Boxing Days

An initial attempt at a Yock Valley railway map

As many of you know, over Christmas and the New Year I joined in a Twitter readalong of John Masefield’s 1935 classic The Box of Delights under the hashtag #DelightfulXmas.

You may also know that this involved a chapter-a-day discussion, enlivened by creative tasks such as literary efforts and artistic responses.

Before I post a review you may like to see some of my own contributions to #DelightfulXmas — in two parts, this being the first — and if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting young Kay Harker and his cohorts maybe this may stimulate a desire to make their acquaintance!

The Box of Delights opens with Kay Harker arriving by train at Musborough Junction, where he has to change platforms for a connection to his home town Condicote and on to Tatchester, Yockwardine and Newminster. At Musborough he encounters not only Cole Hawlings, a Punch & Judy man, but also two suspicious clergymen travelling to the theological college in the Chester Hills.

#DelightfulXmas rail links to Condicote Junction

Masefield is doubtless reconstructing his childhood train journey from Warwick (where he went to boarding school between the ages of ten and thirteen, from 1888 to 1891) back to Ledbury for the Christmas holidays. He would have changed at Worcester, passed below the Malvern Hills and on to Ledbury Junction, on the north side of the town. The train would have then gone either to Hereford and beyond or south along the canal.

My initial sketch map merely indicated the train stops but I felt the orientation was all wrong. The second map instead suggests some equivalents between fictional and actual stations: Musborough is Worcester, Hope-under-Chesters is perhaps one of the stations under the Malverns, Condicote is Ledbury, Tatchester would be Hereford, and Newminster perhaps Leominster.

The canal wharf at Ledbury (http://www.ledburyhistory.uk/Along%20the%20Towpath.html)

As Masefield largely based Condicote (the name of a real village in Gloucestershire) on Ledbury in Herefordshire, I also designed a sketch map of the fictional Condicote overlying key places in the author’s birthplace, such as the railway station, his birthplace The Knapp, the canal and so on.

Kay Harker’s Condicote

Hopefully if and when you come to read the fantasy this map may help you orientate yourself.

Finally, in this bird’s eye view of Condicote and environs I offer this sketch map based on Kay Harker’s earlier adventures in The Midnight Folk (1927). I omit details of the town plan and only give the places mentioned when Kay travels abroad from Seekings. I hope to discuss more about both places and timelines in the two books in a follow-up post after the review: as we will see, the two novels are a mash-up of two different places and periods in Masefield’s life.

Condicote and environs

Part Two follows tomorrow, when there will be other creative responses to readalong prompts

6 thoughts on “Boxing Days

    1. Yes, I’ve got this, Jo, bought it after a recommendation by another blogger! Previously I’d relied on Barbara Strachey’sJourneys of Frodo (https://wp.me/s2oNj1-journeys).

      But, like you, I’ve always been fascinated by maps — here’s one recent discussion (https://wp.me/s2oNj1-maps1) and here’s another (https://wp.me/p2oNj1-3wx) — but I’d say that possibly as much as 5% or more of my posts touch on cartographic matters!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Awesome! I’ve not seen Strachey’s “Journey’s of Frodo” – I’ll have to look that one up!

        When I was first learning creative writing in junior school we created imaginative maps as a starting point for longer fiction. (We were KS2 at the time, so longer fiction wasn’t that long!)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Strachey’s book is all hand-drawn and clearly a labour of love, though amateur (in both senses of the word) compared with traditional cartographers and modern CAD systems.

          I hope the prompts for your maps done in the juniors were more imaginative than the cliché of the desert/treasure/pirate island that I used to see duplicated ad nauseam in primary schools!

          Like

  1. I shall refer back to this at the appropriate times, Chris. I started The Midnight Folk in November, intending to follow up immediately with The Box of Delights at Christmas, but events got in the way and I’ve decided to retry Midnight Folk in the summer (more seasonally appropriate) so Box of Delights will be a treat for next Christmas. I shall enjoy your thoughts on it when the companion posts to this one appear 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s never to late to sample the, ahem, delights of Masefield’s two tales, Sandra, and certainly more atmospheric to read them at the appropriate time of year. Hope you find my posts helpful whenever you read them!

      Liked by 1 person

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