If you already know of Rosamunde Pilcher, you’ll be aware that she is up there with the greatest of female contemporary writers, having sold more than 60 million novels worldwide. However, despite her success, she isn’t really that well-known in the UK. Not in the way that we all know Shakespeare, C.S Lewis or George Orwell. Even here in Cornwall, where she was born in the little village of Lelant, you’ll find that a lot of people don’t even know who she is! Yet, she’s accredited with bringing in huge amounts of tourists each year to our little corner of the UK due to her associations with the area. So, where are they all coming from? Who are these Pilcher fanatics keeping Cornwall’s tourism industry thriving?
Well, it may surprise you to hear that these fans don’t come from the UK at all, but in fact they flock in from Germany – around 215,000 every year, to be precise. In Germany, Pilcher is a name that is as well-known as Andy Murray and David Attenborough are over here. It does seem a little strange, doesn’t it? But, as with everything, there is a good explanation behind it.
In the 1990’s, German broadcaster ZDF began showing adaptations of Pilcher’s novels for German television, and, since then, these stories of little English villages have become a Sunday night staple for our friends across the water. 112 films have been produced, in fact, and all have been a big hit! Every Sunday evening, the numbers of Germans watching these Pilcher dramas hits around 6 million, which is quite astonishing, really! Though we can’t be completely sure as to why these adaptations have been such a success over there, there are several hypotheses’ that could explain it. Pilcher herself puts it down to how beautifully they are shot, showing picturesque Cornish landscapes (though German actors are usually used, the films are shot in Cornwall or somewhere similar in the English countryside) that appeal to German viewers for their great natural beauty. In fact, Claus Beling himself, a member of ZDF who conjured up the idea of adapting the novels, expresses his love for Cornwall; ‘It’s lights and colours are very special’. However, he also puts the success of the dramas down to a nostalgic longing on the German’s part, ‘Where a village is still a community in which everyone looks after one another.’ Quite lovely, isn’t it?
The success of Pilcher’s novels and TV adaptations in Germany have seen Germans making regular visits to Cornwall, looking to scout out the gorgeous locations spotted in the films [here’s a link to some of the Cornish Rosamunde Pilcher locations], such as Pencarrow House, Bedruthan Steps, St Michaels Mount and Prideaux Place. Peter Prideaux-Brune, who resides at the latter location, explains that the house sees over 10,000 Germans every year visiting on Pilcher tours! This influx of German tourists has completely revamped Cornwall’s tourism industry over the past 15 years, with tourism now accounting for over 20% of the County’s GDP and German visitors becoming as normal and welcome a sight as our green fields, endless seas and stunning landscapes. Cornwall is such a uniquely beautiful part of the UK, so why not show it off?
Our next two articles in this series will explore Rosamunde Pilcher herself – her work and life – so if you’d like to learn more about this successful novelist and the woman who transformed Cornwall’s tourism industry, then be sure to look out for them!