There is A House

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The house sit in the middle of the woods looking out of place and yet there something about it that made it seem like it had always been there.

Vines and climbing flowers covered the white stone walls whilst weeds grew out of the cracks in the brown roof tiles. Flowers grew at the doors and windows, masking holes and dirt. The trees surrounding made the house look like it was playing hide and seek. The sun just got through to the house and made dapples of light and shadow on the walls and windows.

They called her a witch, a crazy animal lady, a mad woman, someone to void because she wasn’t ‘one of us.’ The children teased each other to go visit her house, maybe knock on the door. The teenagers threw things at her, broke into her house, spread dirty rumours about her. The adults ignored her, muttered about her to their neighbours, shunned her from their society.

I knew different though. She wasn’t some crazy old hippy, hermit lady or a witch making potions and casting curses. She wasn’t mean or in league with daemons nor was she an outcast of society or someone to be feared and hated.

She was a nun, Sister Benedicta.

I visited her about once or twice or a month after we had first met and she had saved my life when I had been ten years old. It had been a stupid dare by my older step-sister and I had eaten poisonous berries. My step-sister had left me there in the woods, being sick and crippled by stomach cramps.

Sister Benedicta or Benny as she liked to be called, heard me crying and thought me a sick animal. I was too ill to escape her and far too sick to worry about her killing me and cooking me in a pot.

She nursed me back to health and told me her stories.

‘But why does everyone make stuff up about you? They fear and hate you but they are nothing like what they said,’ I had asked.

‘Because when I first came here to spread the word of God and help the sick, a man fell in love with me. I rejected him because I was all ready married to God. He spread rumours about me. Called me a witch and made everyone question my nature,’ Benny replied.

‘Was there nothing you could do?’ I asked.

‘No. He was a Lord and everyone knew his power and they trusted him. He was handsome and could have any woman he wanted. Not being able to have me, made him bitter. The villagers cast me out and I found this abandoned woodman’s cottage and made it my own.’

‘And the Lord?’ I questioned.

‘I don’t know. Who rules this land now, Child?’

I told her and with a nod, Sister Benedicta said, ‘that must be his son then.’

‘If he’s gone, why don’t you come out and tell everyone that you are a nun?’ I suggested.

Benny shook her head, ‘I’m too old for that and I am happy enough to end my days like this soon.’

‘The perhaps, I can do something….’

‘Bring me food when you can and books, paper and ink, perhaps wool to knit with and cloth to sew.’

Ten years later, I was still bring things to Sister Benedicta. I was married with two children and had a little farm to run. I brought Benny whatever was in season, wood for her fire in the cold months and crafts to fill her days with.

I tried to get her to move in with me and my family but she refused.

‘I like to be with nature. I like to pray in quietness. Your farm sounds so pleasant but also so busy. I would only be in the way. I’m better here, living out my days until God calls me home.’

‘As long as you are happy.’

‘I forever am.’

Guinea pigs

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My husband was so unobserved and busy all the time that it took him two years to realise I had gone behind his back and brought our daughters some guinea pigs.

Food! #FridayFictioneers

Pausing for a moment, I rested on top of blade of grass and scented the air. I could smell flowers and something else….something that sent a tingle through me and called for attention.

Setting off, I followed the scent as it grew then I found myself on something different. The land rose and fell then I came across my prize.

I half rose in the air and sent the signal out to the other workers; food here! Food here!

They came in a drove, eager to see what I had found. Then together, we carried everything back to our hill and our Queen.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2020/06/03/5-june-2020/ with thanks).

 

 

The Grey Causeway To Brierwell Manor (Part 5)

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I didn’t explore the rest of the manor. Hungry and tiredness stalled me. I opened the tin labelled tomato soup. It seemed okay inside, so I put into a pan and close to the fire to warm.

Taking the workman’s boots off and placing them close by, I turned to check on King. He had decided to lay down and rest for a few minutes. He seemed content and warm enough.

I took off the sleeping bag, feeling warm enough from the fire just to be in my underwear. I stirred the soup with a spoon and tasted it. There was a slight metallic ting and it was still cold. Putting it closer into the fire, I picked up the empty tin and looked for used by date.

It was hard as the label had worn but then I picked out some numbers and it seemed the date was over six years ago. Pushing the tin away, I frowned at the red soup and decided if it was boiled then it would be fine. I needed to eat.

Sipping some of the water, I listened to the manor creaking in the storm. The sea could really be heard now, added by the gale force winds into the sides of the island. I couldn’t hear the rain it was too lost.

Listening to the manor move made me think about ghosts. I didn’t believe despite the stories I had heard. There was a woman in grey who was seen from one of the upstairs window. Was she Lady Elizabeth? There was also a baby heard crying – the infant son she had lost or another child? The sounds of someone walking around and wailing had also been heard.

I looked up at the ceiling as if a expecting a ghost to appear. Laughing in my head, I check on the soup then picked up one of the books. It was from the 1800’s, on science of a sort. It was hard to read and I didn’t understand it. I placed it down and picked up another one;

Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

Laughing out loud at the how weird this was, I opened the yellow pages and wondered how old was this book? I found the date; 1831. So, it was early but it didn’t mean anything else to me. I had never read it, just seen the movies. I had the time now. I flipped the pages and saw it was illustrated. The ink pictures were very detailed and dark.

It was hard reading but I got through three or four pages and then my soup was ready. I poured it into a bowl because the pan was too hot to eat out of. The soup was warming and there was still that taste of metal in the background but it was good enough to get the rest of the chill out me and settle my stomach.

When I had finished, I checked on King. I had nothing to give him and he had enough water. He was too quiet. Even in his stable he wasn’t like this but he’d been in shock and made cold by the sea water. Still though…

‘Are you feeling all right, King?’ I whispered to him.

He nuzzled into me, searching for an apple or carrot. I give him more snacks then he should have.

‘Sorry, I have nothing.’

He snorted and moved away, flickering his tail about. He searched around the floor, sniffing here and there. He took a drink of water then seemed to settle again.

I felt guilty I couldn’t take care of him any better. perhaps, I should have gotten some of the rotten hay from that stable at least then he would have had something. How much harm could that have done him though? Yes, it was wise not to.

Leaving him, I made a sort of nest on one of the chairs then stacked up the fire and got settled for sleep. I was surprisingly tried. The room was now hot, my stomach full and I was drained after the fall and roaming the manor.

Sleep came to me and I dreamt of strange things; of falling into the sea and finding the manor at the bottom. I was walking in the graveyard and there were baby and child coffins everywhere. Then I was trying to get out of the manor but it was like a maze and I couldn’t escape.

King woke me by pressing his nose into my face. I stirred and reached for him but he had stepped away. I sat up and saw the fire had gone out.

‘What time is it? I had weird dreams,’ I told King.

I drank some water and put the workmen’s boots on. Crossing the hall, I went outside and saw it was daytime. The sky still dark but the storm had passed. I hurried back in, dressed and put King’s tack on.

I took him outside and he was more then happy to start eating whatever greenery he could. Leaving him to it, I went down the driveway and got to the edge of the causeway. The sea was still covering the way. The waves chopping and churning over the rocks. I couldn’t tell if the tide was going out or not but I really hoped it was.

Remembering my phone, I hurried back inside and snatched it up. I tried turning it on but the screen stayed black. Sinking onto the armchair, I wondered what to do. Tears came to my eyes and wiped them away. Thoughts tumbled in my head and it wasn’t until my eyes forced on Frankenstein  that I came back to my sense.

I gathered the book and the other five up. I placed them in the basket and took that outside then I went back in and got some fresh water for King and some for myself. I had found some empty glass jars in the kitchen and I used this to make bottles of water. Once again I search for food but found nothing.

I grab a sleeping bag and did think about open another tin but decided against it. We need to get off the island as soon as we could. Going outside again, I saw that King was happy with his breakfast, also the fresh air was perking him up. Setting the water jars into the basket, I looked at him in the daylight and saw that there was some tenderness to his legs which meant he had some cuts and bruises.

‘Well, you could have gotten off worse,’ I said to him, I’m going to keep an eye on the tide. Don’t wander off.’

Taking the basket, I went to the end of the driveway and looked for a good place to sit. I wasn’t worried about losing King as I was at the only way off the island. I zipped up the sleeping bag and placed that on the wet grass. I sat down on and watched the sea rocking back and forth. Then I pulled out Frankenstein and read some more.

The tide eventually went out. The Grey Causeway appearing from under the waves. The sky was clearing and the sun was out warming things up. I drank some water then put that and the book in the basket. I abandoned the sleeping bag and went to find King. He hadn’t wondered far.

I decided not to mount him but led him across the Causeway. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to risk him falling again but even if he did it was safer, I was worried about his legs. He seemed to be walking if a little slower and he’s quietness worried me. It was like all the wildness had been knocked out him and he had become meek and over tame.

The Grey Causeway was wet and slipping with large pools in every gap between in the rocks. I saw crabs and other creatures about and seaweed masking the rocks. I watched my step and made sure that the rein’s were loose and that King wasn’t walking too close behind me. My riding boots didn’t have a great grip on them and they weren’t made for rough walking.

I watched the sea lapping at the Causeway. The waves were topped with white and were dark blue, green underneath. I couldn’t see the bottom but at least it was still going out. I had to keep my eyes down and it seemed we were walking the Causeway forever. The basket was heavy in my hand and I put it up into the crook of my elbow or I switched hand with King’s reins.

For a few moments, I thought we were never going to leave the island but as I stopped to get my breath, I saw we had made a lot of distance from the manor and the beach was close now. This helped to push me on and I did pick up my pace as the tide had been out for longer the closer we got to the end.

At last, my feet and King’s hoofs hit the sand.

‘We made it back,’ I cried and rubbed King’s muzzle and head.

We stopped for a longer break. I drink some water and shared some with King. I sat in the damp sand and King stood beside me. I watched the sea and the distant island. Clouds were forming again and the sun was playing peek-a-boo. It was going to rain again.

‘Let’s go home,’ I said and got up.

Picking up the basket and leading King on again, we walked along the beach.

The Grey Causeway To Brierwell Manor (Part 4)

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We stood inside the entrance hall of Brierwell Manor, water dripping off us and pooling at our feet. We were both shivering with cold and shock.

It was hard to make much out in the gloom but the hall seemed vast. I could heard the wind driving the rain against the windows and plants moving wildly outside. In the close distance the sea was mounting an attack on the island. Large, powerful waves were hitting against the rocky sides and splashing up into the gardens.

I slide off King’s back and took him to the first open door along the right wall. He followed me slowly, perhaps limping a little. It was too dark for me to see if he was hurt or if he was just tried.

‘We need to get warm and dry,’ I said quietly but still my voice echoed in the abandoned manor, ‘let’s try in here and hope we can find some blankets. Or something…’

I went through the large door and King squeezed himself in behind me. I let go of the reins and felt across the walls either side of the door frame. I guess this was more of an automatic response on entering a dark room.

My fingers came across the switch and I flicked it up. Surprisingly, light flicked on above. It was a dim glow as if the bulb was going but at least we were no longer in darkness. The room was  large parlour, suitable for greeting a big family of guests. The windows were mucky glass and boarded from the outside so I couldn’t see through them. The walls were bare dirty plaster and there was a scattering of dust covered rugs on the floor.

A number of armchairs and tables were placed before a fireplace in the wall to my left opposite the windows. Rubbish was piled about; some of it from the builders, others from people who had been staying here. There were food and drink containers and other items that people had abandoned here.

Squatters were unlikely to have been camping here because it was too far out so it must have been local teenagers or adults. Maybe, they had become homeless or they had just used this place as a break from normal life?

‘We can make a fire,’ I pointed out to King.

I dropped his reins and hurried to the fireplace. Taking off the riding helmet and protective vest, I got busy stacking wood on top of the ash pile all ready there. The wood looked like it was broken from furniture and there was paper torn out of books to help start the flames.

‘We need matches or….’

An orange lighter was on the rug before me as if someone had tossed it to me from the shadowy corner. I scooped it up, pulled open the lid then flicked my thumb over the little metal wheels. Praying a spark and flame would appear, I kept at it.

‘No, it wouldn’t work,’ I cried and threw the lighter away.

I heard King stamp his foot and moved around the room as the sound of the lighter bouncing off the wall spooked him a little.

Scrambling around, I searched for anything else that would help me. There was a lot of rubbish, butts of cigarettes and half burnt things. I found another lighter but it was metal and mostly rusted.

My breath misted before me, I was shaking like crazy and I could feel the cold in my bones. I took off my wet clothes, stripping to just my vest and underwear. I hung my clothes, boots and socks across two armchairs, in the hopes they would dry out a bit. It would help I released on many levels not to having anything on.

I recalled my mobile phone out of the blue and swearing, scrambled for the inside pocket of my fleece. Pulling out the small phone, I saw it was off and and tried to turn it on.

‘I guess it got too wet. I need to dry it out,’ I uttered, trying to hold back tears.

Putting the phone of the seat of the chair with my clothes on, I stared at it as I tried to think what to do. Maybe, there’d be no signal here anyway? Perhaps, a rescue team was all ready on the way? My parents must have seen the time and the arriving storm. When they released I hadn’t come back they must have gone and do something to help me.

A blast of wind sent a chill through me and I needed to move again.

I went over to King and took his saddle off. The rug underneath was dripping wet and like me, I knew he’d be more comfortable not to have any of the tack on. I placed the saddle and rug on the back of another chair and then took his reins off. The leather was all wet and dark.

Once free, King seemed lighter. He stood for a few moments then moved around the room, brushing against everything as if he was looking for something.

‘We need some towels or blankets or curtains….anything dry we can cover up in.’

I didn’t want to tug my boot back on, so I went barefooted out of the room. The sense that it was dangerous to do so filled me. What if I stepped on something sharp or cut my foot open on broken glass?

With shuffling steps, I searched the entrance walls for a light switch and found a panel full. I flipped up all the switches and some of the lights came on. The space was has large as I had first thought with a grand staircase before me. It was all made of wood with tall pillars topped with pine cone statues or something very close to it.

I could see many doors leading away and as I moved over to them, I almost stumbled over a pair of worn and plaster covered workmen’s boots.

‘That’s lucky!’ I cried and easy put them on.

I was a size seven and these must have been tens or elevens. They were like clown shoes on my feet and I had to be careful not to trip but at least my feet were safe now.

I explored the rooms and found that like the parlour, some of them had been lived in. Others though were totally blank and waiting like an artist’s canvas to be decorated upon. It was hard to know what each room’s intention had been but I had little time to think about such things.

I found some sleeping bags and took the ones that looked clearer and less damp. I dumped them back in the parlour, unzipped two of them and used the first to dry down King.

He was too quiet for my liking but I could see no blood, cuts or bruises. It was properly cold and shock. I talked softly to him, words tripping out of my mouth till I didn’t know what I saying. King calmed under my hands and voice and the gentle padded sleeping bag towel. I made sure he was as dry as possible before putting the second sleeping bag on top of him as I would his own quilted horse coat.

Unzipping a third sleeping bag, I wrapped it around me and sat on the edge of an armchair until I felt warm again and no longer numb.

‘At lest we have shelter and are getting warmer,’ I said aloud, ‘I’m hungry though….’

I hugged my stomach and listened to it growling. I doubted there was anything edible here but I wanted to look anyway.

Keeping wrapped in the open sleeping bag, I searched the room. I cleared all the rubbish into a corner, giving King a safe place to be in. The last thing we need was him to step on anything sharp.

Next, I carried on explore the manor. In the kitchen which had been turned into something like a 1940’s farmhouse style set up, I found a wicker basket which would be good for carrying things in. There were some rust tins that I didn’t like the look of but maybe the food would still be okay? I put them, a bakelite tin opener and a metal fork and spoon into the basket.

I searched around the fireplace which had been used to burn what looked like a table. There was a box of matches with three left inside on the floor next to a poker. I picked both of this up and went back to the room I had claimed.

Striking one of the matches, I carefully held it against a crumbled book page and once it took, placed that against some smaller bits of wood. It took the longest few minutes ever but then a steady fire appeared. I warmed myself close to the flames, feeling the tingle of coldness leaving my fingers.

I added some more wood in the fireplace then calculated I’d need to find more. I went back to the kitchen took the remains of the table out of that fireplace and brought it to my one. Then taking the wicker basket once more, I searched for more wood and paper or anything else to burn.

I found some books but didn’t have the heart to burn them. Perhaps, they’d help to pass the time? I found a pan to either cook food in or collect water. As that thought came to me I realised how thirsty I was.

Turning on the kitchen tap I listened to the gargling and pumping of pipes. There was a splutter and brown water dropped out. I turned the tap fuller, hoping it would clear. The water came from a natural spring and hopefully it was still safe to drink.

Leaving the tap and trying not to think about how thirsty I now was, I searched the rest of the kitchen and found a few rusty knifes and a broken chair which I could add to my firewood pile. Then I turned back to the water and saw it was clear. Crying out in happiness, I rushed over and put my face under the small waterfall.

I scooped handfuls into my mouth and felt so much better. The ting of sea salt lingered against the insides of my cheeks and my throat. A small cut on my bottom lip stung. The cold, fresh water cleaned the salt and dryness way. I washed my face and hands then used the edge of the sleeping bag to dry off on.

In any large containers I could find, I collected water for King and myself then went back to the parlour.

  To Be Continued…

The Grey Causeway To Brierwell Manor (Part 3)

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Wetness falling on my face awoke me. Half-sleep I rubbed at my cheeks and nose. Groggily I opened my eyes and wondered where I was. Sitting up confused I was outside, I looked around.

Tops of headstone poked out of the grass, their surfaces dappled with raindrops. Behind them lay the church looking more menacing in the growing dark. I heard the wind blowing harshly in the nearby trees and bushes. In the distance a sea wave hit the rocks.

Panicking, I scrambled to my feet as everything came back to me. I had fallen asleep in the Brierwell Manor graveyard and judging by the sky I should have been home hours ago. I searched for King, knowing that the huge black stallion was easy to spot. 

‘King! King! Here boy!’ I cried wildly, not seeing him in the graveyard.

Had he gone back to the Grey causeway? Had he gone home without me? Did he even know the way?

I put on the protective body vest and helmet, fumbling with the clips then I stumbled through the long grass calling his name.

The rain was starting to fall more heavily and the wind picking up to storm force. We had to get off the island now before it got any worse.

Thrashing through the grass, not thinking straight, I tripped over a headstone. I hit the ground hard, the grass hardly cushioning my fall. The air whooshed out of me and the protective vest luckily didn’t go off but it cut into my neck and sides. Pain shoot through my legs, arms and my chest.

I shut my eyes and lay still  as I counted to a minute, then I moved into a sitting position. Breathing hard, my mind full of panic, I looked at what I had fallen over. It was a small grey headstone with a lamb carved at the top. Though the words were faded I could make it out to read;

Infant son of E. W. and E. V. Brierwell

1st September 1858

My brain took a moment but then I realised this was the grave of a baby who had either been a still born or died soon after birth. E and E? I thought. Oh, Lord Edward Walter and his second wife Lady Elizabeth Victoria who had built the manor.

I reached out and stroked the headstone, thinking how sad that must have been for them. Raindrops hit my hand and I looked up at the sky. The thick clouds were turning black and looked like a storm rolling in.

‘You need to calm down and pull it together,’ I whispered to myself, ‘you need to find King and get back home. You can do it but just take a minute here to sort yourself out.’

I stood up and walked over the shelter of the church. The wooden door was locked but there was a porch I could sit in. Holding the cold stone wall for support, I turned and watched the wind and rain gathering in the graveyard.

With a bit of difficulty and as best I could, I got into yoga sit. Coldness flood though my pants and tickled along my spine. I thought about getting up again and putting my fleece on the floor but I didn’t want to struggle around again. Instead I shut my eyes and cleared my mind as best I could. Thinking only about my breathing; breath in through the mouth and out through the nose, I stayed like that until I felt better.

Opening my eyes, I felt better though my bum was numb. Getting back with the aid of the wall, I stepped into the rain and looked around. Even though it was growing darker by the second, I could see the track King had left in the grass.

I followed the flatten grass and hoof prints in the soil. There was a fallen down section of stone wall close to the  right side of the church and King had gone this way. I followed after him pushing through thorny bushes and avoiding fallen tree branches.

An out building that had once been a stable block came into view. I picked up my pace and went inside.

‘King!’ I cried on seeing him.

The stallion was plucking hay out from a stack of rotting bundles in one of the horse stalls.

He flicked his ears back at the sound of my voice saying his name then chopped on what he was eating.

‘I don’t think that’s good for you,’ I said.

Going over, I stroked him and pressed my face to his rough black coat. I gathered the reins and King let me led him, quietly which was unusual, out into what had been a cobble stone yard.

‘We need to get home,’ I told him whilst I looked for something to stand on to give me extra height to mount him.

I spotted a stone water trough and took King over. The water had some slime floating on top but still King bent his head and took a drink.

Holding on the saddle to help my balance, I climbed up on the water trough and got King to come alongside. I climbed onto his back and sat down as lightly as I could into the saddle. Pulling the reins right again, I got King to walk on and we went back the way we had come.

‘The rain is really coming down now,’ I uttered, ‘we are going to get soaked through!’

The wind whipped King’s mane, tail and my purple hair that was sticking out from the helmet. Everything moved around us like a giant was parting through. Loose leaves and small branches rained down. I urged King onwards and he picked up his pace as he was aware we needed to go now!

Across the graveyard, back to the front of the manor and down the front drive, King trotted. The rain dripped of my helmet and protective vest, but it soaked into my pants. King’s mane and coat was dotted with drops and some of them did slide off him as we moved.

On to the Grey causeway King stepped and I saw to my horror that the tide had come in.

‘Oh my god! How long did I sleep for?’ I cried.

Panic swelled in my chest and I felt my heart began to beat too fast. Dizziness made my head swim and I felt like I sliding out of the saddle. I took a few deep breaths, got a grip again and looked down at King’s legs.

The sea was about to his ankles and the Grey Causeway was covered but still visible. We could still cross if we were quick. I pushed King onwards and though he went to fight me, he must have sensed something of the danger ahead of us. Luckily, he started walking then picked up into a trot.

Sea water splashed up, wetting him further and the waves which were bigger now splashed over the causeway and up King’s legs. I saw seaweed floating by and hope it didn’t get wrapped around King’s ankles.

I kicked him on and stood up in the saddle, urging him to go into canter. I heard King snort and felt him pick up his speed. Water splashed around us, some of it hitting me but we were all ready wet so it didn’t seem to matter.

I heard before I saw that that the sea waves had grown. They were swelling together and crashing on the rocks with some force now. I looked and saw dark waves washing over the causeway head of us and making everything disappear underwater.

‘No!’ I screamed, ‘Go King! Go!’

I slapped the reins down and kicked him in the side. King neighed out in anger but there wasn’t much he could do about. He ran forward, muscles expanding and water running off him.

Then King tripped.

Either he stepped off the causeway or a stone give way underneath him because suddenly we were falling into the sea.

I opened my month to scream and chocked on sea water. I flayed around, my feet trying to find a solid surface to stand and push me up. I was half were of King floundering along side me. Rocks scrapped against me and I grabbed on of them and used that to help me get back onto the Grey Causeway.

I stood up, spitting out salt water and feeling pain aching everywhere. I looked for King and saw he was all right and had got himself out of the sea a bit further down the way to me. Water was dripping off him and he was shaking with shock.

I waded over to him, water getting into my knee high boots. When I reached him, I took his reins and led him back to Brierwell Manor.

To Be Continued…

The Grey Causeway To Brierwell Manor (Part 2)

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We arrived at  the proper driveway to the manor. The Grey Causeway turning from rough stone to flat smooth bricks as it led up towards the gates. King launched into a tot, happy to have a solid road to go on when though it was still damp.

The sea was still on either side of us but I could see it was only three inches or so high. Other rocks stuck out like tiny islands and a seagull had landed on one and was busy eating a dead crab. Waves broke on the rocky low cliffs just ahead of us, the tide didn’t go out further then this.

I slowed down King as we reached some fallen wire fencing. The grass was quickly cover it up and worried that more wire could lay hidden which he might step on. There was loads of fencing around, fallen or cast aside. Half hidden metal signs poked out of a bushes and the grass, rust splashed through the white paint.

Last time, the signs had read things like; keep out, guards on duty, beware loose dogs,  CCTV and private property. I could remember seeing them scattered around the down fencing, abandoned like the manor once more. 

King went up to two towering stone pillars that had been the original gate posts and keep to a nervous stop. I saw, picked out on the stone faded words which read; Brierwell Manor. The name of the Victorian family who had built and lived in the manor. Seaweed wrapped around the bottoms of the pillars whilst climbing plants and moss covered the rest of the stones. There was nothing left of the fancy gates that must have once been here.

‘Good boy, King,’ I said gently.

King flicked his ears back to show he was listening.

‘Walk on then,’ I added.

He hesitated, taking a step back and flicking his tail. His muscles bunched and he turned his head to the side. He went to turn around.

I squeezed my legs against into his side and tightened my grip on the reins., ‘go on!’ I encouraged.

King snorted and tossed his head but he stepped forward.

Pushing again, I got King to walk on. We passed under tall trees and bushes, spring flowering plants filled the air was a heavy scent, it was like entering a secret garden. The ground was all soil and grass from now on. The plants were wild and King had to watch his step.

We had been here before but it looked so different each time. Where once there had been clean and neat front garden there was nothing but a tangle of nature. I had seen a photo of a fountain in a circle driveway before the manor but you couldn’t see anything of that. It was all soil with plants pushing their way up.

Abandoned building materials lay scattered about; huge bags of sand, an orange mixer machine, rusting tools, a ladder half buried in a tangle of vines. There had been builders preparing to work on the manor but their job of turning the place into a hotel had fallen though because it was going to cost too much.

Brierwell Manor now rose up before us. A flight of four deep stone steps led up to a porch area with thick Roman columns and also two broken stone lions lay on either side. The house was a square shape and there only two floors. Most of the windows had been board up but a few were open and broken glass clung to the frames. There was double front door made out of heavy oak and one of the doors was half open in an inviting way.  

King stopped, sniffing and snorting. Coming here always made him quiet as if he sensed it wasn’t a good place to be. I had to agree with him, their was an unnatural sense to the place. No birds sung, no animals moved in the scrub and the wind moved through the trees in such a quiet manner that it seemed as if it was trying not to disturb anything.

Without any prompting, King started walking along the edge of the driveway. I let him go where he was more comfortable. He brushed passed all the nature. Sure-footed on the damp soil ground. I knew where he was heading, around the side of the house and down towards the small church and graveyard where sweet grass grew.

I admired the view from King’s back and took the time to further calm myself after our run. I knew some history of the manor and something of the Brierwell family. In 1856 the building of the manor had started and after some difficult years, Lord Brierwell, his second wife, three daughters and baby son moved in.

The manor had been passed down through the family until 1902 when a massive storm caused the sea to flood the island. The lower floor and cellar were swept out, the gardens destroyed and the spring where the manor got fresh water from was contaminated by salt water. The damage was too much for Lord Brierwell’s descendants, so they sold up.

The new owners fixed up the manor and stayed until the end of the second world war. After that, an investor did things up again and rented out the rooms but there were rumours about the manor becoming a drug den and a brothel. A girl was said to have been kidnapped and murdered in the cellar. That started a train of ghost sights and stories. What Victorian manor wasn’t haunted?

In 1960, Brierwell Manor was abandoned and despite the place passing through many hands and people trying to turn it into a number of different things like; an artists’ retreat, a bed and breakfast, a museum and finally the idea of a hotel, nothing had developed and now the manor had been empty for sixty years.

The nature began to clear as I felt King start to go down hill. We passed the moss covered, tumble down stone wall then we were into something like a clearing. Tall grass some of which had open into wheat like heads of seeds lay thick in a field dotted with headstones with a small stone church at the end.

King went to a stack of stones which I had placed there myself, four or five years back when we had discovered this area. I had never known there was a church and graveyard till I had seen a photo of it in a local history book I had found in the newly opened museum shop. Since then, this had become a favourite place of ours. 

‘You like it here, don’t you, King?’ I said.

I dismounted. Using the stone stack like a ladder to get down. I tied the reins to the saddle so they wouldn’t get in King’s way then he moved off to eat the grass. I watched him as I sat down on the stones and began taking off my helmet and protection vest. 

I took in deep breaths, feeling lighter and it easier to fill my lungs all the way. A breeze blew through my hair and I saw flashing of purple out of the corner of my eyes. I took off my body warmer next then my fleece jacket but it was too cold to sit for long without it back on. 

‘Don’t wander too far,’ I called after King’s moving form.

Sitting down on the grass, I looked at the headstones and church whilst rubbing my chest. I had a feeling of tingles of pain around my heart, like the start of pains and needles. These would passed soon, they came and went, sometimes I just thought the pain was in my mind, like a physical memory of what I had been through. 

I pulled off my long sleeved thermal top and moved my vest top around to check the scars along my torso. Some of them were fine and faded, others rises and white outline. I looked like Frankenstein’s Monster. None of them should ache but sometimes they did.

I was a mirror twin and whilst my sister, Pearl, had been born normally, I, Paige, had been born with backwards organs. Most things could work fine but I’d had a few operations as a baby and child to insure that. Then around the age of ten, I had developed heart complications and from then until now; eight years later, I had been in and out of hospital, on bed rest and home schooled. 

That’s why I craved freedom and normality and also why I had connected with King. He’d been born soon after my complications and having such a pretty foal to focus on had helped me. I had always wished he wasn’t strong headed with a wild streak and dangerous recorded. My family had wanted to me to pick a calmer horse – a mare that was King’s older step-sister but totally the opposite of him. 

I just couldn’t though. I helped to hand rear King when his mother abandoned him a month later. He was my goal to get better, to ride and be free, my best friend who made me feel wild and not in pain for a time.     

I put my fleece back on and lay down in the grass. It felt damp and smelled so sweetly of hot summer days. The grass hide me and I felt protected here. The sky was masking over with rolling grey clouds and I knew soon we’d have to head back. I shut my eyes and felt the tiredness that never seemed to leave me.

Just a few minutes of resting then I’ll feel better.

To Be Continued…

 

 

 

The Grey Causeway To Brierwell Manor (Part 1)

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We were flying across the beach, girl and horse, with the wind rushing through us. The coolness of the spring afternoon air chilled my skin despite the layers of clothes I had brought on. The waves breaking on the sand were nothing but a blur of colour like a melting painting.

The sense of freedom beat into me and the thrill tingled in my blood. My heart was thudding in my chest the rhythm controlled by the pacemaker. This was my escape from all of that pain, treatment and medication. All of my heart problems were gone in the hurricane of wind and the excitement of sitting on the back of a running horse.

I could feel every movement made by King, my massive black stallion I was riding, as he raced on wards. King was all powerful muscle and sped thanks to him being a strange mix of mighty shire horse and fast racehorse. Shires were well known for their calm and gentle nature, but King was the opposite of that and acted untameable.

King was pure black all over, with a long mane and tail which I loved to braid. Today, his hair was flying free and adding to the magnificent sight he made racing along the soft sand. King was well over six feet high. I was five-seven and he seemed to dwarf me.

I sat low on his back, almost bent over so that I was aiding him to gain speed, which was an achievement in the black, bulky, protective body suit I was wearing. On impact with the ground the whole thing would inflate like a car airbag, hopefully save me from more broken bones due to falling off King. My hard riding helmet felt like it was glued to my head and shoulder length, purple dyed stuck out from underneath it. The helmet was another life safer in riding a dangerous horse.

King’s mane tickled my face and in a few snatched moments, it seemed we were one. I breathed in his thick, sweaty horse smell and felt the rocking of his body echoing through my own. I watched sand and sea zooming by then in the distance I spotted something out at sea.

I raised myself up and slowed King down which took a good few minutes because he didn’t want to and I didn’t want to anger him. He stepped first into a canter then into a trot. King clearer didn’t want to stop and it took me a lot to make him get into a walk.

By that time, we were coming upon something that looked like an avalanche of cliff. Lots of rocks and rubble worn smooth by the constant touch of the sea were jumbled over the sand. This maze continued into the distance, raising up out of the waves as it went.

The reinforced rock sides were slowly tumbling away and exposing more of the flattened stones. In some parts there seemed nothing left to support the stones and the sea was happily consuming them. Sand, crushed shells and dead sea creatures lay thick on what, a hundred years or so ago, had been a straight road towards a distant island.

King, unhappy his run had ended nodded his large head forward and snorted. He tried to pick up pace again, his muscles rippling underneath me and his huge hooves kicking up sand. King loved to run and could probably go on forever.

Breathing hard to get my breath back, I held the reins tighter, said gentle words and patted his long neck. King came to a stop but his towering, thick legs jigged about. King had so much pent in energy after the winter months because I had been unwell and winter conditions weren’t good to ride in.

Now, spring was here and the best place to let King run was the beach which stretched for miles. Hardly anyone came here because was this the middle of nowhere and access wasn’t easy because of cliffs and sand dunes. Also, the beaches around here with private, owned by the people who’s lone houses stood like dead giants on the edges of the cliffs.

The Grey Causeway, for that was the name of the remains of the road before me, only became visible at low tide on a calm day. The sea waves swept aside and dropped whilst red crabs scuttled over the exposed rocks. Seaweed and moss started to dry out but were still slimy to the touch. Pools of water lingered in between the stones, trapping fish until the tide rose again.

The afternoon sun was half covered by white and grey clouds growing heavy with rain. A few birds wheeled in the sky searching for fish to take back to their nests on the cliffs. The waves were lapping quietly for a change as it was known to all ways been rough here. There was little breeze and the air was cool with the lingering of winter.

‘Let’s do some exploring,’ I said and directed King to turn onto the remains of the road.

King refused with a stamp of his right hoof and a loud neigh. He tossed his head right up, his black mane almost whipping against me and the reins tugging hard. His shoulders bunched and the rest of his body began to fall back on itself. His tail hit the back of his legs in anger, setting loose sand that had become caught. He was getting ready to rear.

King was stubborn and hated to feel like he wasn’t in control all the time. It was his way or no way at all which made riding him difficult. He was well known for throwing riders off and causing other horse to join him in a stampede. No one trusted King and he would have been moved on from my family’s riding school and breeding stables, if I hadn’t taken a liking to him.

I had lost count of the number of times I had fallen off King. Mostly it had be because he had reared and or bucked. Others, it had been because he had refused to jump a gate or go through a gap. A few times, he had moved whilst I was mounting and thrown me off balance. Once, King had physical pulled me off his back by biting into my leather boot and yanking me down from the saddle.

Still though, I couldn’t give him up. We had a strange bond; both craving a freedom that was hard to get.

I eased my grip on the reins and lowered them against his broad shoulders. I took my feet out of the stirrups and relaxed myself as much as possible. I shut my eyes and breathed in the sea salt and sandy air. I counted to ten and tried not to let myself tense up as I felt King’s back doing so underneath me.

It was an unusual tacit but letting King know he had control was the best way to deal with his anger. To try and push him now and be hard on him would result in him rebelling. His mighty body would rear and buck, he would throw me and race off, gaining the freedom he was all ways craving.

‘Hey there, King,’ I whispered, ‘it’s okay. Good boy, King. You’re all right.’

I touched him gently and give him a small pat. King nodded his head, the reins shaking as he did so. He give a grumbling sound that I felt vibrating into me.

‘I know you want to run and we shall. But the tide is low today and I want to go on The Grey Causeway and see what’s left on the island.’

King grinded his teeth against the metal bit and turned his head towards the causeway.

I took my chance, pulling the reins to the right side and giving King a small kick with my left foot, I told him, ‘walk on’ and clicked my tongue.

King obeyed and walked on to the remains of the road. I let the reins and my legs relax again. It had to seem like King had made the choice, not me. It wasn’t safe for him to run along the tumbled, slippy rocks, so I let him pick his own way.

The Grey Causeway was about a mile long and led to an island. Once, it might have been taller and bigger but now it was medium size rocky outcrop and at high tide the sea flooded the lowest parts. Greenery crowded the island and as we got closer the structure of a manor house could be made out clearly against the sky.

To Be Continued….

 

 

(Please note; this story was originally inspired by https://scvincent.com/2020/05/07/thursday-photo-prompt-causeway-writephoto. I made the choice to not use this story for my submission to this prompt because I wanted to further explore where this story was going and spend time creating a more polished narrative.

I decided not to use the imagine that came with the prompt but to find my own from a free to use photo site; https://pixabay.com/photos/st-michael-s-mount-cornwall-causeway-4394648.

I have actually visited St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall on holiday and have on past holidays gone horse riding on beaches and coastal tracks which further inspired this setting of this story. 

The photographs below are some I took of my visit to St. Michael’s Mount in 2012. All these photos are copyright to me. To find out more about the history go to https://www.stmichaelsmount.co.uk/).

 

 

Highland #CCC

I didn’t want normal cows for my petting zoo. Though most children wouldn’t be bothered. I wanted something different, something more exciting.

I’m not sure why I picked Highland cattle. I guess I thought they looked kinda cute. They sure are bigger than I thought they were going to be but they do get the wow I wanted.

 

(Inspired by; https://crispinakemp.com/2020/05/06/crimsons-creative-challenge-78/ with thanks).

 

 

Frog Hunting

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I didn’t want my children stuck inside whilst we home schooled. I wanted them out exploring and learning for themselves. So, we went down to the ponds and streams of the wood.

There was lots to see and because it had rained yesterday, everything was full and bright. The children took off their shoes and socks and ran barefooted like pixies as they hunted animals.

‘Look mummy! A bug!’ my youngest cried.

‘It’a beetle,’ I replied.

‘Little fishes!’ cried another.

I laughed and told them, ‘they are tadpoles. Baby frogs.’

‘They don’t look anything alike!’

Simply, I told the children how frogs grew. Fascinated, we watched the black tadpoles swimming around. Then, we heard the croak croak call of a frog.

‘Can you find him?’ I asked.

Giggling, the children dashed off and I sat back and watched their delight. Soon, my oldest came back with his hands cupped together, a proud smile lighting up his face.

‘What do you have there?’  I questioned.

He opened his hands and a large frog jumped out and landed in my lap. With an echoing croak the frog jumped again into a tall patch of grass.

‘Oh no!’ my son cried and darted after the frog.

I laughed uncontrollably.