EACH weekend we ask well-known faces from across public life to share their favourite place. This latest instalment sees author Kate Mosse, known for her novels Labyrinth and The Taxidermist’s Daughter, talk about the landscapes that inspire her writing.
Where is it?
The Fishbourne Marshes, an area of outstanding national beauty within Chichester Harbour on the south coast of Sussex.
From the water’s edge, you can see the spire of Chichester Cathedral to the east and the tiny flint-faced church in Fishbourne, to the south the sailing boats at Dell Quay and the magnificent South Downs (pictured above) to the north.
In the centre of the creek, the burnt-out remains of one of the oldest of the Fishbourne Mills can just be seen at low tide.
Why do you go there?
For the shifting landscape, for peace and quiet and solace, for the rugged wildness of the marshland, for the huge skies and views of the Downs in the distance, for the nesting seabirds and the rattle of the reedmace at high tide.
It’s a completely different place depending on the time of day and the season – menacing in the winter, gloriously gold in the autumn, a riot of wildflowers and crops in the spring and early summer.
How often do you go?
During lockdown, I walked there almost every day, watching the changes through the seasons – the white of the blackthorn and hawthorn, the blue-purple of the tide, the trees that line the shore coming into leaf, the wheat in the fields.
It’s the landscape of my imagination and has inspired several short stories and my novel The Taxidermist’s Daughter, which I’ve adapted for Chichester Festival Theatre – it’s proving quite a challenge to put this unique and wild landscape on stage, water and all.
How did you discover it?
I grew up in Fishbourne in the 1960s and 1970s, so it’s always been there. The marshes and surrounding countryside were our playground.
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Long summer nights when school had broken up, feeding the birds at the duck pond at the head of Fishbourne Creek in winter, walking to church on Sunday over the narrow wooden bridges and trying to keep our socks and shoes dry.
What’s your favourite memory?
Playing hide-and-seek in the reed beds with my sisters, swimming in the creek when the tide was high, making camps and walking single file along the old sea wall above the sluice gates and pretending to be explorers.
Who do you take?
My memories of my parents, who I loved and miss hugely – I feel close to them in this shared landscape. Since moving home in the late 1990s, I’ve loved walking there with my own children, now grown-up, and more recently, my ageing West Highland Terrier.
What do you take?
A notebook and pencil – I do my best writing when I’m walking. Also, my binoculars. Although I still have failed to learn many names or calls, I love birds and attempting to identify them.
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What do you leave behind?
Noise. I walk mostly alone and in silence – no music, no podcasts or telephone conversations. I love watching the swans in the spring, sometimes as many as a 100 pairs come to nest on the marshes.
Sum it up in five words.
Inspirational. Challenging, Timeless. Secluded. Peaceful.
What other travel spot is on your wish list?
I’d love to spend more time in Japan – I’ve only passed through on book tours, so I would like to stay a while and hear the voices in that very different landscape.
The City of Tears by Kate Mosse is published by Pan Books, out in paperback, £8.99