So, Tusmore is Tusmore, and Bicester and Oxford and Banbury are all known by their proper names. But these are the real names of some of the fictional places:
|Fictional name||Real name|
|Lark Rise||Juniper Hill (just off the A43, between the M40 and Silverstone)|
|The unnamed market town where the folk from Lark Rise go to shop||Brackley|
|The model village on the way Over To Candleford||Possibly Finmere?|
|The village with a shop on the way Over To Candleford||Most likely, my own village of Tingewick|
Last Saturday, I had reason to go over to Oxford. On the way back, it being a glorious day, I decided to actually go and see where some of the places were. I knew roughly where Juniper Hill was (it's about half an hour's walk from where my first ever girlfriend used to live - I was about 7), and I'd walked from Tingewick as far as Brackley and Buckingham while young. But I didn't know Juniper Hill, Cottisford or Fringford.
The first stage was to ask the SatNav for directions to Juniper Hill - slightly complicated by my stating the county as being Oxfordshire, whereas the database considers it to be in Northants (which is where the nearest town, Brackley, is). I was coming up the A43 and, seeing a sign to Cottisford, I dived off there. It's a delightful little village, well off the beaten track down some narrow roads (sufficiently narrow not to have road markings). There were a number of couples out walking on the roads, and it's definitely a slow-paced community, really rather nice.
Now following the SatNav again, Juniper Hill itself is just over a mile away along a single track road. From the junction in the centre, you can see the A43 dual carriageway a few hundred yards away along the hill crest. The hamlet itself is very quiet, with maybe a dozen or two houses. The only car that passed while I was there was an open topped Caterham 7 look-alike.
It takes 5 minutes in the car to get from there to Fringford, passing back through Cottisford on the way: a total distance of about four miles. Fringford has an open green, and you can see where the Post Office would have been. It's about the size of the place depicted as Candleford in the TV series, a small village, but big enough (then) for some shops. (The book differentiates between Candleford Green - where the Post Office was - and the comparative metropolis of Candleford, which has mains gas and a gasometer, a railway station, and so on. The TV series conflates the two, ending up moving the action from Candleford Green Post Office to Candleford Post Office.)
Buckingham is much further away than the books would have it: Flora's Candleford Green is an outskirt of Candleford, whereas Fringford is several miles from Buckingham. In fact, I got distracted and dropped in at Tingewick, wandering down the single track road to the Mill, where I lived when young. It's some years since I last went down there, but the same owner still has it, and it looks much the same, though he has thankfully got rid of the clunky steps that led up the outside to the first floor. We chatted for a while, and I discovered he'd actually played the postman in a dramatised version of Lark Rise done by the Buckingham AmDram society.
And then, back in the car (and negotiating my way back round the sheep who were still out on the road - I've never tried to shoo them back into a field under such circumstances, on the principle of never knowing which flock they belong to). I drove out along the road to Buckingham, dipping in to the town down Tingewick Road. I pootled around the centre for a while, refreshing my memory of which roads went where, before coming home.
It's odd going back to a place that one effectively left three decades earlier. It's carried on its own way, oblivious to my life, and I to its. The old centre is much the same (with, happily, somewhat less traffic, since it's no longer a through road), and I felt a twinge of longing for it. But I've lived many other places since, and though when I left, I'd spent the then-majority of my life there, that period is now so long ago.