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…