A great source of inspiration for me is visiting historic sites. This is mainly old houses in the UK, but in January 2009 I joined a group of military history enthusiasts on a trip to Northern Spain, to follow the route of the Retreat to Corunna, which took place in the winter of 1808/9. It was the most fantastic experience: because we were following the route at the same time of year we could experience the bitter cold and snowy conditions that the British army had to march through as they made their way back across the mountains of Galicia to the port of Corunna, where they were to be evacuated by the British fleet. Thankfully we did not suffer the torrential rain and blizzards that were reported in 1808/9 but we did have snow as we made our way up the old road through the mountains on our way from Benavente to Corunna. We reached the port in time for the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Corunna on 16th January and watched a wreath-laying ceremony in the tiny garden that houses the tomb of Sir John Moore (see above) and spent hours viewing the battlefield (much of it now covered with modern buildings and roads) The picture below shows a case in point: we were up on the hills looking down towarsd Corunna from the French positions: just to the right of centre you can see the old church at Elvina, the bell tower and part of the roof visible through the trees. Much of the fighting took place around Elvina, but there is very little of the battlefield left to see now.
We also wandered around the old village of Elvina where the church (left)and old lanes are much as they were during the early nineteenth century.
The trip finished with a re-enactment of the battle on the Saturday evening.
(Enough officers here to satisfy even Lydia Bennett!)
Re-enactors from England, Spain and France formed up in Maria Pita Square, marched through the old town to the Canton Grande where they gave
us a wonderful (and noisy!) display. I particularly liked the guerilla pictured here onthe right: I can just imagine him hiding out in the mountains!
And just to show it wasn't all hard work, I did manage to get some time to walk on the beach (it was only 3 degrees, so no swimming, I'm afraid!
It was a wonderful trip and has given me plenty of inspiration for new stories –In fact Corunna and the retreat feature in the beginning of the novelI am writing at the moment, so I will keep you posted on that one!
My thanks to Ian Fletcher of Ian Fletcher Battlefield Tours for organising such a great event and for being such an brilliant and knowledgable guide. In case you want to know more about his tours, Ian's website is http://www.ifbt.co.uk/