Are you a fan of the Johnny Depp film Chocolat? Here, the author JOANNE HARRIS describes the wild, untouched beauty of Flamborough, East Yorkshire, and its nostalgic link with the French coast of her childhood holidays. Interview: Alex Reece
I first discovered Flamborough when my husband was at university in Hull. I’d come up to see him and we’d go there. It is untouched and wild, and the chalk cliffs at Flamborough Head are so striking. You can see seals and many birds up there.
A lot of the English seaside doesn’t smell like the sea, but there’s something about Flamborough – it’s probably to do with the tidal flats on the other side – that has a strong sea smell, which I’ve always found reminiscent of the French coastline.
My grandfather had a house on the island of Noirmoutier, so he’s from the west coast of France, and I used to go there all the time while he was alive. It was a nice location because there were very few tourists and I could just wander about on my own. I had a boat and I’d sail it. I’d walk on the flats and explore, and go all over the island on my bike. I wrote about a very similar place in the novel Coastliners.
I do revisit Flamborough quite often. I went last year with my 19-year-old daughter, who loves that kind of place and always has. As a small child, she would clamber around on the rocks and look at caves and poke at things in pools.
I love where I’m living now (in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire), but one of the things I regret is that it’s not close enough to the sea to go easily. I suspect my shed, where I write, is a sort of misplaced beach hut. There’s all kinds of beach hut paraphernalia: driftwood, stones and model ships. This is the small child on Noirmoutier coming out in me again.
'The chalk cliffs at Flamborough Head are so striking. You can see seals and many birds up there'