THE goings-on in a fictional Lake District village are attracting thousands of fans to what could be the world’s first digital soap opera.

A team of female writers from Cumbria have started blogging about the trials and tribulations of 14 residents of ‘Cawthwaite’.

Since its launch on June 1, around 3,000 people have read the daily dramas of Lakeland life online.

The five women behind the project - all professional writers who have produced work for the BBC - say the Cawthwaite Project was a series of ‘secret diaries’ set in a rural Cumbrian village.

Aly Purssell, of Broughton-in-Furness, Josie Baxter, of Greenodd, Jackie Harris, who lives in Sedbergh, Rosemary Darbishire, of Ulverston, and Jean Woodhouse, of Cark, assume key characters who share their life events through personal blogs.

The characters have been ‘asked’ to give an insight into rural life by fictional quango the Rural Observation Community Initiative Europe.

Jackie Harris explained: “We could have written a series of short stories about village life and published them on a simple website. However, we really wanted to harness the interactive and sharing aspects of the internet.

“We decided that our characters should write a series of personal blogs about their own experiences of village life.

“We realised we needed a mechanism to explain why these people would suddenly start writing blogs, so we invented a ‘quango’ project which has been set up to observe 21st Century rural communities and sort of blur the lines between fact and fiction.”

Jean Woodhouse said the writers had been ‘blown away’ by how engaged readers had been since the launch, which uses Facebook and Twitter to reach more people.

She said: “We put some mini character biographies on Facebook and, almost immediately, people were speculating about what they thought about each of the Cawthwaite bloggers.

“In the first 24 hours of its launch, was visited over 1,000 times. In global internet terms that’s not a massive number, but for a small writing group in Cumbria, we’re thrilled by the response so far.”

The team has worked together before as part of a larger group called Red Sky writers, which wrote a BBC Radio 4 play called ‘Heft Like the Herdwick’.

It, too, was set in Cawthwaite. Rosemary Darbishire added: “We all fell in love with the village of Cawthwaite while we worked on Heft like the Herdwick.

“As individual writers, we each had character and story ideas that were perfect for Cawthwaite and so we began discussing how we could pull it all together in a new and exciting project.”

The Cawthwaite Project can be found at or by searching Facebook and Twitter pages.