Page 18 - Rooftops Summer 2019
P. 18

                 Author Ann-Marie Howell, above, and right, the lake and walled garden beyond at Ickworth
Within these walls
Bury St Edmunds author Ann-Marie Howell reflects on her Ickworth based children’s novel which spins an intriguing wartime tale of mystery and secrets in a very local setting
Is the novel a combination of things? Perhaps an interest in the period WW1, grand houses, gardens and secrets? The Garden of Lost Secrets is a historical
mystery with lots of secrets, combining three of my favourite things. The WW1 setting is a period I’ve always found really interesting and this had a huge impact on those who lived and worked in grand country houses like Ickworth, something which I found fascinating to research and write about. There are also lots of mysteries in the book – a locked door and a hidden key, a strange boy who appears in the walled gardens of the country house at night, and a scheming pineapple thief!
How did you go about your research? Have you learnt a lot more about Ickworth?
The walled kitchen gardens at Ickworth are one of my favourite places to visit in Suffolk, and once I’d decided to use them as a setting for the story, I wanted to accurately represent some of the things that happened there during the Great War. I was helped enormously by the National Trust’s brilliant online resources which tell how the Hervey family allowed the Ickworth estate to be used by the military for training, including the setting up of two firing ranges.
I imagine this must have brought the war a little too close for comfort for
some people – and the sound of rifles being fired in a normally quiet rural area is something I have tried hard to convey in my book.
Were you surprised at what you found? Pineapples being grown there seems rather exotic for West Suffolk at that time?
I found out lots of surprising things, but the biggest one was perhaps the sheer number of hothouses that used to be in Ickworth’s walled gardens, the derelict pineapple houses sadly the only ones now remaining. Home grown pineapples were very sought after as they were so difficult to grow, and the mystery element in the book comes in to

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