Over Wyre Novels

A former Knott End resident has published several novels inspired by the local area and its history.

Professor David Walker, once a pupil at Baines Grammar School, Poulton le Fylde, is a leading international scholar and author of numerous books on modern French literature and culture. But while pursuing a distinguished academic career at the universities of Glasgow, Keele and Sheffield, he never forgot his connection with Knott End on the Fylde coast, where he grew up.

"The countryside, seascapes and shorelines of Over Wyre have always fascinated me," he says. "When I learned about the proposal to store gas in caverns in the Preesall saltfields, I realized there was an underground dimension to the area that I had only been dimly aware of as a youngster."

He did research into the history of the salt mines at Preesall, and discovered it had once been the most productive mine in Britain. "I became fascinated by the story of how this industry had once flourished and then become all but invisible to teenagers like me who lived in the area in the 1960s," says Professor Walker, who recently retired from the Chair of French at the University of Sheffield.

Disastrous collapses in underground brine caverns caused huge sinkholes to open up at surface level, and penetration of water into the main workings created subsidence leading to the closure of the mine and the eventual disappearance of an industry that once employed hundreds of people. The tale of this catastrophe inspired Professor Walker to write his first novel called "Migrating Voids", about the effect of these events on a fictional family living in a historic manor house at the edge of the salt marsh by the river estuary.

"Over-Wyre is often considered something of a sleepy backwater. I'd like to think that my books will help make readers aware of the dramatic past this area has had," says Professor Walker.

The announcement that an American corporation was to be allowed to go ahead with proposals to store gas in caverns to be created beneath the collapsed salt mines gave renewed relevance to the history of this landscape.

"After publishing 'Migrating Voids' I actually began work on a novel set in France," explains the writer. "But news of the sudden death of an old school friend took my mind back to the days when I lived in Knott End. That and the prospect of new industrial activity in the salt-fields provided the germ of a fictional narrative that took over from my other project and led me to engage with the current concerns of the local community."



Migrating Voids        First published in 2014

Harkcliffe Hall has stood for centuries at the edge of salt marshes alongside a river estuary. Inside it a widowed, childless woman clings to the name and traditions of the family she married into. She is visited periodically by her brother, a heavy drinker who one evening is driven home from the village pub in an alcoholic stupor by young Gideon Bradshaw, working as a part-time waiter while studying for an uncertain future. Gideon's life changes course as he enters the world of the Harkcliffe estate, is drawn into its historic past and learns of its association with the local salt mines, once the most productive site in Britain. Now, with no heir, the dynasty seems doomed to die out, but Gideon stumbles across secrets that reveal a desperate struggle to avoid the inevitable, while the threat of a catastrophic fate hangs over the Hall.

"David H Walker's ambitious first novel...turns this geological phenomenon into a metaphor for instability and applies it to individuals, generations and social structures.... The drama is generated by slow shifts and small shocks. This unhurried, meticulously crafted novel makes remorseless change another word for fate.'
(Times Literary Supplement)

"Migrating Voids" is available from Amazon Books.




An Uncertain Shore        First published in 2017

The narrator of 'An Uncertain Shore' returns to the coastal haunts of his youth after a traumatic bereavement, hoping to find solace for his grief by reliving elements of his past. He is soon forced to recognize all that separates him from those he once lived among, but he meets a woman painter and is drawn to her and her distinctive art, learning about her background and her ambitions and sharing with her the cause of his depression. He also becomes involved in the schemes of a renegade journalist, bent on defeating a sinister corporation which is proposing to take over an abandoned salt mine and store gas underground, threatening an ecological calamity in the region. The two new acquaintances intersect unexpectedly, with fatal consequences. But these events in turn prove the trigger for a revived campaign against the corporate menace, led this time by the painter and a woman from the narrator's past, who recruits a band of female militants with an unconventional approach to direct action.

"An Uncertain Shore" is available from Amazon Books.


CoverStorms in the MIDI        First published in 2020

David's third novel, Storms in the MIDI, is set in South-West France at the start of the twentieth century. The wine-growing industry has survived the phylloxera epidemic that devastated the vineyards, only to find itself threatened by a new calamity. Louis Rives, a researcher from the prestigious School of Agriculture at Grignon near Paris, has been recruited by Olivier Gaudart, a landowner with political ambitions, a mercurial temperament, and a plan to solve the wine-growing crisis by promoting modern scientific methods. But it will take more than scientific know-how to cope with the situation Louis finds himself in.

Storms in the Midi is available from Amazon Books.












David's third 'Over Wyre' novel


Unspoken        First published in 2024

In David's fourth novel we return to Over Wyre.

'Because I can't say what I'm thinking, they think I have no thoughts'

This original and absorbing novel gives vivid expression to the inner life of Mrs Horton, an elderly woman whose face is disfigured and who is unable to speak following a stroke. A war-widow living out her days in a residential guest house, she is largely ignored by the other residents, but Graham Rawcliffe, a young man who works in the establishment, takes pity on her and responds to her attempts at communication. He gathers she had grown attached to a strange visitor who has since disappeared abruptly and without trace. Touched by the old lady's distress and curious as to what lies behind the mystery, Graham follows her lead and together they uncover a tragic past and love lost in wartime, before Mrs Horton became an invalid. Powerful, moving and beautifully written, "Unspoken" tells a gripping story full of intrigue and sharply observed characters. It speaks for those whose voices are rarely heard

"Unspoken" is available from Amazon Books.


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