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Travel to Northumberland with Molly McFlynn and Sue Reed

  • Submitted: 29th October 2023

Travel to Northumberland with Molly McFlynn and Sue Reed

The story of Molly McFlynn is about a young girl   – fifteen-year-old Molly McFlynn who is uprooted from town life by her mam to live with her bohemian grandparents in rural Northumberland.

The Rewilding of Molly McFlynn Sue Reed

Booktrail locations in The Rewilding of Molly McFlynn

The Rewilding of Molly McFlynn begins and ends on the Town Moor in Newcastle, a vast and desolate expanse of common land, where cows graze despite it being in the middle of town. It is home to the annual Hoppings Fun Fair, nowadays, but was the place where, in 1950, fifteen women and one man were hung in the biggest mass execution of its time, having been tried and found guilty of witchcraft.

The Town Moor with the Hoppings in the background

Booktrail locations in The Rewilding of Molly McFlynn

However, as Molly leaves town, so do we, and we travel along the A69, turning off where the sign says ‘Ridley Hall and Beltingham’ for it is to Beltingham we go first. We moved to this corner of rural West Northumberland twenty years ago, and I remember well driving along lanes pungent with the scent of wild garlic, through Beltingham with its impressive sandstone houses, home to the Bowes Lyon family for centuries, and thinking, ‘this is much too posh for us!’

Beltingham

Booktrail locations in The Rewilding of Molly McFlynn

St Cuthbert’s Church sits in the corner of the village, which is more of a hamlet than village, having no shops or pubs. It has a timeless feel, peaceful and quiet, but to Molly, aged 15, it just looks boring. If you venture behind the church, you will discover the magnificent Beltingham Yew tree, held together with iron bands, which has stood on this spot for over 900 years, predating the church itself.

St Cuthbert’s Church

Booktrail locations in The Rewilding of Molly McFlynn

Continuing down the hill and along the narrow lane, you come to the Beltingham Nature Reserve and the iconic green bridge, both of which play major parts in the story, the green bridge serving as the portal through which Martha time travels from the seventeenth century, on the run from the witch finder who has hurled her mother, Ann Watson in gaol on accusations of witchcraft. It is in the nature reserve, or ‘woods’ as I call them in the novel that Martha sets up camp on a patch of land known to my family as ‘the island’. The waters of the South Tyne divide here.

The Green Bridge

Booktrail locations in The Rewilding of Molly McFlynn

With a small rivulet flowing through the reserve. Kingfishers nest in the sandy banks and if you’re lucky, you’ll spot a flash of blue. I’ve spotted otters at play too in the early hours on the banks of the Tyne. It is a popular spot for the local angling club, who come with waders and stand it the waters in the hope of catching salmon and brown trout, which, in the autumn can be seen migrating back upstream to spawning grounds.

Errington Reay pottery

Booktrail locations in The Rewilding of Molly McFlynn

Cross the green bridge and go into Bardon Mill. Here is the shop that sells the best coffee for miles around. Not only that, find the grassy patch where people still play the Northumbrian traditional game of quoits. You should definately buy some pottery from Errington Reay pottery – Makers of salt glazed pots in a traditional brick kiln for generations. Be sure to buy lunch either in the village shop or over the road at The Bowes Hotel.

Willimoteswick (castle)

Booktrail locations in The Rewilding of Molly McFlynn

The hamlet of Willimoteswick is a short walk down the lane. This is where brown hares run over hay meadows and ancient oaks stand proud by drystone walls. It is where I’ve set Nan and Grandad’s cottage. Their home is very much modelled on our own house and garden, which dates back to the 1550s.

 

Look out of our front door and up the hill and look at the magnificent view of Willimoteswick Castle Farm. This is also the birthplace of Bishop Ridley who was burnt at the stake. It is a bastle farm – the turreted tower providing protection from the Border Reivers. The Reivers raided the Anglo-Scottish border from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries without regard for their victim’s nationality.

The is Northumberland at its best, wild, unspoilt and incredibly beautiful.  The Rewilding of Molly McFlynn is firmly rooted in our historic Northumbrian soil.

 

 

BookTrail Boarding Pass: The Rewilding of Molly McFlynn

Twitter: @suereedwrites

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