Archive for Scent of Water

Being Inspired

One of the many gifts that Elizabeth has bequeathed to us is the desire to make a collection of “little things” such as cousin Mary makes in The Scent of Water.

I have a collection myself, some inherited, some given as gifts, others found by browsing second hand and junk shops. They don’t live together, but have found their own niches in our home.

This little cat came from my husband’s childhood home, and is currently, like most cats , enjoying a patch of sunshine. A bronze boxing hare stands on the frame of an ink drawing of a Hare caught hiding in a Welsh cwm. An owl blinks down from a beam.

After my last post, Jana Jopson got in touch with a selection of photos and stories about her own collection, so that she could share them with other readers and collectors.

The following is taken from her email to the group:

“The collection is a work in progress, some arrive as gifts and some I find.  I imagine it will continue to evolve.  It lives in a glass-fronted bookcase on the shelf with all of my Elizabeth Goudge books and warms my heart whenever I see it.

The top shelf holds small rabbits, the smallest being made of brass and only 3/4 of an inch in length.  I appreciate rabbits of all sorts, in nature, story, and myth.

  • Second shelf includes a handmade clay squirrel (winsome and devious creatures!), a bluebird of happiness, and a sea turtle (another animal that has my admiration).
  • The bottom shelf has a figure of collie dog because I couldn’t find a Shetland Sheepdog (I’ve been companion to three), and a wild duck figure purchased for me by my father at an outdoor fair decades ago
My kindred spirit friend and I once saw a tiny coach-and-six with an elegant woman inside in a display cabinet at an antiques shop.  When we went back the next time, it was gone and we still say one of us should have purchased it.  I have had tiny tea sets but they have gone into shadow box creations rather than my tiny things collection, but I do watch for one made of blue glass.”
I wonder if we will be able to see some of her intriguing “shadow box creations” they sound wonderful.
I know very little about Elizabeth’s collection, beyond knowing that they still exist. Some pieces may have come from Guernsey where her Mother lived, like this exquisite silver writing desk, which currently belongs to the family of the late poet Anne Lewis-Smith who was Elizabeth’s neighbour in Dog Lane.
The value of any collection for me and I suspect for others who collect too, is the connections and tales the objects tell.
If you too collect and would like to share, we would love to know about your favourite “little things.”





Scent Of Water

April 2007 and I’m standing in the lime avenue on the approach road to Turville. The day is grey and overcast and all sound is muffled. The trees soar away towards the clouds and at their feet a few bluebells are beginning to unfurl their crumpled petals. There are no people in sight and only a kite traversing the field beyond the limes shows any sign of life. I have come to Oxfordshire to attend the Blue Plaque ceremony which will take place  tomorrow, today is for exploration and how could I not come to the place where Elizabeth set my favourite of her books?

Avenue of Limes

The Scent Of Water was written in the early sixties, published in 1963, at a time when Elizabeth had just moved to Peppard Common from Devon. and it chronicles the move of the central character Mary from a high powered executive job in London to the rural quiet of Appleshaw. She tells her disbelieving friends that she wishes to experience village life before it disappears for ever. Her reasons however are deeper and more personal than that. She has been bequeathed a house by a cousin whom she met just once as a small girl and thinks at first that she will just put the property on the market and sell it. But as the memories of her visit resurface she changes her mind and moves in.

For me this novel is a distillation of all the books that have gone before as it contains all that is best in Elizabeth’s work. Her ability to layer a book so that the threads and narrative lead one ever deeper into the heart of the story, in this case renewal, is inspirational.

Elizabeth herself was coming to terms with the lose of her mother and the lose of her Devonshire home. She was obeying the dictates of her concerned family and moving closer to the few cousins she had left at their request. At first she was unhappy and missed the countryside of her beloved Westerland valley and the companionship of the village people she had come to know. She was always nervous and shy about meeting new people, and the thought of a whole new community to come to grips with must have been daunting to her, even with the help of Jessie.

The world must have seemed a frightening place in the early sixties with the Cuban missile crisis dominating the news and President Kennedy advising all prudent families to build a nuclear bomb shelter. The Berlin wall was dividing communities and the whole world seemed on the brink of a nervous break down. All the tried and tested theories of the past where being severely tested. What hope for the future was there except to retreat to a safe haven and pray?

At that time Elizabeth and Jessie were both young enough and curious enough to start exploring the neighbourhood and it wasn’t long before the charm of their more manicured surroundings captivated her imagination. It was in fact to become one of her most productive writing periods, producing a book every two years until in her eighties she became to frail to write.

Turville is a charming village a few miles from Elizabeth’s new home, nestling under an arm of down land and surrounded by wooded fields. It has been used as a location for screen and television, the latest productions to use it being The Vicar Of Dibley and Midsomer Murders. So it is hardy surprising that Elizabeth should have been inspired to use it as the template for Appleshaw. The novel she placed there has stood the tests of time dealing with subjects such as; financial fraud, infidelity, teenage crime and the complex relationships within families and the wider community. It could have been written yesterday.

It is a book of discovery, a journey into the heart and mind of mental illness, a subject on which Elizabeth had personal experience and as such is one of the most auto-biographical of her works. She speaks movingly of the isolation that depression brings, as only someone who had experienced it could.

“I thought, I can’t bear it,. I was lying on stones and the walls were moving in. And then, and that was the third time, I said, “yes I will”. But it didn’t help. The walls moved in nearer and as they closed right round me, trapping me, I screamed. I don’t suppose I really screamed. What had happened was that I had fallen asleep at last and drifted into nightmare. I was imprisoned in stone. I knew then what men suffer who are walled up alive.” (Goudge 1963 p 136 )

Elizabeth had always been haunted by the Ely ghost and the horrific tale of entombment, but I have also been told by those who suffer depression that this is a very graphic and honest portrayal of how it feels. So many people see mental illness as an affliction sent by God as some form of punishment and only get as far as questioning why it has happened to them. Elizabeth seems to have got beyond this and in her suffering come a little closer in her understanding of God’s love and compassion.

“They’ve not come yet, I thought. All the prettiness the artists painted isn’t here. No angels, no shepherds, no children with their lambs. Its stripped down to the bare bones of the rock and the child. There’s no one here. And then I thought, I am here, and I asked, who am I Lord? And then I knew that I was everyone.” (Goudge 1963 p 136 )

There is no sense of pride here, Elizabeth had discovered and is trying to share with us her way of Prayer. The offering of her, as she would see it, small pain as recompense for others greater trials. Elizabeth’s compassion for out casts and outsiders is well known, a whole section of her Diary Of Prayer is directed towards prisoners and refugees. I wonder what she would have made of Sangatte just across the channel from us today?

Her empathy with Paul the writer and the processes he uses to manifest his craft make me wonder if Elizabeth wrote at night to minimize distractions. Perhaps she too, liked to map out whole sections of her story in her mind and then write them down in large sections or chapters. I suspect that Jessie didn’t involve herself in proof reading or criticism of Elizabeth’s work. One of the reasons Elizabeth cites for getting along with Jessie so well is that she has never read any of her books which she finds refreshing. But was there someone in the village who did have this enviable role?

There is a sense of renewal throughout this book, from Edith confessing her small sin, to Mr Hepplewaite’s major fraud, from Mary’s conversion to Cousin Mary’s revelation, each of the characters becomes reborn. It is a book full of hope, hope founded on the past and a belief that we can bring what is of value back to bloom in the future. Mary who had moved to Appleshaw to discover the past, ends up with ” the future shining on her face,” (Goudge P 282 )

I didn’t find the Talbots new build hidden behind firs in Turville although the cottages nestled around the old church is pretty much as Elizabeth describes it. The house which could be the model for The Laurels was close by, if not opposite. It had a walled garden with a door in the thickness of its stone, but it was called Orchard Cottage, and I couldn’t see the tunnel of wisteria which led to the front door, just a gate and a gravelled drive. Probably another instance of Elizabeth transposing a childhood memory to some where else.


The Randall’s row of cottages were undergoing extensive renovations and were partly shrouded in tarpaulin. A windmill is perched on the downs shoulder dominating the skyline and is never mentioned. But the lime avenue is there in all its glory.

Job chapter 14

  1. for there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.
  2. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground;
  3. Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant.

This sense of renewal is something Elizabeth experienced again and again through out her life, and it is one of the precious gifts she won, struggling with her own personal demons.


The scent of water was in the air that day too, misting through the trees and slicking the horizon with the promise of proper rain. It gave to this pretty little village glamour, a soft beauty the harsher light of summer with its compliment of tourists would have destroyed.



Sunlight & Shadows

Marion and her husband Brian and I had decided to stay overnight at The Red Lion Hotel after the first Elizabeth Goudge Convention. Before we parted on Sunday morning we walked to the bridge and the riverside, visited St Mary’s church and looked down upon the grave of Dusty Springfield in the churchyard, still festooned with flowers following her birthday on April 16th.

After hugs and farewells I took a walk along the tow-path and then started my journey home, deciding on a leisurely drive through the Chilterns. I drove through Stonor, turning off towards Turville Heath and shortly arrived at the village of Northend. Last year the blue plaque unveiling was held under cold, cloudy, wet and windy conditions and my demand to Deborah for better weather this time was duly delivered for this weekend. Despite Karen and Ken’s gentle hospitality I could not find Elizabeth in Rose Cottage or in the village of Peppard Common on both occasions. But on Saturday afternoon I found her in All Saints church and had melted into peace and quiet contentment.

My mother belonged to the Bronte Society and on a visit to the parsonage in Haworth commented to a fellow visitor that the one thing that remained the same through the years was the sunlight and shadows upon the walls and floor and furniture, the same now as when the sisters saw it. I took a photograph in Elizabeth’s church I was extremely pleased with and ran and showed a number of our group, like a little schoolboy proud of his latest achievement. I had not found her in Turville when I drove there last year either, the suggested setting of my favourite book The Scent of Water. In fact I could not see anything that had taken part in the novel. But when I drove into the little village of Northend I found the peace and contentment again.

And so I drove on homeward through the Chilterns, their wooded crests, sunlit vales, diving deep down on narrow lanes and climbing steeply up twisting roads, all between daisy and bluebell verges and beneath trees wearing their bright green sleeves of spring. For personal reasons I am always happy after the event. So I look back on my meeting again my lovely friends Marion and Brian, shaking hands with new acquaintances and being guided to here and there by Deborah and Nick, who never once intruded noisily upon our own quiet thoughts and contemplations and yearn for those few happy hours. But I also remember the peace and contentment I carried as I drove home through to Hertfordshire on the far edge of my lovely Chilterns.

Paul Dominic Gray  30th April 2009


Poor Robin


I do so agree with your comments on the new film supposedly of The Little White Horse – it is truly dreadful as a representation of the book. Like you I got no further than the trailer and excerpts on the film’s website, but this was enough to get me really angry.

Apart from using the names of a few characters it has little else to do with the book. If they had given the characters different names I do not think I would ever have realised that it was supposed to be TLWH!

TLWH has been my favourite comfort read since I first read it at the age of 8; I pick it up every few years and am still entranced by it. I am not normally someone who bears grudges – life is too short – but I could very easily do so over this. Why spoil the gentle magic of the book; why turn the characters into caricatures? And never, never will I forgive them for what they have done to Robin.

I am so pleased that the book is now better known (when I was younger I hardly ever met anyone else who knew it) and I can only hope that seeing the film may bring other readers to it – at least that will go a little way towards redeeming the tragedy.

I shall now reread it as reassurance that at least the book itself is still there!

Best wishes, Doreen.

Dear Doreen,

A kindred spirit! I’d begun to think I had been a little harsh. In fact my husband says that I really ought to go and see it if only to be able to talk about it first hand. I had in fact almost made up my mind to do so when a fellow worker told me she had read an interview given by Dakota Blue (Maria) and she had said that Maria was “such a good strong character” that she could see the possibility of a sequel!

I suppose it is a generational problem, and the younger one is the more likely you would be to emphasise with the updated story. But you are right, the only real similarity are in the names, and I think even here they have changed Black Heart to Night/dark/black. J.K. Rowlings bless her hasn’t helped matters with that remark about her favourite book

I agree about Robin, but also deeply regret the fun poked at Miss Heliotrope, noble woman of gentle strength, who wins back her lover and her health before the book ends

Did you go on to read any of Elizabeth’s other books? The book that speaks deeply to me is Scent Of Water. There is the rightness of a great painting about it, and it will be one of the next of her works that I’ll review. I just keep putting it off because I want to get it right

Thank you so much for contacting the site, I would like to use your email in next month’s Goudge Talk to hopefully spark a debate

Deborah – many thanks for the reply Whether of not it would be a good thing to see the whole film – I am not so sure; it could scar you for life

I have read only a few of EG’s books. My sister was given a copy if The Little White Horse in 1948 and she also loves it and rereads it. I read it myself shortly afterwards – it was the first book I read for myself and at the time it seemed very long, but it enchanted me and still does. Although I am usually a very practical and down-to-earth person I can always lose myself in its magic. Maybe we all need to have something to retreat into on occasions.

My comment about Robin came from my early and continuing love of the character – what more could you want from a man? I think I have spent my life looking for Robin – and never found him! The image of him in a face mask and with a strange array of feathers round his neck is rather disturbing.

The other book by EG that I love is The Dean’s Watch Again the gentle magic works, and I love the references to the Fen country – my father’s family come from that part of England.

I shall, on your recommendation, try Scent of Water. But only after I have reread The Little White Horse, just to reassure myself that it is still there!

Best wishes, Doreen.


Goudge’s Ghosts


June 2009’s website article


On our recent visit to Rose Cottage, we took the opportunity to visit places in the vicinity that Elizabeth had been to and written about. I love to think of her tramping the lanes with her dogs, getting to know the aspects of her new home as she approached it from different angles and routes. Then later maybe, being driven by Jessie through the changing seasons of this gentle landscape.

The land here becomes much more intimate; a long thin ribbon of hills stretching away towards Bedfordshire, which are covered in little woods and spinneys with open farmed land in-between. The soil looks almost white because of the large quantity of stones, chalk and flint, which litter the surface of the fields. Scratch a slope and find the chalk, white ribbons ascending hills. Tethered above almost every field was a Red Kite, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many in one county, banking and billowing just like the fields they flew over, same colour as the winter woods falling away behind us. The air was raw, and a grey mist concealed all distances, enhancing the remoteness of this place, set apart from the corridor of man’s development ,which trails into London and out to the ever growing towns in the country.

Avenue of Limes

We came upon Turville, Elizabeth’s template for Appleshaw, by surprise, and drove to park under the avenue of Limes. They had grown into small spinneys either side of the lane and were not in leaf. But their supple tops still swayed and gossiped to each other, while their feet were pooled in the azure of blue bells. We walked the lane under them towards the village hearing the wind in the branches and little else except the call of birds.

The village is lovely, all red brick warmth and steep tiled red roofs grouped around a green, with footpaths leading up to the Chiltern way and the wonderful black and white windmill which was filmed as Truly Scrumptious’s home in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The church of St Mary the Virgin, used in the television series The Vicar of Dibley, sits to one side of the green and has the loveliest of the flint and stone cottages in its demise, an old fashioned briar rose rambling over its front. One enters the church by descending three steep stone steps and inside it has a pure simplicity that delights. Wooden barrel roof, dark painting of the Madonna and Child in one chancel, and heraldic glass from the former Vicarage in its windows. Outside the graves slope peacefully, like pillows propped up in a bed, and the trees dip and sway on the edges.

The house which could be the model for The Laurels was close to the church, if not opposite. It had a walled garden with a door in the thickness of its stone, but it was called uninspiring Orchard Cottage, and I couldn’t see the tunnel of wisteria which led to the front door, just a gate and a gravelled drive. Probably another instance of Elizabeth transposing a childhood memory to some where else.

The cottages where Paul lived with his bitter wife Valerie are opposite the pub he used and are as compact and charming as Elizabeth describes them, with colourful front gardens and sparkling windows, they are named Wisteria, Windmill and Chiltern their back gardens tucked under the steep green bluff. They are tiny indeed, and you can’t help remembering Valerie’s friends being nonplussed at her complaints about housework, they would be considered small apartments today.


Walking back through the village, we heard the sound of an approaching pony and trap and stopped to watch it pass. Shades were conjured of the two Mary’s coming to the village, one to seek peace and respite from a hostile world and another, a small child come to visit an Aunt, both of them drove with the unaware horse’s handlers. They passed us driving away through the Limes as little Mary would have done, tearfully hoping to return some day to see her Aunt, in her strange house, set apart as if in a painting.

Pony & Trap Turville

Job chapter 14
verses 7 to 9

  1. for there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.
  2. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground;
  3. Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant.

This sense of renewal is something Elizabeth experienced again and again through out her life, and it is one of the precious gifts she won, struggling with her own personal demons.

The scent of water was in the air today, misting through the trees and slicking the horizon with the promise of proper rain. It gave to this pretty little village glamour, a soft beauty the harsher light of summer with its compliment of tourists would have destroyed.

We too drove off the same way, and were soon climbing a steep coombe through a magnificent beech hanger wood, whose roots resembling elephant’s trunks held the banks apart so that the road could pass. We stopped at the top of the rise to watch the still sleeping woods slip into the valley and a Golden Pheasant stroll around a field, the Chinese lantern of yet another kite cruising overhead. We passed through Nettlebed, a place of old boundaries and brick kilns which produced clay bricks for local use. This is the village in The White Witch to which Froniga takes Will to be cured of the “King’s Evil” ,the skin disease scurvy. Charles I was staying at The White Hart. Today it is more recognisable as the setting for The Midsomer Murder’s series.

We headed towards Peppard Common and the church of All Saints that Elizabeth had attended during her life in the village. She like Mary wanted the chance to experience the last dregs of country life before they vanished. The village is spread out, more a series of hamlets than a village with a centre, a throw back to ancient times when it was surrounded by extensive common land. Its name is derived from an old word for cattle lands and the Pipard or Pypard family who once held the local manor at Blount’s Court, The Court famous for a tulip tree which was planted by Charles I.


From the outside the church is sturdy, built of local flint and brick with a distinctive red tiled steeple. It’s surrounded by a large church yard bordered by mature trees. Inside is surprisingly spacious, white walled, early arches and good wood. The stained glass is varied, of a high quality and depicts unusual themes; such as the west window showing the Northumbrian saints St Bede and St Aidan, all stormy seas and misted islands against which the saints are resting. The central window in the north aisle shows a memorial to Nicholas John Cottle licensed Reader of this Church, incorporating the figure of the intellectually brilliant 5th century Bishop St Augustine of Hippo, last seen on our visit to Ely cathedral. I’m sure as an avid reader Elizabeth would have enjoyed this particular window. But my favourite is a small slim window situated in the south side of the chancel which has the words “Blessed are the peace makers” on its jewelled colours. A kneeling knight offers the hilt of his sword to make a cross, and his hand is being shaken by another who stands to one side. The figure of Christ dominates the background. The alter is one of the loveliest pieces of marketry I’ve seen, and is a representation of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, with the faces of the disciplines vivid under a well placed spot light. I can see why Elizabeth came to love and venerate this church; it contains enough beauty to satisfy the soul without being pretentious or distracting.

I sat for a while towards the back of the church where I thought Elizabeth might have sat and remembered poor Mary in her Christmas church feeling dark and separate until the walls cracked and the fire came out, and Lucilla lighting up the morning for Hilary when she attended the morning service, and John Wentworth, Parson Hawthorn, and even Adam Aylescough in Ely, all stumbling their way towards God, all reaching for the bliss of perfect communion, and just for a moment, I felt close to them too and therefore to Elizabeth, a moment of connection.

Her memorial service was held here on Friday 6th April 1984 and attended by her family and friends, a thanks giving for the life and work of a great lady. Traherne’s prayer that she quotes in Scent of Water was recited as part of the service.

Interior of Elizabeth's Church

Lord have Mercy
Thee I adore
Into Thy Hands.






A Good Find

March 5, 2008

I was so happy to discover your website in November of last year (2007).  I had set myself the happy task of rereading all of my Elizabeth Goudge books because I felt my vision of the true Christian spirit was fading, and no one I have ever come across has been able to capture the essence of that spirit like Miss Goudge.  That may have been because her work was an integral part of the shaping of my faith.

I first discovered her when I was in junior high school, about 13 years old, and for one of my elective classes I chose to work in the school library because I loved books.  Part of my job was to tidy and dust the bookshelves, and replace the books to the shelves that had been returned and checked in.  I think The Scent of Water caught my attention as I was placing it on the shelf one day because it was such a lovely title and an intriguing concept…rarely does anyone mention that there is a scent associated with fresh water.  Reading the book I was enchanted with her descriptions of the “little things”; with the three necessary prayers the old cleric gave to Cousin Mary in her young distressed state: “Lord have mercy”; “Thee I adore”; and “Into Thy hands”.  The language had a grace and a music of its own and the spiritual depth was a treasure.  I had to find more from this author…and thus began a lifelong love of her work.

In my years of seeking a life of faith I have been helped as much by her books as by the Sunday school classes and Bible studies and services I have attended.  She has a way of teaching through her characters and her stories that is inspiring without being “preachy”.

So here I am, over in America, at the ripe old age of 56, celebrating 43 years of “fan hood”, and through the internet I discover I am not the only person who still loves her writing.  And I am delighted that you have so much here for me to explore!  Thank you for providing an opportunity for Goudge fans to learn more about her and to share our appreciation for her books with one another.


Louise Clark Ashburn

Tennessee, USA

Can You Place This Quote?

Can You Place This Quote?

I received this email just after Christmas, and thought that I would ask the advice of other readers, as I am still uncertain as to the origins of the quote. Anyone else recognise it?

Recently I read a quote attributed to Elizabeth Goudge and I am
wondering which of her works it may have come from.
The quote is:

“She had long accepted the fact that happiness is like swallows in
spring. It may come and nest under your eaves or it may not.
You cannot command it. When  you expect to be happy, you are not, and
when you don’t expect to be happy, there is suddenly Easter in your
soul, though it be mid-winter.”

Thanks for any direction you can give me on the source of this quote.

Dear Sandi,
This got me scratching my head! At first I didn’t think it sounded like a Goudge quote at all and wondered if it came from the other E. Goudge, the American author, but then reread your email and saw that you actually said Elizabeth Goudge. Sooooo

After some cogitation, I wonder if it comes from “Scent of Water”?  I don’t recognise it and this is my favourite Goudge novel, but it does sound like something Mary would have said.

Unfortunately we were flooded twice this summer and all my books have been packed away for safety reasons while we renovate, so I can’t confirm this. I would be grateful if you could.