For the young me, the ghost stories and folklore of Britain had a powerful effect. Odd to think of it now, but reading about the dead as a child, brought the wider world to a rich and vivid life.
Out there, it seemed, was a land, far older, stranger and deeper than my limited experience. A world where multiple layers of history could still be seen, or felt, not only in old houses, ruined castles and abbeys, but also in and around more ordinary sites such as shops, factories, pubs and suburban streets.
A mysterious letter. A secret journal. An ancient wood, in borderland territory. Deceptive paths and strange, ghostlike figures, stirring at the edge of the trees. These were some of the elements that quickly took hold and drew me into Ryhope Wood, when I first read about it aged 15.
Recently I re-read it, rediscovered and found many new things to treasure.
Dead rats aside, there was one area of the garden that always made me feel a little uneasy. As the name suggests, there was once a mill here.
In the late 18th century it was a paper mill, but by the 1820s had become a cloth-mill. By the end of the Victorian era, the mill was gone, but perhaps something else lingered in the grounds.
At the inaugural Balham Literary Festival, a gathering of Nature Writers, Landscape Writers and Writer writers came together to discuss the state of the natural world. Here’s my report on what I saw and heard.
Is it possible to be haunted by a place? I think that I may be. In this case it is Ashley Vale in Bristol – an exceptional urban oasis caught between the tracks, containing allotments, woods, hilltops and a pub next door to a farm.
It’s dark. It’s raining. January is upon us and the season of reflection, projection and resolve is underway. For voracious readers, this means that the perennial question: what to read next will be nagging at their shoulders more urgently than ever.
Clevedon: the most boring seaside town in all England; filled with dusty, fusty little sepia-tinted shops, selling dull stuff like lacework, horse brasses and pink and blue vintage porcelain salt-and-pepper sets in the shape of Edwardian ladies.
At least that’s what I used to think…
Often its an image, or sense, of the physical presence of a place that draws me to it, but in the case of One Tree Hill, it was the name that attracted me.
A name that seemed so impossibly resonant that I had to see for myself whether the actual hill could ever live up to it.
Between the back gardens and traffic jammed streets of North London runs an extraordinary green path: Parkland Walk, once a rail line to the suburbs, now a tree-lined escape from the city, in the middle of a city.
A ‘spotter’s guide’ to some of the more common themes, obsessions and clichés to be found in non-fiction ghost books.
Magpie Tales blog invited people to submit a poem or vignette based on this picture. She’ll get you in the end, Stretched out and unaware, Or watchfully expectant, She’ll come, she always does. Unable to resist, you’ll slip Down gradually, gratefully, Allowing sky blue water To do its work. Hag-like at times, she crouches, Opening…
And coming down from high moors
I caught a whiff of Whitby,
Through bitching rain, a coastal squall,
Came a smalltown smell so subtle almost dreamt
My attempt to sound a little like Wallace Stevens, with a poem about a mythic Green Man.