Wessex In Fiction: In The Place of Fallen Leaves

In The Place Of Fallen Leaves is the debut novel by Tim Pears, a coming-of-age tale set on the edge of Dartmoor. It was published in 1993, but set in the drought-ridden summer of 1984, and tells the story of 13-year-old Alison, the youngest daughter of a farming family at the tail end of the family farm era. Reviewers compared the book to the work of William Faulkner and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and it went on to win the Ruth Hadden Memorial Award and the Hawthornden Prize.

The book has a 3.82 rating (out of 5) on Goodreads, where readers have praised it as atmospheric and evocative. Pears continues to draw on his Devon upbringing in his novels.

Obituary: Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia

With the passing of Metropolitan Kallistos on 24th August, the Wessex Society loses the last of its original patrons. Born Timothy Ware just outside Bath in 1934, he later converted from Anglicanism to Orthodoxy. In 1982, he became the first Englishman to be ordained as an Orthodox bishop since the Anglo-Saxon era.

Metropolitan Kallistos was always very supportive of the Society. particularly our work in getting St Ealdhelm recognised as the patron saint of Wessex. Sadly, the Orthodox Church does not have a formal process for getting someone recognised as the patron saint of a particular place, but he intimated in an interview with the Wessex Chronicle (volume 14, issue 1) that he would use the title in his prayers, both private and liturgical.

He died peacefully at his home in Oxford, aged 87, marking the end of another link to the Society's early history.

Wessex Attractions: Bourton-on-the-Water

Bourton-on-the-Water is known as "the Venice of the Cotswolds" due to the five bridges, made from the local Cotswold stone, spanning the River Windrush which flows through the village, most of which is a designated conservation area. It is home to a number of attractions including Birdland (which will get its own article in due course), the Cotswold Motor Museum, and a model village, making it a popular destination for tourists and school trips.

The model village is built from Cotswold stone to a 1/9th scale. It has recently undergone a major refurbishment, as some of the buildings were starting to fall into disrepair. A highlight is the model village within the model village, leading to a potentially infinite regression.

The Cotswold Motor Museum features a large collection of classic cars and motorbikes, each with a display giving lots of information about the vehicle concerned. Star of the show is the title character from the BBC children's programme Brum.

As a tourism-oriented Cotswold town (is there any other kind?), Bourton contains plenty of artisanal small businesses, including the Cotswold Perfumery and the Hawkstone Brewery. Meanwhile, for those whose tastes veer towards the macabre, the Bloody Bourton walking tour offers a look at the more gruesome episodes in the village's history.

Last but not least, the River Windrush itself is an unsung attraction. Rising near Winchcombe, it flows for 40 miles (65 km) before reaching the Thames at Newbridge in Oxfordshire. Bourton has plenty of benches and picnic tables where visitors can sit and enjoy the river.

The Character of Wessex: Yeovil Scarplands

Sandwiched in between the Mendip hills, and the heaths and vales of Dorset commonly known as "Hardy country", the Yeovil Scarplands are characterised by steep limestone and sandstone ridges separating a series of clay vales, with the rivers Yeo, Brue and Parrett draining into the Somerset Levels. It is most notable for producing Ham Hill stone, which is used to construct a number of buildings and other structure in the region, including the Hamdon Hill war memorial illustrated above (photo: Jim Champion).

Less than 5% of this National Character Area (NCA) is settled, though Yeovil itself is a fast-growing urban centre, which threatens the character of the surrounding countryside, particularly on the east side of the town. Smaller towns and villages are often connected by sunken lanes known as holloways.

The area is a cider-producing region with many orchards, though their traditional character is somewhat threatened by the introduction of newer varieties of apple tree.

The area also contains East Coker, memorialised by TS Eliot, who is buried there. The East Coker Society is active in preserving the village's heritage, in a way that should be an inspiration to other Wessex communities.

Wessex on Screen: Shadowlands

Shadowlands is a 1985 BBC TV movie written by William Nicholson that was later adapted as a 1989 stage play, and then a 1993 cinema film starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger. The stage play debuted at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth, before transferring to the West End and Broadway.

All three versions tell the story of Oxford don CS Lewis, and his surprising relationship with American divorcee Joy Gresham after a lifetime of bachelorhood. It was based largely on Lewis's book A Grief Observed, which details his reaction to Gresham's subsequent death from cancer, and his struggle to reconcile his Christian faith with her suffering.

The stage version remains a perennial favourite of amateur dramatic groups to this day, perhaps due to the universality of its theme of bereavement. The film version has a 97% rating on the review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes at the time of writing.