Hell Bay with Kate Rhodes
There are some locations with such brilliant names that you think they’re made up – Mousehole, Luss, Narnia…ok that last one might be fictional but Hell Bay is a location in Kate Rhodes’ latest book that is very real indeed and the name conjures up exactly what the place is like …in the story at least.
But THE BEST NAME EVER is actually on the smallest of the Scilly Isles….the only bar is called FRAGGLE ROCK!! Yes! That’s right 80’s children – FRAGGLE ROCK.
With that magical thought in mind however….let’s keep to the main island and the place they call Hell Bay…
It crept into my mind unexpectedly. I fell in love with the Isles of Scilly when I went there at the age of seven, on a summer camping trip. The archipelago is a cluster of minute islands, only 5 of which are inhabited. Some of them are so small that only birds can make their homes there, but they’re studded with Neolithic graves. Even as a child I got the sense that many people had trodden the same paths to sea, leaving behind them miles of dry stone walls, marking out their settlements.
They’re very firmly embedded in my imagination, because I still love to go back there. The islands are so unspoilt, I hope I don’t start a tourist invasion! But that’s pretty unlikely, because they’re so far away. It takes three hours by ferry to reach St Mary’s from the coast of Cornwall, and the Atlantic can be bumpy, so it’s not for the faint-hearted. Once you do get there, you will be rewarded by a friendly welcome, and a landscape that seems to have slipped back in time. I particularly enjoy the smallest islands, like Bryher, which have no cars and no roads. If you want to visit the island’s only pub, you’ll have to take a torch, and make the journey on foot.
Infusing the five senses into a scene
I think it’s really important to involve all of our senses. If readers can smell and taste the sea air, they feel immersed in the story, which is my greatest aim. I spend a long time imagining exactly how the breeze would feel against my skin, then try to describe the sensation, without adding too much detail and killing it stone dead!
Researching the locations
I’ve visited all of the locations in the books I’ve written for this series: Hell Bay, Ruin Beach and Burnt Island. It makes my life a lot easier that all I have to do is shut my eyes to visualise the scenery, but I have to admit that I often look at the Ruin Beach webcam, for a quick reminder of how the Atlantic looks when the tide’s ebbing, or racing for the shore.
Something you found surprising whilst researching the novel?
I didn’t know that the Scillies were a popular smuggling location for centuries. I assumed that most of the contraband came to the mainland via the Cornish coast, but the islands were heavily involved, and it’s possible that smuggling continues to this day.
So, Hell Bay is quite a place. How about a story from your own experience?
I got into serious danger at Hell Bay one year. As a young kid, I loved being in the water, but wasn’t much of a swimmer. I found myself being carried away from the shore, on the Atlantic’s strong tidal surge. I tried to swim against the current, but the island kept on getting smaller. I was running out of strength and courage when a passing motorboat spotted me and hauled me aboard. When I got back to Bryher, my sister was frantic. She’d seen me paddling, then I’d vanished! The experience has taught me to show the sea a bit more respect, especially when the tide’s turning. Maybe it’s the memory of my first brush with danger that made choose Bryher as the setting for my book.
Thanks Kate! Hell Bay and the islands sound exquisite and alluring and so atmospheric! Even more so now with your stories!