Film company's interest in new children's book inspired by the Peak District

A wildlife conservationist who fell in love with Derbyshire when she was a child was inspired by its untamed beauty to write a book which has caught the eye of a film company.

Friday, 19th November 2021, 3:04 pm
Jo Clarke will be heading to Los Angeles in November to discuss her book Spellboda being made into a film.
Jo Clarke will be heading to Los Angeles in November to discuss her book Spellboda being made into a film.

Former children’s television presenter Jo Clarke has created a magical adventure story for young readers about a boy and a peregrine falcon.

Set in Derbyshire, the tale includes themes of conservation, wildlife education and learning how to trust and believe in yourself.

Jo, 52, who wrote and presented the children’s television programme Wild World for CITV, said: “My father grew up in Holloway and my mum’s family in Codnor and then just over the border in Jacksdale.

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The peregrine falcon is the fastest creature on the planet, capable of flying at speeds of more than 180mph (photo: PIxabay/theotherkev).

"My parents moved to the South-East before I was born, but every holiday without fail was spent returning to Derbyshire. My earliest and happiest memories are of trips to Bakewell, Buxton, Chatsworth, Cromford, Hartington, Castleton, Toad Stone, Dovedale, Matlock Bath illuminations and my favourite place of all, Goyt Valley.

"I’ve continued the tradition ever since, returning to Derbyshire at least once a year to spend time walking and eating cakes from Birds the bakers as my reward for all the trekking.

"I feel a real sense of peace, as if I’m coming home, and the wild, untamed peaks are one of my favourite places on earth. I’m captivated by Goyt Valley, and areas around Castleton, and the folklore that surrounds the area. There are so many gorgeous places, and there is a huge sense of ancient history and magic here too, as if the human world never will manage to tame it.”

It’s taken Jo seven years to complete her children’s book Spellboda, the title of which is of Anglo-Saxon origin and means ‘messenger’ or ‘bringer of intelligence of light’. She said that the central character, called Trevor, is a long-lost bridge between humans and the natural world and his role is one who saves and helps when danger is close.

Jo Clarke with the children's book which is set in Derbyshire.

She said: “Trevor wants young people to realise their potential, and to trust themselves rather than listen to outside influences; areas so prevalent for today’s young people with social media and the pressure the judgement it can bring. It wouild be amazing to help them in some small way to navigate these years safely and in a healthy process; to still be able to find their dreams and have the courage to chase them.”

Spellboda has caught the eye of a film company and Jo is screenwriting for the movie, guided by an Emmy award-winning writer. Jo said: “A production company in Los Angeles are looking to turn Spellboada into a movie. I’m off to LA this month to further the project. Until then I don’t have many details –except that I feel very fortunate indeed!”

Kent based Jo is so passionate about protecting wildlife that she’s working with three charities to provide donations from her book sales in order to help further their work. She is supporting Vulpro which helps critically endangered vultures in Africa, Wildwood Trust which conserves British wildlife and Project Lugger which is suporting Lugger Falcons in Asia.

Jo has been involved in falconry and conservation industries for more than 20 years. “There is so much to love about peregrine falcons,” she said, “how they look, their beauty in both juvenile and mature plumage. Their adaptatibility and resilience – how we can find them from roosting and nesting on cliffs, to church steeples in English cities, even to skyscrapers in New York, as they adapt their habitat to hunt. But probably most of all...their ability to fly, in a hunting stoop. at speeds of over 180mph, the fastest creature on the planet. It’s my hope that peregrine falcons, and all our amazing wildlife, thrive and flourish as we all work together to ensure they have the habitat and means to do so.”

Jo is already writing the sequel to Spellboda in which she will introduce Garnell the badger, who lives near the ruins of Errwood Hall in Goyt Valley. “He’s such a character – I can’t wait for him to meet the readers,” she said.

A mum of two grown-up children, Ellie, 25, and Edward, 18, Jo has been writing since she was at primary school. She produced a magazine when she was ten for her friends who kept animals.

She said: “I love the process of planning a new adventure, then drafting again, and again, until I’m finally happy (as much as a writer ever can be) with the end product! ”Several stories and books are sitting in my cupboard, but the story of Trevor the Spellboda captured my heart, so this is the first book that I’ve brought to publication.”

Spellboda, by J C Clarke, is out now in paperback, available from Waterstones and online retailer Amazon, priced £8.99.