Friday, May 25, 2018

The Real Site of Herne's Forest (Formerly)

Fans and regular readers may have picked up by now that there are a few real-world inspirations behind William's Grove, the town in which Owl's Flower primarily takes place. The fictional Virginia city is based heavily on the Hampton Roads area of southeast Virginia: an historical area that is both heavily forested and near several rivers and swamps. Excellent for peat and tobacco then, fun for travelers now.

In particular, there's Herne's forest "home": an undeveloped area that forms the "barrier" between the William's Grove City Center and Iris's neighborhood, complete with a ravine and a footpath. While there are plenty of largely untouched forests in the area (and many others around the country), Herne's was based largely on Kara's memories of the forest and ravine near her school...

Which, as you can see from this photo taken yesterday, is half gone.

Up until recent years, the ravine -- which is right near Kara's old grade school, itself on the banks of the James River -- was heavily overgrown and untended, a strip of woods between Kara's neighborhood and the area's high-end waterfront houses. There were bridges and paths for safe walking, as well as a little outdoor "classroom" with benches, but kids were Absolutely Not Supposed To Play There. This was partly because climbing down into the creek bed (which all the kids wanted to do) was precarious, but largely because it eventually became the site of a few attacks after dark.

In the past decade or so, the city has cleared out a good portion of the trees around the creek bed and done some upkeep on the footpath, making it a safer area for walking. Go closer to the school parking lot and there's still a small wooded area, complete with the outdoor classroom and dubious bridge.

There was never a live oak like Herne's in this area, but it wouldn't be out of place here. The inspiration for that is one city over in Hampton -- locals know it as the Emancipation Oak.

Which we'll talk about next week!

For now, be sure to hit up our Instagram if you'd like more nature photos and sneak peeks at future books!