Play on Words Day 3
‘Writers of the New Forest’ took place in New Milton on Wednesday 25th October through a presentation delivered by local historian, Nick Saunders. The talk introduced notable literary figures who have lived or based their work in the New Forest.
An intimate audience, ranging from people in their eighties to their twenties, fetched drinks from the Green Room bar before taking their seats. Nick assured everyone that certain locations mentioned in the presentation, even the spooky ones, would be visited on Saturday’s Heritage Walk.
Before introducing the writers Nick outlined Exbury, Lymington and Minstead as the geographic parameters for the evening’s talk. Minstead, Nick later revealed, was the final resting place for Arthur Conan Doyle.
Nick’s talk provided a clear structure for the audience to follow: he introduced the writer, a synopsis of their story, then linked them to the New Forest through an interesting fact. For example, Alice Liddell - the Alice, in Alice in Wonderland - married General Hargreaves at Westminster Abbey and spent most of her later life in and around Lyndhurst.
Other writers included in the presentation were Nevil Shute, John Heath-Stubbs, Edward Rutherford, Mary and Percy Shelley, Captain Marryat, Dennis Wheatley, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Elizabeth Gaudge. The latter won the Carnegie Medal for Writing in 1946.
Edward Rutherford’s The Forest, received an active response from the audience. Some audience members enjoyed the vast history of Saxons and Normans, with its collection of various stories and characters, while others felt the book was better used as a doorstop.
Once the presentation was over, Nick opened the discussion to the room and people suggested writers he had not included. Judging by the evening's chatter the talk was a success and provided great context for Saturday’s heritage walk.
Carla Hall - Breakthrough Apprentice.