Isabel Ashdown on her perfect Sussex weekend

Photo by Natalie Miller

Photo by Natalie Miller - Credit: Archant

Author Isabel Ashdown’s perfect weekend involves a walk with the family and a creative project or two at home in Chichester

Isabel Ashdown’s debut novel Glasshopper was named as one of the best books of 2009 by the Observer and the London Evening Standard – and her second novel Hurry Up and Wait was an Apple iTunes Number One Bestseller and an Amazon Customer Favourite in 2011. Her new book, Flight, is out now. Last year she was Writer in Residence at the University of Brighton, where she continues to teach on their Creative Writing MA.

Having grown up on the south coast, Isabel now lives in Chichester, and says that Sussex is “a constant source of inspiration. All my novels have a coastal location, largely inspired by the beauty and range of our south coast beaches – I grew up in East Wittering, so I guess it’s in my blood!”

Together with Leonard the dachshund and in partnership with Chichester Free School, she is a proud volunteer for the Pets as Therapy Read2Dogs scheme, an initiative aimed at nurturing confidence in young readers and promoting a lifelong love of books.

At weekends, walking is a regular part of family life, that family being her husband Colin, a carpenter, their two teenage children, and dogs Charlie and Leonard. “A favourite place is West Wittering beach with its wide expanse of sand and sky, sometimes as calm as a pond, other times raw and windswept.” Away from the beach they love the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum in Singleton. “We’ve been members since the children were tiny. It’s a beautiful spot for a leisurely wander about the grounds or a picnic on the lawns. Most often we head for the hills above Chichester for a more strident hike, and the chance to see buzzards, deer, songbirds and owls. We’re big nature lovers.”

When not working or walking though, there’s never an idle moment: “Colin will be working on the house or tending to the allotment, while I’ll often have a sewing project on the go. Clothkits in Chichester is a top haunt of mine, with its Aladdin’s cave of fabrics and trims – and just a few doors down from there I’ve discovered Hutson and Grey, a shop specialising in chalk paints and home design.”

Isabel says that her latest artistic pursuit is furniture painting. “I’m loving it! As my day job requires a lot of thinking, creative projects seem to offer me a kind of meditative space, in which I often come up with some of my most interesting writing ideas.”

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When it comes to eating out, Isabel likes to support local businesses: “We enjoy the Park Tavern in Chichester, in part because they’re dog lovers, so Charlie and Leonard are always welcome. On the rare occasions that I get time for a daytime coffee break, you can’t beat Whipped & Baked, also in Chichester, with its fabulous home-baked cakes and excellent coffee.”

When in Brighton, Isabel recommends “catching an event at the wonderful Bookish Supper Society in Hove – a vibrant evening of food, drink and bookish entertainment.”

But now that the sun is considering making a more regular appearance, she says that you’re most likely to find the family eating at home with friends, “perhaps enjoying a barbecue and some allotment-grown veg, drinking a glass of Pimms on the patio and soaking up the good weather. That’s the plan, anyway!”



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