Fleet and Fleet Pond in Hampshire take centre stage in Murder at Waldenmere Lake.
The town and pond’s history inspire the story, with Iris Woodmore fighting to save her beloved lake from destruction in the same way generations of conservationists have battled to save Fleet Pond from destructive developments.
Below, I’m going to take you on a tour of some of the locations featured in the book.
Fleet Pond is the inspiration for Waldenmere. I’ve used many aspects of the pond’s history in Murder at Waldenmere Lake.
Sir Henry Ballard of London and South Western Railway plans to capitalise on the popularity of Waldenmere by building a hotel on its shores. However, the size of the hotel he plans to build is more suited to a big city or large seaside resort than a small market town like Walden.
Over the years, many developments have threatened to encroach on Fleet Pond Nature Reserve (a hotel was suggested at one time), and the size of the lake and nature reserve has shrunk over time.
The railway enabled Victorian naturalists to visit Fleet Pond, and references to its flora appear in natural history journals from this era, with herbarium sheets located at the Natural History Museum.
Fleet Pond Pond was designated one of the first Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in Hampshire in 1951. By 1984, the small pond by the Heron on the Lake lost its SSSI status due to development around it. The Flash (a flood relief area by Fleet railway station) was infilled in 1976 to construct an industrial estate, and the Waterfront Business Park was built there.
In Murder at Waldenmere Lake, Percy Baverstock of the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves helps Mrs Siddons, MP, to lobby the government to make Waldenmere a nature reserve to give it legal protection from development.
Sunrise at Fleet Pond
Boat House Corner
Mill Ponds, the home of General Cheverton, plays a key role in the novel. The house is situated in the Boat House Corner area of Fleet Pond.
Long since demolished, a Boat House did once stand at this corner of the pond.
Sandhills, Fleet Pond in spring
General Cheverton’s neighbours are the Thackerays, who live at Sand Hills Hall. Running down the hill from the Hall is a track that leads to an old jetty that was used to launch floatplanes. This is based on the sandhills area of Fleet Pond, where a track once ran down the slope and onto a jetty.
Alice Thackeray is Iris's closest friend, and they often chat under the old jetty at the foot of the hill that leads to Sand Hills Hall.
Sandhills in winter
Remains of the old jetty
The Lions’ View platform at Fleet Pond is close to where a T-shaped jetty built by the Royal Engineers once stood.
Lions' View platform under construction in 2014
The Lions’ View platform on the eastern side of Fleet Pond recognises the 118 year association of the military with Fleet Pond and was funded by Fleet Lions.
Below the Lions' View platform is East Marsh, which I’ve called Willow Marsh in the book.
East Marsh Fleet Pond, Winter 2009
Sandy Bay, Fleet Pond, 2008
Sandy Bay is one of the most popular areas of Fleet Pond. I’ve called it Heron Bay in my novels, which is an appropriate name as herons nest in the tall fir trees you can see from Sandy Bay.
Overlooking Heron Bay is Heron Bay Lodge where Horace Laffaye, the owner of The Walden Herald, lives. Tucked in a copse of trees behind the bay, Heron Bay Lodge is a stylish wooden-clad house painted a soft shade of grey. It has a high-level veranda that overlooks Waldenmere.
Sandy Bay, Fleet Pond, 2008
Gelvert Stream, Fleet Pond, 2008
Gelvert Stream runs into Fleet Pond from the south. I've called it Grebe Stream. In the Iris Woodmore Mysteries, only four houses have been built around the lake: Mill Ponds, Sand Hills Hall, Heron Bay Lodge and Grebe House.
Grebe House, the home of Mrs Sybil Siddons, MP, is described as having rustic charm with ivy trailed over its gable roof and row of gabled windows. It's in the advantageous position of overlooking Grebe Stream as it flows into Waldenmere.
Gelvert Stream, Fleet Pond, Winter 2013
Fleet Railway Station
Walden is based on the town of Fleet in Hampshire and shares its history. A relatively new town, Fleet sprung up because of the railway. In 1836, the London and Southampton Railway Company purchased 'the Fleet Mill Pond and certain allotments of wasteland belonging to Fleet Farm'.
Fleet Pond was a popular attraction for day trippers, and the railway company built a station originally called Fleet Pond Halt, later changed to Fleet Station.
Aerial view of Fleet Pond and the little pond
The railway line from London to Southampton cut through the pond. Engineers constructed an embankment that still stands today, dividing the main pond from the smaller pond by the Heron on the Lake pub.
Fleet Station C1917
The Oatsheaf circa 1903
The Drunken Duck, frequented by Iris' boyfriend, George Hale, and her boss, Elijah Whittle, is based on the Oatsheaf in Fleet.
The Oatsheaf, first licensed in 1838, was built at the crossing of the old Reading to Farnham Road and the Crookham (Village) to Fleet (Pond) Road.
Oakley's Stores circa 1915
Jim Fellowes is a minor character in the Iris Woodmore Mysteries. He owns Fellowes Emporium on Walden High Street, which is based on the Emporium pub in Fleet.
It was originally built as an emporium and called Oakley's Stores. James Oakley gave the town its first clock.
Emporium Pub, Fleet
The Jubilee Bench, Odiham
Jubilee Oak, Odiham Common
In Murder at Waldenmere Lake, Iris Woodmore meets her boyfriend, George, at a secret bench in Bog Myrtle Glade. There is a real location at Fleet Pond called Bog Myrtle Glade, but that’s not where the bench is.
It’s on Odiham Common, west of London Road and was erected in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.
The bench I describe has been there so long the roots of an ancient oak have grown over its iron legs. The canopy of the oak hides Iris and George from view – they can glimpse the lake in the distance, but no one can see them.
Join me on a brief video tour of some of the locations featured in Murder at Waldenmere Lake.
Credits: Thanks to Vicki Jull for the Sunrise at Fleet Pond and Sandhills photos
The Iris Woodmore Mysteries are available in hardback, paperback, ebook and audiobook from Amazon and bookstores.