmond Park is open to the public twenty four hours a day. If ever you are in London, it’s a fabulous place to visit. Although it’s surrounded by houses and tower blocks, once inside the massive park you could honestly believe you are in the country. The landscape includes hills, woodland gardens, grasslands and ancient trees, and the wildlife is astonishing. The Park is most famous for its herds of deer, but it is also a National Nature Reserve, a European Special Area of Conservation and a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and absolutely teems with wildlife of all sorts.
So why did I choose Richmond Park as one of the settings in The Antique Love? Well, first of all there was the sense of history. Penny is an antique dealer, and has a vivid imagination. She loves to immerse herself in the past, and to picture how the people and places must have been in those days. My hero, Kurt, doesn’t share her imagination – but he loves to hear Penny speak.
For his part, Kurt loves the outdoors. “I don’t like to feel boxed in,” is a phrase Kurt repeats in the novel. Kurt is reserved, but when he gets into the park with Penny, he begins to open up to her for the first time.
I love to incorporate the setting in the theme of my writing, and in Richmond Park I found the perfect place for love to blossom between Penny and Kurt. It can be a magical place to visit. If you’d like to see some more photos, I can recommend the aptly named Richmond Park Photos, which shows some beautiful images. You can also see the Park by satellite with Google Maps.
As Kurt goes on to say in The Antique Love, Richmond Park can be a wonderful place for city-dwellers to escape all the stresses of city life. According to this article in The Daily Mail, one young woman found the park such a healing place to visit after suffering from depression, she actually had a map of it tattooed on her thigh!
(Although it’s not always stress free – Richmond Park was also the scene of internet sensation Fenton the dog )
Richmond Park is one of the world’s great city parks, with an ancient history, and an important landscape for wildlife lovers and Londoners still today. I loved the idea of it playing a role in my novel, and becoming part of the relationship between my hero and heroine.
I hope you liked my introduction to The Antique Love, and its setting in RIchmond Park. Are there any settings in novels that remain with you long after reading? Is the setting important to you, as a reader, or as a writer? Do you enjoy reading novels where the setting is part of the theme? If you have any views or comments, I’d love to hear from you.