How country living changed the lives of three remarkable women writers

Very fine hot day. (Bank Holiday). Sound of band in Lewes from the Downs. Guns heard at intervals. Walked up the down at the back. Got plenty of mushrooms. Butterflies in quantities. Ladies Bedstraw, Roundheaded Rampion, Thyme, Marjoram. This isn’t what we expect from Virginia Woolf, known for her caustic investigations of friends and filigree portraits of her own inner life. But in 1917, after three years of mental illness, she moved to Asheham in Sussex and began a slow but dogged recovery that took the form of these daily walks and list-filled diary entries, which rarely contain the word ‘I’. Harriet Baker argues convincingly in her new book that

A house hunter’s guide to Sussex

Bracing sea air, walks along windswept dunes and early-morning dips in the surf …living by the seaside can be just the tonic for mind, body and soul. What’s more, with greater opportunities for remote working, it’s in vogue. According to the agent Knight Frank, the sale of coastal homes increased 19 per cent over the five-year average, in 2021 with the biggest increase in south-east England: 217 per cent. With Sussex spanning the lion’s share of the south coast, it’s often the go-to spot for movers and second-home owners from London, with train journeys between 60 and 90 minutes. But whether you seek sailing, peaceful beaches or the buzz of

Could the ‘Kathleen Stock’ amendment backfire?

The hounding of Kathleen Stock – who left Sussex university following a concerted campaign against her by trans rights activists – was a disgraceful indictment of freedom of speech on campus. But one remedy for preventing a repeat – the so-called ‘Stock amendment’ to the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill, now passing through the Commons – isn’t the answer. Impetuous legislation is normally bad legislation; unless we think very carefully, we may end up with something ineffective or even counter-productive. At first glance, a simple ban on students piling in to demand the sacking or departure of professors on account of their politics or teaching might look good. Indeed, it could be defended

Why I became a writer

Whenever I give talks to children about my books they always ask who inspired me to be a writer. I don’t really think anyone did. I was playing complicated imaginary games inside my head before I could read, and as soon as I could write I filled many Woolworths notebooks with my wobbly printing. But if pressed, I say that E. Nesbit might well have been an inspiration. I loved her books as a child and treasured a biography about her when I was struggling to earn my living as a writer. It was a relief to know that she too had to resort to writing little magazine stories while