Much of the praise I have received for the Beyond the Door is as a result of the way in which the locations are described – as one reader said, “the descriptions are vivid and conjure up the stting in my mind.” This is probably because the locations are all based on real places which I know well – you heard it here first! Some of the places are described almost exactly as you would see them in real life, whilst others have been “tweaked” using artistic licence to make them fit into the plot better.
The majority of the action takes place in the small village of Tendringham, on the banks of a wide river estuary. This village exists, and is accurately described in Beyond the Door. The beach huts do exist, and I spent all of my childhood summer holidays living in one, and having all kinds of adventures. The true identity of Tendringham (which is not the village’s real name!) remains a (not too) closely guarded secret, and I’m afraid I’m not going to divulge that information here! If you really want to know where it is, you should be able to find it.
Within the village of Tendringham, most of the places are pretty much as described. The beach and the huts are all there; the interior of Stephen and Ian’s grandparents’ hut is the same as my grandparents’ hut, and the interior of Paul and Jennie’s hut is the same as the interior of my friends’ hut.
Tendringham Station, where Stephen, Ian and Claire get their first view of the village, existed as it did in the book at the time of writing; the crumbling shelter has since been replaced with an ugly glass one, the cold, red British Rail benches have made way for cold, blue, Great Eastern Railways benches, but the boards to cross the tracks still exist, although I may have exagerrated the level of decay!
Village facilities described in Beyond the Door existed as described at the time of writing. The village shop remains to this day, and has changed very little. Sadly “The Black Boy,” Tendringham’s local pub, closed down a couple of years ago. The mobile library still visits the village, but now stops at the village hall I believe. Other features of the village and its landscape, for example the “Dingly Dell” are all real.
Captain Cassidy’s cottage is to be found in real-life in the same place it is to be found in the book, and the locals do call it Captain Cassidy’s Cottage – a corruption of the name of a man who once lived there. The house is beautiful, and, although I couldn’t say that the interior exists as described, having never been in, the gardens, the bird hide, the landing platform are all real. Whether the trees next to the hide would really be strong enough to climb I doubt. As for the tunnels behind the log-fronted landing platform, I couldn’t say whether they existed… I have never checked!
Even the Coign, the house from which all the tunnels lead from, is real, and it is even called the Coign in real life. The house and its garden was once a market garden, as mentioned in the book. The description of a rotting concrete monstrosity was accurate at the time of writing, but since then it has been renovated, and is now lived in!
So, how about the tunnels? Well, every village has its legends, and, although I have never seen or heard anything about tunnels concealed in the cliffs beneath the Coign, again, I wouldn’t like to say that they did not exist. There were certainly “strange, gaping holes” in the garden of the house, but I didn’t ever risk exploring them further! The tunnels in the mine depot are a different matter, however. The mine depot is not a product of my over-active imagination – it really is in “Tendringham,” and is pretty much as descibed. And I know for a fact that the ground is riddled with tunnels; I have seen them with my own eyes. It is also true that it is a mystery what exactly remains in the tunnels after they were hurriedly abandoned after World War II. The place hasn’t blown up – yet – but another very similar location, in Suffolk, did!
The harbour also exists in real life, and remains as described in the book, although the number of light ships moored has reduced drastically since the time of writing. Another piece of “fiction” is that the harbour RNLI only have an Atlantic 21 at the moment, although should be getting an Atlantic 75 fairly soon. They also have a top-of-the-range Severn class, however.
Pin Mill, as most people will realise, is a real place, and is mentioned in many books, including “We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea,” and “Secret Water” in Arthur Ransome’s “Swallows and Amazons” series, as mentioned in Beyond the Door. There are all sorts of smuggling legends about the area around Pin Mill, and the stories mentioned in passing in Beyond the Door, for example the cat being placed in the window to show the coast was clear for smuggling activities, and the story about how the cat came to be there, are all based on supposedly true local legends. In case you’re interested in reading more about this story, the Reverend Cobbold wrote all about it in his book “Margaret Catchpole,” which is all supposed to be true. Unfortunately, it is out of print, and rather hard to come by. I must admit to “tweaking” the story, however; I mentioned that the person who lived in “Cat House” was the gamekeeper at Woolverstone Hall, which is true. But “Cat House” is actually in Woolverstone, a village a little further up the river. I decided to move the building, and the legend, down to Pin Mill for the purposes of my book!
I hope that this has answered any questions you may have had about the locations in Beyond the Door. If you have any further questions, do not hesitate get in touch!