This summer Wind Across the Nile will be published. I’m excited to finally be able to get this book to my very patient readers. It’s not been the easiest of years, lots of things have happened that have taken up my time making me unable to release this book to schedule, but I’m now able to get this book completed and released.
What is Wind Across the Nile?
A historical suspense, Wind Across the Nile is predominantly set in Egypt, but parts of it are also based in Scotland and London. It has been a hard book to write, as I created quite an intricate storyline that spans almost a hundred years, set around a number of different, interlinking, characters. The research was extensive, and it wasn’t just research about Egypt and its ancient history. There was also research that released to how people lived from 1900 to the present, as well as research relating to archaeology and archaeological sites. It’s a bit different to Among the Olive Groves, it’s got a lot more suspense in it and whilst it centres on family discovery, it also covers the dark side of archaeological artefact theft too. Because of all of that it took a long time to write and get right, but I’m so happy with the final result and cant wait to release it.
I hope that readers enjoy it, it’s a book that I’ve enjoyed writing and can’t wait for everyone to get their hands on.
The book description:
Can she survive where her ancestors failed?
Suffering with grief after the tragic death of her family, Cora Thomas flees to Egypt, desperate to escape the overwhelming loss.
In Luxor, she meets gruff Egyptologist Nick Foster who wants little to do with her, and his employee Sam, who instantly becomes a much sought-after friend.
As she settles into life along the Nile, discovering the country’s vast history and culture, Cora learns about the contents of an old diary discovered in her parents’ home. As the diary’s story unfolds, it reveals hardship, love, tragedy and a potentially life-threatening family feud spanning generations.
From the rolling hills of the Scottish Highlands to the ruinous sands of the Egyptian desert, Wind across the Nile is a story of unbreakable family bonds, adversity and self-preservation.
Wind Across the Nile will be released this summer on ebook and paperback across all sales platforms.
Situated on the edge of the idyllic Grand Western Canal in Devon, between Fossend and Fenacre bridges are the ruins of Canonsleigh Abbey (sometimes also called Canonsleigh Priory). There isn’t much left of the original site but the ruins that remain, provide a small glimpse into the importance of the Abbey and its purpose in Medieval times. The remains are now a combination of Grade two listed and scheduled monuments, protected by Historic England, meaning that they cannot be changed or destroyed.
An Abbey/Priory has been in existence on the site for almost a thousand years, but the exact date of its original creation is uncertain. The closest determination is that some time around 1161 and 1173 a Royal confirmation for a Priory on the site was granted. It is thought however, that a Priory may well have been in operation before that date. In 1086 Walter I de Claville, a Frenchman from de Clavile in Rouen, France was gifted the land in the area of “Leigh” by William the Conqeror after his success at the Battle of Hastings. The landowner at the time had been a female Saxon called Aelfrun, a fact documented in the Domesday book in 1086.
The Priory at Leigh became known as Canonsleigh. It was a small Priory of Augustinian Canons/Priests, with just twelve in the order to start with, and was dedicated to St John the Evangelist and the Virgin Mary. It operated as most Priory’s did in those days, with the Canons/Priests having ties to neighbouring villages such as Sampford Arundel, Netherton and Pugham. There were areas for prayer, gardens and kitchens. The Priory was subsidised by the Plympton Augustinian Priory, sadly however this had an impact on the Priory, and the it eventually found itself in financial difficulties. Isabella de Fortibus and the Countess of Gloucester (a dowager called Matilda, who wanted a memorial for her late husband), set about a chain of events that would see the Priory given over to them and turned into a nunnery. In 1284, after nine days of negotiations, the Canons were forced from the site by Bishop Quivel and men armed with bows and arrows. Canonsleigh Priory then became known as Canonsleigh Abbey, formally ending the Augustinian order at the site.
Canonsleigh Abbey was set up for around forty Canonesses, but their life at the Abbey wasn’t easy, and like the Canons/Priests before them they suffered hardship. They drew income from a variety of sources, including their relationship with Burlescombe Village Church, and donations from wealthy landowners, but it wasn’t enough. Money that had been set aside in the Bishop’s treasury by Matilda was borrowed by King Edward I, and it took the Canonesses fifty years of fighting to get it back. Eventually King Edward III (Edward I Grandson), returned the funds.
In the 1500’s life at Canonsleigh Abbey became even more difficult. Henry the VIII ordered the dissolution of all Convents, Friaries, Monasteries and Abbeys between 1536 and 1541 in England, Wales and Ireland. This act saw thousands of religious buildings razed to the ground, and income seized from the respective religious chapters. Canonsleigh Abbey didn’t escape, and even though it managed to carry on for a number of years after the Act was created it finally met its demise in September 1539, when the Abbey was razed to the ground and the Canonesses pensioned off.
Nowadays, Canonsleigh Abbey/Priory, is a small cluster of ruinous stone buildings that are slowing being claimed by ivy, trees and bushes. Many don’t know of its existence unless they happen to know someone who lives in the area. There has been much discussion about what buildings do remain on the now abandoned site. We know that Canonleigh Gatehouse exists, standing away from the other ruins, surrounded by modern builds. Amongst the other ruins, called the eastern ruins of the Abbey, it’s documented that there’s a Leat (millstream/artificial watercourse), a Reredorter (possible waste channel from privies and kitchens) and a maybe even a mill, as well as walls, partial buttresses, and a ‘room’. Thoughts are that one of these sites may actually be a kitchen area; likely in the Gatehouse.
Evidence suggests that the site was much larger when in use, and housed St Theobalds Church, a chapel of Holy Trinity (now two cottages in Westleigh), Ancient chapel ruins (unnamed) at Fenacre farm, and two chapels dedicated to St Thomas the Martyr and All Saints (site location unknown). When the Lime Kilns at Cracker Corner by Westleigh quarry, were built, an ancient burial site was uncovered which included a lot of ancient bones. Experts believe that the area at Cracker Corner may have been the burial ground of St Theobalds Church.
The size of the original site of Canonsleigh Abbey will never truly be known, as fields have been given over to farming, roads run next to – possibly even through – the site, and quarry workings at Westleigh have encroached upon it. But what remains is a small reminder of an incredible Medieval past, dating all the way back to the Domesday book. It is a tantalising glimpse of a history of which so much is still unknown and yet, could possibly still be discovered one day.
Author note:Access to Canonsleigh Abbey is via public footpaths/fields. Some of these fields contain livestock (horses and sheep), so care should be taken, especially with closing gates. Dogs should be kept on leads. Whilst the Abbey is fascinating, it’s an ancient and ruinous building, sometimes there are stone falls, and climbing the ruins should be avoided. As an ancient/protected monument it should be treated with care. Please also note that part of the Abbey is on private property, and only accessible with landowner permission.
As well as travelling abroad I’m a huge history geek. I love reading about it, watching history documentaries and visiting historical places, whether it be old country houses, ancient sites or museums. One of my favourite sites to visit in the UK are castles. I think it stems from when I was a child and we used to go on day trips, many of which ended up being castles. Since then I’ve always loved them and really enjoy visiting visiting them and having a good explore. I’ve visited so many castles over the years, but in this post I’m going to write about three of my favourite castles.
In deepest Sussex is Bodiam Castle. It’s owned by the National Trust and is a good example of a 14th century castle with existing moat. It was built in 1385 by a former Knight of Edward III. Despite some of the interior being in ruins, it’s a great example of a medieval castle, and is protected as a scheduled monument with Grade I listed status. The castle sits in the middle of a large moat, connected to land via a long wooden bride, that leads to a drawbridge section. At the end is the main entrance which has a large portcullis, and various ancient defensive mechanisms.
Originally the castle had two entrances, but only one is used now. The castle is square in shape, with four towers, one at each corner, that visitors can climb via winding staircases to reach the tower roof. The views are extensive and you can see why the castle was built in the location it’s in. The castle has thick, defensive stone walls, a large open courtyard at the centre, with multiple rooms that run around the edge. These rooms include the Great Chamber, old kitchens, Lords Hall, ante rooms, service rooms, stables and even a chapel.
Bodium Castle is one of the best examples of this type of castle I’ve ever visited. As you wander the grounds, the old rooms and climb the towers, you get a real feel for the castle and its incredible history. It’s definitely a castle I’d recommend visiting.
Situated near Sandwich in Kent, Richborough Castle is actually an old Roman/Saxon fort, reputed to be built on the site of the first Roman landing in AD43. It is owned by English Heritage, and forms almost a perfect square on the site. It has been through many additions, and much rebuilding. A lot of what now exists are later adaptations, but the site itself is historically noted.
Many of the internal structures are no longer in existence, due a fair bit of it being built of timber, although some stone foundations do still exist. The outer walls however still stand, and are quite imposing. There are also many other interesting Roman features inside the site that are worth visiting, such as the Mansio. The site was an important defensive and supply base, so the Mansio was an important part of the fort. There are also remnants of an old hypocaust system and a ditch and rampart system.
As Roman forts go, Richborough Castle is pretty impressive even though it doesn’t look much from the outside and it’s incredible that as much of it has survived, especially considering the building materials used. When you stand next to one of the outer walls it’s a real shock to see just how tall they are and how massive the site would have been when first built and in use. There is also the remains of an old amphitheatre nearby, it’s quite difficult to locate, but worth a visit if you can find it. A good map is recommend though!
In the town of Rochester in Kent, stands the imposing Rochester Castle. It guards the medway river and has an interesting history. Owned by English Heritage Rochester Castle was built in 1127 by the Archbishop of Canterbury, but it is thought that there has been a defensive structure on the site since about 1086, although exactly where is still up for discussion.
The current castle is a Norman Keep that stands over 100 feet high with a protective forebuilding. The castle like so many, has seen plenty of attacks through time, and been party to many wars. So much so that it has been damaged and rebuilt a few times. Despite all it has been through, the castle continues to stand dominant on the skyline a testament to its efforts of protecting the surrounding area.
What remains nowadays is a great example of a Norman Keep castle. The interior has lost its wooden floor levels, but it is still possible to climb the original stone circular staircases that go all the way to the top, and walk around the parapet to not only look down inside the building, but also out across the town of Rochester, over the Medway and beyond.
Even though I have only listed three favourite castles, there are many others in the UK that I love, and I’ll never say no to visiting one. Others I would recommend visiting are Caerphilly Castle, Chepstow Castle and Dunster Castle. But if you don’t live near any of those, there are plenty of castles all over the UK just waiting to be visited so they can share their incredible history. Find out more on the interactive map of UK Castles.
Have you ever visited any of the castles mentioned above?
Whilst visiting Eilat, in Israel (separate post about Eilat coming soon!) we border hopped into Jordan to visit the ancient city of Petra. It was a very early start and the coach trip up the Kings Highway took a few hours, but it was a trip that would prove to be worth it. Jordan is a great country, an expanse of dusty red/brown desert that rises and falls stretching on for endless miles. Mountains line the roadside, only punctuated by the occasional site of a Bedouin tent and its occupants.
Arriving in Wadi Musa, the small town where Petra is located, we joined our guide and followed him as we walked through the gates into Petra National Park. Nothing can prepare you for what you see as a visitor, neither can you truly describe to others how incredible Petra is. At first it doesn’t seem like much as you walk a dusty, open path with not much on either side, save for rocky inclines. After ten minutes or so however, you happen upon the Triclinium tomb and some Djinn blocks – ancient structures built by the original inhabitants the Nabataeans 2000 years previously – the first sign of what is to come. They are impressive, but you wonder if it was really worth the visit, but the trip doesn’t end there.
The path continues steadily on, and suddenly it plunges down through a crack in a rock, between two large edifices of pink stone, once sliced open by an earthquake. Along this path you begin to catch remnants of ancient reliefs, carvings, cobbled flooring and an ancient water irrigation system, as you marvel at the incredible gorge that nature created.
Suddenly, without warning, the path ends and that’s when your visit to Petra really begins. At the end of this gorge stands the impressive El Khasneh (The Treasury), an ancient temple built by the Nabataeans. Turning to your right you suddenly discover that it’s just the first of many ancient sights, as your vision fills with the remnants of ancient tombs, temples and rock-cut houses.
Seeing and experiencing Petra was something I’ll never forget. Petra is a huge ancient city, albeit in a semi-ruinous state, that had belonged to the caravan people who had worked the old spice road, around 2000 years ago. Many of its buildings were carved directly into the rock face which meant they haven’t been destroyed by earthquakes, and are still visible. Sadly not all of the city survived though and the central part is fairly ruinous. Despite that, it’s an incredible place to explore, and just when you think you have finished seeing everything, you find another sight to marvel at. There are the Royal Tombs, Colonnaded Streets, a Roman Amphitheatre and The Monastery, the list is endless and there is so much to see and experience. The rich colourful rock, giving Petra it’s nickname of the Rose Red City, is so vibrant in places and marbled in texture, mixed through with hues of white and grey. You really do get a fascinating insight into the people who built the city and used to live there. No vehicles are allowed into the ancient city, and so most visitors make the trip down on foot, but there are horses, camels and horse drawn carriages for those who need transport.
I love Petra, it’s in my top three of favourite places visited and I hope to be able to go again one day. Today the site is well looked after and protected, and sits on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. It’s a place that many don’t know exists, a hidden historical gem in the Jordanian desert, and one that is definitely worth visiting and will welcome visitors with open arms.
Have you ever been to Petra? If so what did you like the most about it?