St. Agnes, Cornwall

The beach at Trevaunance Cove, St. Agnes

My writing is often inspired by place and my debut novel “Badlands”, out now from Darkstroke is no exception.

When I first visited St. Agnes in Cornwall, back in the summer of 2015, I knew from the minute I walked down Quay Road, heading to Trevaunance Cove, that I had found the perfect setting for a story.

Turquoise seas and jagged cliffs.

There’s history and mystery in equal measure in St. Agnes’ sloping lanes, in the old engine houses that stand as monuments to long abandoned coal-mines, and in it’s turquoise seas that crash against cliffs and stacks of jagged granite.

The view towards Churchtown, St. Agnes.

On my first visit, I was particularly entranced by the Driftwood Spars, a dazzling white-walled pub towards the bottom of Quay Road.

Having visited numerous times since, I can safely say it’s my favourite pub in Britain (helped in no small part by its outstanding range of craft ales brewed in its own micro-brewery across the street).

The Driftwood Spars, Trevaunance Cove, St. Agnes.

When you step inside the Spars, it’s oak-beamed ceiling, wooden furniture and grand stone fireplaces give it an “olde-worlde” feel, like you’re stepping back into Cornwall’s mining and smuggling past.

That feeling was heightened by one special feature in particular.

The stone fireplace and the warm lights of the main bar in the Driftwood Spars

Tucked away on the inside wall of the room adjoining the main bar is what looks like a ship’s porthole.

Peer into the porthole and you’re peering into the remains of an old Wrecker’s tunnel that used to run from the village at the top of the valley down to Trevaunance Cove.

A lamp inside the Wrecker’s tunnel.

It was the Wrecker’s tunnel, with its links to smuggling and the darker part of Cornish history. that really got my imagination firing and made The Driftwood Spars a key setting in the book, alongside the neighbouring coves of Trevaunance and Trevellas.

Trevaunance Cove

The wider area around St. Agnes, covering the surf breaks at Porthtowan and Chapel Porth, was dubbed the Badlands by the original surf crews of the seventies and eighties.

I discovered that nickname by chance in 2017 and it immediately inspired my novel’s title. It also marked the start of the process of weaving several different ideas together into what became the finished novel.

Trevellas Cove

As well as being inspired by the physical elements of the Badlands, I also drew on some of the conflicts and social issues that affect all tourist hotspots (the seasonal nature of demand and the environmental, social and economic impacts of tourism upon local communities) as well as the close knit, community vibe that underpins the area.

I wrapped it all up into a story of deception, betrayal, conspiracy and murder.

As I type this, I’m halfway through the pre-publication edits for Badlands. The release date and cover reveal will be announced in the coming weeks.

After nigh-on five years, for my part, Badlands is almost finished.

Or so I thought.

I thought I’d explored all the dramatic possibilities presented by St. Agnes.

I thought I’d told all the stories that the Badlands had to tell.

Then, back in the summer, as I was walking down to the village centre from Churchtown, I found this…

A barred gate with a stone staircase leading up. But to where?

Guess I’m not quite finished with the Badlands yet.

The pictures in this post were all taken by me on various visits to St. Agnes between 2015 & 2021.

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