Magic at the ends of the land, by Emma Burstall

  

Magic at the ends of the land, by Emma Burstall

With its dramatic windswept coastlines, hidden coves, wild and woolly moors and quaint seaside villages, it’s hardly surprising that Cornwall has provided such fertile territory for writers down the years ranging from Daphne du Maurier and Winston Graham to Mary Wesley and Rosamunde Pilcher. 
 
Everywhere you look, there seem to be stories crying out to be told, woven with mystical myths and legends harking back to the county’s Celtic past. Think of King Arthur at Tintagel Castle and Tristram and Iseult, of fierce Cornish giants and mischievous Piskies, of the elusive Beast of Bodmin and the bewitching mermaid of Zennor who, folklore has it, lured a young man away from church to his watery doom.

 
The writer D.H Lawrence, who lived in Zennor for a brief period during World War II, captured the breath-taking magnificence and remoteness of the place in a letter to a friend in 1916: "Cornwall is very primeval: great, black, jutting cliffs and rocks, like the original darkness, and a pale sea breaking in, like dawn. It is like the beginning of the world, wonderful…" 
 
There’s something magical about being at the very end of Britain and on the edge of the continent, staring out at thousands and thousands of miles of ocean. No wonder so many writers, myself included, have felt compelled to reach for our pens and notebooks. 
 
As a child, I had many happy holidays in Cornwall when the sun always seemed to shine and I’d spend entire days swimming, snorkelling, building sandcastles and exploring rock pools and caves with my older sister and younger brother. Bliss! At other times we’d visit colourful, bustling little places like Fowey and Padstow, often pulling up at random farmhouses en route with signs outside enticing you in for a homemade Cornish Clotted Cream Tea.
 
The soft, mellow accents of the locals seemed utterly charming, the ubiquitous palm trees, thrillingly exotic. It was like a foreign country to me and people even looked different somehow: more tanned and rugged, perhaps more authentic. They seemed to be built of hardier, more enduring stuff than us townies. 
 
Of course everywhere seems more appealing when the sun shines and you’re on holiday, and it wasn’t until I was in my twenties and landed my first job as a cub reporter on a Westcountry newspaper that I began to see another, darker side to my favourite county. Popular tourist destinations such as St Ives and Polzeath ooze affluence and charm, so it’s easy to miss the pockets of very real hardship lurking just around the corner.
 
As a young journalist, I came to understand more about the economics of a place that relies so heavily on tourism. In winter, many of the shops, bars and restaurants shut, the surfing schools close and locals are left to cope as well as they can until the seasonal work resumes. It is during these cold months that Cornwall can start to feel really lonely, largely forgotten by the rest of Britain and battered by the unpredictable elements. 
 
All this makes for a fascinating backdrop for a series and 
my fictional village of Tremarnock, though picture-postcard pretty, suffers its own trials and tribulations, ranging from poverty and crime to storms and flooding. It’s during times like this that people pull together and form unbreakable bonds, and I’ve tried in my books to capture some of the heart-warming community spirit that exists in some of the real-life towns and villages around the county.
 
Cornwall isn’t just for the Cornish, either. Most places today are a thrilling mix of folk from all over the UK and abroad, many of whom move there for the warmer climate, the sailing and surfing opportunities or simply because they reckon it’s a better place to live. 
 
When strangers move into a small community, all sorts of things can happen, and it’s this juxtaposition of old and new, strange and familiar that lies at the core of my Tremarnock stories. I hope you enjoy them!

Tremarnock Summer by Emma Burstall is out now in hardback and ebook.