Monday, 29 December 2014

Goatsucker Harvest: stunning settings beyond Doncaster the unwary traveller seldom dares to explore!

The Stainforth & Keadby Canal at Thorne
Information Board by English Nature showing the Nightjar (aka "goatsucker") to lure you onto wonderful Thorne Moors
I hope many of you are already enjoying exploring the haunting setting of "Goatsucker Harvest" in your mind's eye. I know some of you are, even though it's not been published for a whole week yet!

I know because I've already been chided for interfering with people's Christmas preparations, for encroaching on people's sleep late into the night with Kindles under the sheets and for lowering people's body temperature with the description of life on a Humber Keel in the middle of an icy February in that first chapter!

As soon as I first ventured out onto Thorne Moors, on the Humberhead Levels, back in the summer of 2005, my imagination was possessed and senses thrilled by this fragile and extraordinary wilderness wonderland. It crept into my psyche, whispering in the voices of my ancestors who lived and died around these bleak peatlands stretching for miles in every direction around Doncaster, to Thorne, Fishlake, Stainforth, Hatfield, Crowle, Epworth, Belton, Goole and Rawcliffe to the north.

Many of my people, like Thirza Holberry's family in "Goatsucker Harvest", were keelmen and women, mariners and water gypsies, born to live and work on the boats that came inland on the Stainforth and Keadby Canal, the River Don and the South Yorkshire navigation waterways that zigzag across the peaty dykes and warp drains,  joining this weird flat landscape to the restless North Sea.

Beware of adders - a warning Thirza learns to heed from Bram in "Goatsucker Harvest" chapter 9!
Other characters in the book share their names, their sensibilities, their occupations with my own people who scraped a living from this forgotten paradise of Northern England, still the largest area of raised peat bog wilderness in lowland Britain, land partially reclaimed by the Dutch drainage engineers under Sir Cornelius Vermuyden in the 17th century.

This bizarre backdrop is home to as many rare and precious creatures and plants as you will find anywhere in the UK: nightjars (the "goatsuckers" of the title), adders, lizards, dragonflies, cottongrass and sphagnum mosses. Somewhere in the region of 4,000 animal and plant species live here, including 25 of the rarest of all found in Britain, like the giant raft spider and the mire pill beetle.

If you aren't able to come to the moors today, why not explore with me in your wildest imagination? The landscape of "Goatsucker Harvest" is waiting for you, seldom travelled by the faint of heart, full of hidden treasures and unnerving mystery, be it unseen menace or life-enhancing transformation.

Purple Vetch and Bracken on Thorne Moors
Noticeboard showing the Nightjar (aka "goatsucker") on Thorne Moors [English Nature]
Path towards Thorne Moors: the drama of the Levels
Peatland path across Thorne Moors
A wonderfully wet wilderness
'GOATSUCKER HARVEST' by Joyce Barrass is available here on Kindle

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