For a few years I wanted to visit Daphne Du Maurier’s Cornwall. Few novelists are so associated withe their locale as du Maurier is with Cornwall, in particular the area around Par.
I succeeded in reserving a week at Pridmouth Cottage overlooking the cove where Rebecca met her end. This is booked out fully every year and for years in advance. The reason for this is that it stands on the Menabilly Estate owned by the Rashleigh family since the times of Elizabeth 1. Menabilly is where Daphne du Maurier lived most of her life it and featured in her best know work Rebecca.
It was just as well that I was so enthused as it proved to be the journey from hell. Starting from the south coast, the local driver made the fatal error of going through Sarf London – not the M25 – adding a least one hour to the journey as we crawled through anonymous suburbs. Worse was yet to come as the train from Paddington to Par was totally packed. There was much confusion as noone stuck to their seats and had to give these up for those who reserved. One fellow, who must have moved three times, took to questioning the validity of these reservations, even at a point demanding proof of identity.
Eventually I arrived at Par and a local guide I already knew drove me to the cottage.
Any lingering doubts I had were dispelled by the glorious view over Pridmouth Cove. No wonder Rebecca met her lover in the boathouse. It’s a secluded spot in one sense, but as it’s on the coastal path from Fowey to Polkerris, there was a steady passage of walkers.
Between 1928 and 1989 du Maurier lived in three homes in Cornwall, none of which she actually owned and wrote 10 novels in which the county featured.
The first was Ferryside, in the harbour of Fowey, where she wrote her first novel The Loving Spirit and married Boy Browning 3 months after he sailed into the town; Menabiliy; and the final one Kilmarth, the inspiration for one of her best novels The House on the Strand.
Over the next few days I hope to enjoy the same walks du Maurier did and to tell you why I still enjoy her books so much and why am I intrigued by her complex personalty.