Harbledown the fox’s journey throughout his book series follows the footsteps walked by the homeless community at Catching Lives. The settings chosen for the stories are those that are important to the contributors.
Prior to the writing of Harbledown Hope, clients at Catching Lives produced a beautiful book entitled “A Walk In Our Shoes” highlighting the places around Canterbury most important to them and the reasons why these have been chosen. The book gives lots of information about these locations and includes gorgeous photographs taken by the clients. The pages are overlaid with words that capture the emotions of the clients at each place. This book has been a great inspiration when writing Harbledown’s journey.
Harbledown’s book series begins with a fox hunt occurring in the fields overlooking Canterbury, near Goodnestone. The spot where the young fox’s parents are killed is the point at which the spire of Canterbury Cathedral first comes into view. At this place is an information board detailing the pilgrimage taken each year from St Martin-in-the-Fields to Canterbury. Pilgrims visit the burial place in Canterbury Cathedral of Dick Sheppard who appears as a loving father-figure in the books. He also remains the inspiration behind The Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields continued work with homeless and vulnerable people of London.
Harbledown the fox and his rescuer Biggles the Great Dane are chased through the fields and woods on the outskirts of Canterbury by a vicious hound scenting blood. I went on field trips with the clients to take photographs of these locations and to gather descriptions of the settings for inclusion within the stories. It was also important to visit in the autumn when the account is set.
The name for our fox came from the beautiful village of Harbledown that lies on the outskirts of Canterbury. The Black Prince’s Well, that can be found in Harbledown, features within our story. Here the young injured fox bathes within its healing waters. This honours the historical folklore that Edward the Black Prince, who was one of the early pilgrims to Canterbury, bathed within the well to cure his ailments.
The Black Prince’s Well, Harbledown
The Westgate Towers are among the most striking buildings of Canterbury and are the landmark that greet Harbledown and Biggles on their arrival into the city. Not that they have long to appreciate the architecture as the chasing hound is once more on their heels.
The crooked door that opens up to Catching Lives’ charity bookshop is one of the most photographed places in Canterbury. In recognition of the wonderful work the bookshop does for Catching Lives and as a place where our clients feel welcomed and inspired, this location features warmly within the Harbledown series.
Unsurprisingly the iconic Canterbury Cathedral appears within the Harbledown book series. This is partly in recognition of Dick Sheppard, who inspired the character Sheppard within the books. In the latter part of his life Dick Sheppard was the Dean of Canterbury. He is buried within Canterbury Cathedral. There is a plaque and stained-glass window dedicated to him.
There is a small, disused shed within the gardens of the Greyfriars that has been used within our books as the refuge the animals use. This shed represents the Catching Lives building and the shelter provided for the homeless of Canterbury. When we visited this location, the remains of a fire and tinned food was evidence of someone having recently used it as a shelter. Dick Sheppard also had strong links with the Greyfriars in Canterbury.
So when you follow in Harbledown’s footsteps through the book series remember you are following in the footsteps of our homeless community, sharing in their pain, distress and anguish, but also in their courage, community and hope.