Today it's my stop on The Hidden Bones blog tour and it's my pleasure to welcome Nicola Ford to the blog to talk about Discovering Hungerbourne.
It’s an extraordinary privilege being the Archaeologist for the Stonehenge & Avebury World Heritage Site. For me spending my days working in the ancient heart of Wiltshire really is like being the proverbial kid in a sweet shop. The whole county is soaked in the ancient past, and nowhere more so than the Marlborough Downs which form the backdrop for much of my debut novel The Hidden Bones. It’s a landscape littered with burial mounds and spectacular prehistoric monuments, you can barely move without tripping over one.
But it’s also a chalkland landscape, and one of its curiosities is that here and there ancient springs bubble up to the surface spilling out their life-giving waters. There’s no more beautiful sight than the glistening waters of a chalkland stream (or a bourne as they’re called in these parts) meandering their way through the hills and valleys on an early summer’s day. But the bournes can be capricious beasts. Some of them, predictably known as winterbounes, rise only in the winter and just a few only show themselves very occasionally in the wettest of winters.
A few years ago I visited a colleague who was digging a Bronze Age burial mound in a small village high up on the Downs where one such bourne rises. The stream is known as the Hungerbourne because as archaeologist Dr David Barbrook says in The Hidden Bones, ‘The waters only run in really wet years. So they were associated with bad harvests and famine.’
That visit planted the seed of an idea which led to the village of Hungerbourne, which features in The Hidden Bones along with its manor house and its ancient burial ground, being born. A little more research led me to the discovery that in some places these hungerbournes are called Woe Waters.
In the Bronze Age burial mounds in the Downs were built close to where these springs rise a little too often for it to have been just a coincidence. And that got me to wondering. In the minds of the ancient people who built them were these springs and their streams already associated with death when they laid their dead to rest beside them? And what if, in the present day too they were connected with a deadly secret? The Hidden Bones is the result.
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The dead rarely leave matters tidy, widow Clare Hills knows that all too well. In search of a new start, Clare reconnects with university friend Dr David Barbrook and is pleased when he asks for her help sifting through the effects of recently deceased archaeologist Gerald Hart. Together they stumble the lost finds from Gerald’s most glittering dig.
Hidden from view for decades, and supposedly destroyed in an arson attack, the discovery of the Hungerbourne Barrows archive is every archaeologist’s dream. However, the dream soon turns to a nightmare which puts Clare at the centre of a murder inquiry.