For the next few posts I will be exploring the places in Bedfordshire I know so well, which feature in my murder mystery ‘Murder, now and then. This time we will leave the bicycle at home and venture on foot.
There are many pleasant walks around Haynes and Clophill ~ one passing the old church and through Pedley Woods returning via great Lane ~ another progressing further through the woods until you emerge overlooking the valley towards Hitchin and the Barton Hills, but today I’m going to take you from Haynes Church, the inspiration for my novel.
There is parking (at your own risk) in the church car park, unless there is a service on, and I’d like you to follow the steps of the video and pause a while at Nelly Rault’s grave. Nelly was the young Jersey lass whose true story and unsolved murder set my writing journey in a direction I had not anticipated, but have thoroughly enjoyed. Once you have found her grave you can also admire the view across to Haynes Park, close to the setting of my murder back in 1919.
We shall walk today because you will be following in my heroines footsteps, who I have renamed Lucille Vardon.
Back-tracking along the church path, turn left, passing the unspoilt cottages of Haynes Church End on you right. You will pass one of the imposing gateways to Haynes Park, but this is private land. Fortunately for us the farm track immediately to its right is a
designated footpath and this leads parallel to the drive and winds on the edge of farm fields. Taking a right hand turn, clearly marked, the footpath veers towards the village of Haynes before joining another path from the village. Turning left the other side of the hedge you continue, back towards Haynes Park and their farm buildings until you reach a small pond. You can pause on the bench here if you wish to seek some peace and quiet.
The path continues until you are standing above the valley looking over towards Bedford. The sight of the Shortstown hangers, great cathedrals paying homage to the airships of
yesteryear including the R101 in the distance ~a sight which captures you breath in a moment’s reflection. Did ‘Lucille’ stop too and gaze in awe of this remarkable sight whilst walking this way from her work at the army camp to Bedford?
Below there are footpaths towards Wilshamstead and, although there is no legal path through the woods now where the 1919 murder took place, but the trees are clearly visible and whilst I was planning my novel my imagination ran riot here, as ideas flowed to intertwine past and present. It was here that I came up with the title ‘Murder, now and then,’ before the ins and outs of the novel were conceived but not long afterwards the idea of a centenary in 2019 began to take shape and the ‘now’ murder shifted a few years!
You may retread your footsteps to return to the church or, if you have a longer walk in mind you could continue back towards the village of Hayes and return to Church End by road, adding another couple of miles or more to your walk.
Returning along the lane you may glance over towards the farmhouse in my novel and your eyes may do a double – take. It does not actually exist and it superimposed on the video ~ clever hey! (I did not wish to upset a local farmer!!)
‘Murder, now and then’ is Diana Jackson’s third novel and is a murder mystery in Bedfordshire set in 2019, with flashbacks to the original murder in 1919.