my favourite places: author tamsin cooke
Somerset author Tamsin Cooke published her first book The Scarlet Files: Cat Burglar (2016, OUP) starring schoolgirl-cum-cat burglar ‘Scar’ McCall just last month; the second in the series Mission Gone Wild is coming out on 7 July 2016. When she’s not sitting at her vintage sewing machine table writing her third novel, or running writing and storytelling workshops in primary schools around Somerset, here’s where she likes to hang out…
The Plaza, Dorchester
I love independent cinemas that have their own character, and The Plaza at Dorchester is superb. With its Art Deco style, it has such a retro vibe. There’s even a curtain that pulls across when the main feature is about to start. With four screens, it shows the latest films at unbelievably good prices: £2.50 on weekdays and £3.50 at the weekend. The seats are comfy with so much legroom (perfect for someone like me who has to pop to the loo halfway through a film). This cinema is full of charm but has all the mod cons too.
Starling murmurmations on the Somerset Levels
Every year we try to get to the Somerset Levels to watch the starling murmuration. It’s a truly breathtaking sight. Hundreds of thousands of small birds sweep across the sky, creating the most amazing shapes. Their beating wings sound like the rushing wind. Then as the sun sets, you watch the starlings take roost on the reeds, squeezing together in long vertical lines. It’s a magical experience. The starlings roost at dusk from early November through to early March, mainly at Shapwick Heath and Ham Wall not far from Glastonbury. You can even call a Starling Hotline 07866 554142 to find out where they roosted the night before.
Cogden Beach, Dorset
When I want to get away from it all, I head down to Cogden Beach in Dorset. It’s a perfect bit of unspoilt coastline where dogs are welcome all year round. The beach is pebbly but that’s great for skimming stones and making sculptures. The views of the Jurassic coast are stunning. Before you hit the beach, you pass a stretch of wild flowers. With each month different flowers grow causing various explosions of colour. I like Cogden the most in May. There’s a reed bed and during this time the chorus of frogs are deafening.
Glastonbury High Street
I love mooching around Glastonbury High Street and its quirky independent shops. Their names – The Speaking Tree, The Wonky Broomstick and Julian the Jeweller – really draw you in. My writing room’s full of interesting treasures I found there. Plus there’s a great inn called The George and Pilgrim that dates back to the 1400s. Sitting inside, you feel like you’re in the real Three Broomsticks from Harry Potter.
Ham Hill, Stoke-sub-Hamdon
On my doorstep is Ham Hill, a 390-acre country park centred on top of an Iron Age fort. There have been some fantastic archaeological digs here and I was lucky enough to witness the unearthing of an Iron Age human skeleton. I spend so much of my time on the hill – tromping through the woods with my dog, making dens with my kids and on Sunday mornings we love to visit the pub on the top – the Prince of Wales. They serve the most delicious cooked breakfasts. The owners, Nikki and Mike make everyone feel so welcome, including dogs of all sizes.