Today we explore a borderland between the sea and the marshes, fact and fiction, even life and death. Our guide to the windswept shingle beaches, wide skies and curious settlements between Sovereign Harbour and Pevensey Bay in East Sussex is crime fiction writer Sheila Bugler, who is originally from the west of Ireland but now lives close by and has set a mesmerising murder mystery trilogy here. We walk and talk about writing and pursuing our dreams and discover that this strange, beautiful place has some dark secrets in real life too. Come with us with your ears … if you dare! Edge of England is a podcast exploring the stories, people and places of the South Coast, produced by Emily Jeffery and hosted by Emily and Cole Moreton.
Remember those days when you could meet in a friend’s house for a cuppa? Those days will come again. Pop on the kettle and plug your ears in to this this bonus episode where Cole surprises Emily with a special audio gift, further fuelling her obsession with Winifred Barnes, a beautiful young star of the West End stage during World War One. How wonderful to hear her voice, more than a century after she sang. Will we ever know why ‘Wonderful Winnie’ left her glittering career in London, to spend the final years of her too-short life surrounded by birds and animals in a cottage on the edge of the cliff at Holywell in Eastbourne? This episode features recordings from 1917 rescued and restored by Dominic Combe as part of his Palaeophonics project, so a huge thanks to Mr Combe.
Emily and Cole pull back the undergrowth and uncover the extraordinary life of Winifred Barnes, once a huge star but now almost completely forgotten – except among a few locals who remember being told stories of the curious inhabitant of a house perched precariously close to the edge of a cliff. Why did this Edwardian singer, actor and comedy performer, a West End leading lady and sensation of the age, retire mysteriously young and retreat to the seaside at Holywell, where she and her sister were considered “too racy” for the locals?
This episode is about a stroll along the seafront and a bit of a sit down in Eastbourne. Emily and Cole explore their feelings for the town as they wander past regimental railings, day trippers and residents, elegant buildings and quite a lot of pampas grass. But this is a surprising place where grit and intrigue lie just beneath the surface. Throw in some ‘posh police’, a ghost and a bit of Scandi Noir and perhaps you’ll begin to see why we love exploring fascinating stories of people and place down here on the Edge of England.
Let’s also just talk about big skies and sunsets for a moment. There’s been some corkers recently with the added showbiz of starlings in their thousands, their mesmerising murmurations against the back drop of pinky-orange dusks and the golden-topped Pier.
We’re going to put out a shiny new edit of an episode of the Edge of England every Saturday, hoping that by the time we reach the end lockdown will be over and we can make some more. Lots of people have said kind things about the podcast, so why not get away from it all with your lovely ears by coming on a walk with us?
It all begins on a blustery spring day, one of those days that catches you out with eye –stinging, nose-watering coldness, despite the daffodils being out. A conversation in a sea front café between the pier and the bandstand. At one end, taking shelter from the wind, rain and sea spray, is a man who sleeps rough, keeping warm with a steaming coffee thanks to the kindness of the café owner. At the other end of the café, Cole, Emily and Mabel the dog have an amiable argument about work, life, that sort of thing. There are lots of things they never will see eye to eye on, but they are united in the way this part of the world has got under their skin. Taken hold. Taken them by surprise. The Edge of England.
This is a place full of stories. Stories of people and place where the land meets the sea. From the dramatic and crumbling coastline of Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters in Sussex on the south coast of England to the seemingly endless low-lying, under-the-radar expanses of land beyond Eastbourne and the harbour. This is a place that makes you feel something. A place that can change you. This is landscape that changes. From brutal and threatening to curious and welcoming. There are stories to tell here, from the past, and in the present. As story tellers, we decide to try to tell them and explore how we fit into the unfolding story of this place too. So, please come back with us to that blustery spring day and take a walk with us, the first of many, this time up onto the South Downs, and the podcast begins. Thank you for being here and welcome to the Edge of England.
Come down to the sea to clear your head, listen to the waves and have a wander with us along the south coast of England, as we enter a new year with hope. Cole and Emily pick up the threads of previous fascinating stories and discover new ones in this special episode of a series highly praised by Country Living and Radio 4’s Podcast Hour: “I love it. Edge of England always has a Detectorists feel … you get a lovely English countryside sense of having a hug.” Welcome to the Edge of England …
Escape in your head by bringing your ears on a gentle, uplifting wander along the coast with us in this special episode of a series that has been highly praised by the likes of Country Living and Radio 4’s Podcast Hour: “I love it. Edge of England always has a Detectorists feel … you get a lovely English countryside sense of having a hug.”
In this episode Cole and Emily explore the beauties and joys of a terrible situation, trying to find something to appreciate and be grateful for in lockdown. We walk the quiet paths and empty golf course and hear the birds sing. And we explore a story set in the stunning landscape of the Belle Tout, Beachy Head and Seven Sisters, this time with added songs. Also available on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Play and wherever you get your podcasts. Welcome to the Edge of England …
For some of this episode we talk about The Light Keeper, Cole’s latest book, a story of love, hope, faith, grief and longing about to come out in paperback and hailed by the likes of Matt Haig and Anthony Horowitz. Sarah, a young teacher, is caught in a terrible moment between having your last go at IVF and finding out if it has worked. She runs away to her special place, the South Downs, pursued desperately by her lover Jack, who thinks she is going to jump. Meanwhile, up on the cliffs is a mysterious man who knows only too well that sometimes love takes you to the edge. We’ll talk about the history and mythology of the real place and hear songs recorded to accompany the story by the band The Light Keepers, written with David Perry (Emily’s other half). who plays our theme.
In which Cole springs a surprise and Emily is astonished to be able to hear the voice of a woman with whom she has become obsessed: Winifred Barnes, beautiful young star of the West End stage during World War One, who gave up her career to live, as an eccentric, on the edge of the cliff at Holywell. Featuring recordings from 1917, rescued and restored by Dominic Combe as part of his Palaeophonics project.
In which we pick up with part two of the remarkable story of Parson Darby, his hole and his life-saving life. Cole and Emily go to find out the truth about this local legend from historian Elizabeth Wright, who reveals a surprising twist in the tale. Why did a young man turn up in France claiming to be the first-born son of the light keeper of Beachy Head? Why are there no records of his birth? What part did this mystery man play in the fight for an independent America? Are his modern relatives right to claim a link back to the tragic, heroic Darbys?
In which we are haunted by a Spitfire yet again, before we go in search of the truth about a local legend. Who was Parson Darby? Where was his famous hole? Why did he sit in a cave in the face of the cliff for hours, day and night in all weathers, shining a light? Did he save lives? Did he die of a broken heart? Was he a smuggler? We fall out over the possibilities, visit his grave then go in search of someone who knows. Another fascinating story from the Edge of England, uncovered and told by award-winning broadcasters Cole Moreton and Emily Jeffery.
Be sure to listen to the next episode for part two and a major twist in the story.