Winterborne Slepe is the name of an imaginary village in Dorset, where much of the action in my new book takes place. Whilst I was searching for an appropriate name, I drove through a small village in the eastern part of the county called Slepe. The name appealed to me, and I hope that the residents of that village don’t mind if I borrow the name, but alter it slightly. I have also discovered that there are a number of villages and hamlets in Dorset, which are prefixed by the word Winterborne, sometimes spelled Winterbourne. So what does it mean?
A ‘bourne’ is an Anglo-Saxon word for a stream which flows from a spring. So a ‘winter’ bourne is a stream that flows only in the winter and often dries out in the summer, leaving dry beds or stagnant pools with green marshy grass. Much of Dorset is chalk downland with clay valleys, and in the winter the porous chalk is saturated with rainfall, but in dry summers, the water table falls below the level of a stream’s bed so it dries out. This is what happens with the water courses in many of the Winterbornes, but not with all of them and not every year. It rather depends on how much rain there has been.
I live in a village with the word ‘bourne’ incorporated into the name, but our stream is not a ‘winter’ borne, but runs the whole year round, flowing through many gardens and along the main village road. It might be a low trickle in the height of the summer but it gathers strength in the autumn, and in the winter I am always surprised how much water hurtles down. It occasionally floods, when there has been torrential rain. Now, in glorious May, the stream is in docile mood, dancing past our house chortling to all the grasses and plants along its banks.
I have been doing research for my new novel all winter and creating characters and thinking about the plot. I have been longing to start the writing process. Earlier this month with the advent of spring, I began putting words on the page. I set the scene in Winterborne Slepe. It takes time to write a book and I probably won’t finish it before the winter comes, or perhaps not until next spring. But however long it takes me, I’m going to enjoy it because I love writing and telling a story.
And I’ve still got to dream up a title for my book!