Slipping into Chocolat

 

A sea of patchwork fields; interspersed with meandering country lanes and accompanied by the distant roar of a tractor or perhaps a peal of church bells from the village below.

This is how I picture the area that I grew up in, which, for a long time, seemed impossibly boring. There wasn’t, as far as I can recall, a single event that even approached noteworthiness in all the time I lived there. Now, however, I can appreciate that this is no bad thing, and, on returning from London, my family home seemed like a bastion of unspoilt countryside rather than a monochromatic bore.

Several weeks previously, somebody had told me about a lake a few miles away at Fonthill where they had filmed part of the film ‘Chocolat’. I understand that this immediately contradicts my saying that nothing noteworthy ever happens in the area, however, I can assure you that this is completely out of character for my humble district and I met the news with disbelief. But, after some rudimentary research, it proved to be true. The river scenes from the film, for example when Johnny Depp’s character arrives in the village, were filmed there.

My journey began rather auspiciously. The fog was so thick that you couldn’t see from one end of a field to another, and, being a fairly cold morning, the normally bustling footpaths were deserted, which felt slightly eerie. I also quickly realised that the desert boots I had chosen, having left my walking boots in London, were deeply unsuitable for the muddy and uneven paths I was following and spent more of my time developing a rudimentary style of ice skating than I did actually walking.

Eventually, I made it to Fonthill Lake, and, after clumsily vaulting the stile, I followed the footpath that led around its edge.

My first thought was that I could see very little resemblance to the scene before me and the body of water depicted in the films. I quickly came to a fence that informed me that it was prohibited to continue any farther. Unperturbed, I turned and continued back the other way and was stunned. The view was spectacular, mist shrouded the trees around me, the lake stretched far off into the distance, and to my left a stream gurgled contentedly through perfectly green hillocks and sweeping trees. I am not in the least surprised that they chose to film here, as to me it looked like an ethereal paradise.

I couldn’t believe that such a beautiful spot could exist so close to where I had grown up, and what’s more it was completely deserted. Being totally alone is a luxury I had forgotten the value of until I moved to the city.

On my way back, I noticed what looked like an extremely oddly shaped bush on a hillside, which, upon closer inspection, happened to be a grotto upon which a tree was growing. I must admit it was quite a surreal sight, and I expected any moment to see a goblin poke his head out of the side, but, to my immense relief, it was deserted. After poking around inside, and smacking my head on a low hanging rock, I left with a considerably higher estimation of my local area.