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/).

 

 

Beyond the Gates #CCC

Charlie stood before the ornate gates. Her fingers on the cold metal bars as she looked at the pathway poking out of the overgrown nature.

She rattled the gates, not expecting them to open but they did. Fitting through, she walked to the burnt remains of a manor house.

Wondering what happened, Charlie picked up a piece of half burnt wood and felt a chill on her back. There was no wind and no one else here but she heard a woman’s whispering voice say, ‘you should not have come here.’

 

(Inspired by; https://crispinakemp.com/2019/10/23/crimsons-creative-challenge-50/ with thanks).

Invitation #WritePhoto

It was a last stab at things. Pulling up outside the gates, I looked at my Sat Nav telling me I had reached my destination. The scene around me looked like something out of The Secret Garden. There were trees and bushes growing wild, moss covering everything, a sense of abandonment and wild beauty.

I got out the car and smelt the air, it was fresh this afternoon and flowers were just being to open. I went to the wooden gate, there were no signs or locks, it opened easily enough. The stone pillars ether side were badly weathered and moss covered, but some of the carved designs could still be seen.

I turned the stone, felt coldness and grit under my fingers. I questioned if I was in the right place. Maybe this was just a decorative gate that led nowhere? Just like the single track lane I was now standing on. I wouldn’t know if I didn’t walk on.

I stepped through the gates and with difficult walk down a half hidden path which was really over grown. Once through, I came out at the bottom of a field? I looked and realised it was actually a huge lawn which rolled down a hill on top of which sat a large looking manor house.

There was no path now, so I trekked up the lawn and arrived breathless and sweating at the side of the house. Catching my breath, I really hoped there was a better way up to this place. Scaling all of that in my wedding dress wasn’t going to be good!

I walked around and came to the front of the house. There were large, flat white steps leading up to a double wooden door in a archway and other side were massive vases of flowers. It was a perfect place for wedding party photos.

The driveway was huge, a half circle with lots of parking and there were a few cars all ready here. There were open iron gates at the end, leading to a wide road which seemed to fade under the trees.

I heard the door opening behind me and I turned feeling guilty and nervous as if I had been caught doing something. I tried to stay calm as a woman in her mid-to late forties, wearing a very fitted business suit and greying hair tight in a bun, came out of the house.

‘Miss Sadie Laker?’ she asked.

I nodded.

‘Mrs Rose Crompton,’ she announced and came down the steps to meet me.

We shook hands and I felt more at ease. We had spoken on the phone yesterday, Rose was the manager of the house and a descendent of the current owners who’s family had lived here for three hundred odd years.

‘Did you find the place okay?’ Rose asked.

‘Yes. It looks so perfect,’ I spoke, ‘thank you for this. You’ve saved my wedding day.’

‘It’s all fine,’ Rose said, waving my words away like dust, ‘it was lucky we had a cancellation! Unlike you though and your venue being double booked, the couple decided not to go through with things.’

‘Shame.’

There was a pause and I knew she was staying at me but I didn’t know what else to say.

‘Where is your car?’ Rose asked me, ‘you didn’t walk all the way up here from the road did you?’

‘Erm, no. I think I missed the turning and came through a side entrance,’ I explained.

‘Ah. I think there’s something in your hair….’

I touched my hair, embarrassment flaring and pulled out a few leaves.

Rose smiled and turned back to the house.

I crumpled the leaves, let them fall and joined her going up the steps.

The rooms for the wedding where lovely, actually lots better then the venue I had chosen originally. By the time I left, I know my dream wedding was going to happen two weeks today. Trekking back to my car, there was only one thing left to do now; resend the wedding invitations with the new venue address on them.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/02/28/thursday-photo-prompt-invitation-writephoto/ with thanks).

Stone Circles (Part 3)

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I rode Rosy the pony across Bodmin Moor. The breeze in my hair and in her mane and tail. I let her go where she wanted. Rosy had been born on the moor and found as a foal by Mr Marsh. He had taken her in, like he did with any young or hurt creature he found. She was fully tamed but also spent nearly all of her time out here, so she knew her way around better then I did. She was also more sure-footed then I ever could be.

We passed sheep, cows and other ponies – wild and tame- that roamed the land. Only once or twice did I see another person; a farmer rounding up sheep and a gentleman riding a big black horse. We heard the sounds of the quarries and saw the tall stone towers rising upwards, wheels turning. Rosy kept her distant and I agreed with her, those places were not for a gentleman to visit, unless he had urgent business there.

Some time a lot later, Rosy found a small stream and lowered her head to drink. I slipped off her back, feeling aches in my legs, back and arms. I stretched and knelt down beside the stream. The water was so clear! I cupped some in my hand and took a few sips. It was pleasant and refreshing. I drink some more then settled down to eat what Mrs Marsh and Margret had given me for lunch.

There was a hunk of fresh bread, slightly warm to the touch still, a lump of cheese, cut offs of the cooked ham, two apples, a sweet cake and a carrot. As if they had know that Rosy would be with me! I give her the carrot and one of the apples. The pony seemed grateful then wandered off to nibble at the moor grasses.

I ate everything, the moor air making me extremely hungry. I drink from the stream with I needed too. Rosy came over once more and I give her the rest of my apple. After, I folded the cloth carefully away and splashed water on my hands and face. It was a warm in the sun and waves of tiredness floated over me.

I laid down, watching the clouds going by. Rosy nudged me then carried on grazing. She would not wander far whilst I slept, she was a loyal friend, the only one I had in Cornwall. I shut my eyes, breathed in the moor deeply and let it carry me away.

It was hard to till how much time had passed when I woke up. There were more clouds in the sky and some of them had turned dark grey. The air had got chiller and the sun was struggling to get around the clouds. The weather had turned as it often does on the moors.

I rubbed sleep away, drank some more cool stream water and splashed some on my face. I climbed to my feet and looked around for Rosy.  The chestnut moor pony was no where to be seen.

‘Rosy! Rosy!’ I shouted.

Scanning the rolling landscape, I expected at any moment for her to reappear, trotting over to me. The only thing that moved through was the heather and rough grasses. I gathered my things, thinking that she had started home with it me. Perhaps, if I kept calling, she would come back?

Shouting as loud as I could, I set off in the direction I thought we had come from. After a few minutes though, I was not sure. Stopping, I looked around, trying to recall anything that would be familiar but the moor all looked the same. I felt fear growing in the bottom of my belly.

I looked back towards the stream, trying to think if Rosy had walked in a straight line towards it. There was a good possibility. Walking off again, I tried to look for anything that might be pony shaped or house shaped or even person shaped. Convincing myself, I was going the right way, I quickened my pace.

Above the blue sky was turning dark with grey clouds. The idea of being lost out here in the dark made the fear grow. I tried not to think about it. I would find Rosy again and she would take me home, she knew the way well. I felt a rain drop splatter on my hand.

‘Rosy! Rosy! Come here, girl! Rosy!’ I screamed.

I was not a young gentleman any more but a lost child. I ran, half tripping over spiky bushes and long plants. I prayed that Trenworth Manor would appear over the next rise but every time there was just more moorland.

How far had Rosy and I travelled? Why hadn’t I paid more attention to where she was going? Why hadn’t I tied her up before I fell asleep? Because I had not thought she would wander away from me, she had never done before. What if she was hurt?

I stopped, my body aching and my breath painful. I tried to gather my thoughts. It was not likely that Rosy had tripped or got tangled in something, she was so surefooted and built for being on the moors. Maybe, she had heard some wild ponies and gone to see them?  Or perhaps, sensing the change of weather and not being able to wake me, she had trotted off home.

I wiped my face, not realising I had been crying. A few more drops of rain fell. Trying to stay calm, I carried on walking. Perhaps, I would find the road back to the manor or something else that would set me on the right path? If it got darker and wetter before though, I could find a hollow somewhere and rest there.

Something that was not a normal part of the moor was growing in the distance. It did not look like a pony or a house though, it was something tall and grey. Hurrying over, I got closer and saw it a large stone. Then there was more, a number of them making a circle, no, three stone circles almost touching each other. They stood in a huge patch of moorland that had been cleared away so there was only light green grass around.

I stopped on the edge, starting in wonder. What where they doing here and who had put them like that? Stones do not stand naturally in a circle. Had they once been enclosures for animals? Maybe the layout for houses of the past? I went forward and looked closely. The stones were old, weathered with some moss growing at the base. The circles were incomplete; some stones had fallen over and there were gaps were some should have been.

I had no memory of the stones and surely, if Rosy had brought me this way I would have seen them in the distance? I walked around the outside of them, looking this way and that. I called Rosy a few times but all I heard was the gathering wind and sheep bleating somewhere.

Getting cold, I stepped inside the first stone circle and rested against the biggest stone. Too many thoughts ran through my mind so that I could not think clearly. I kept coming back to the same problem though; how was I going to get home?

To be Continued…

Stone Circles (Part 2)

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Early morning light woke me. I rolled over, rubbing my eyes then sat up. Someone had undressed me, leaving me in just shirt and underwear. I paused, a strange tuneful humming coming from the next room. I got up, saw fresh clothes laid out on the bedding box, my trunk open and half unpacked.

I dressed then went to the corner and moved the faded tapestry there to reveal a small door. Opening this, I entered a room that was trying to be too many things at once. There was a circle tea table under the window with two chairs, a small writing desk in the corner next to it. Along the next wall was a fireplace, another hidden door to the left and a bookcase to the right.

The other side of the room was a nursery; a large wooden trunk sat closed against the wall, there was another bookcase holding a few toys; a wooden boat, balls, tennis rackets, dolls. There was a dolls house, a tiny table laid with a tea set and in the corner, my favourite thing of all; a dappled grey rocking horse. His mane and tail were real grey horse hair, his black eyes were wide and his mouth open showing teeth and red lips around the metal bit.

I was not alone in the room. A young woman, dressed in black with a white pinafore and cap was by the first bookcase, putting away books that she had taken out of my trunk.  I could see bright red hair poking out of the caps edges and a hint of flat black shoes under her skirts. She was humming loudly and had not heard me enter.

‘Hello,’ I said.

She jumped, a book flying from her hand and spun around to me. More loose strands of red hair framed her flushed pink face which had a covering of freckles. Her nose was upturned, her eyebrows raised in shock and her bright blue eyes fixed on me.

‘Sir! You startled me!’ she cried.

‘Sorry…’

She bent, picked the book up and shoved it on to the shelf, ‘I was worried you would not awake,’ she said, her voice sounding very Cornish, ‘I came up after Mrs Bennett told me too but you were all ready sleeping. The trip from London was tiring?’

I nodded.

‘I have never left the village. My cousin works here as the gardener’s hand, he recommended me when Mrs Whitley enquired. This is my first job, would sir please be understanding of that?’

I was use to that being the case at Trenworth Manor. Seemed my aunt found it hard to hire more experienced servants. Or perhaps, she was more understanding of the younger ones now having me in her life.

‘How old are you?’ I asked.

‘Seventeen,’ the maid replied.

‘And you name?’

‘Molly Pickworth, sir,’ she answered and give a little curtsy.

‘I am Master William Dunnington.’

‘I know,’ she uttered, her cheeks flushing deeper red.

I looked away from her as was gentleman like to save her more blushing. My glance ended over at the table and I saw it was set out for a meal. There was a silver tray with a covered dish, milk jug, sugar bowl, jam pot, a teapot and tea cup on a saucer. My stomach growled loudly, breaking the silence that was growing.

‘Excuse me,’ I said.

‘I believe it is porridge, sir,’ Molly voiced, ‘Mrs Marsh sent it up an hour or so ago. It should still be warm.’

Nodding, I went over to the table and helped myself. Molly carried on unpacking, trying to be as quiet as possible. The porridge was good, still warm and nice with sugar and jam. The tea was also nice and comforting. I felt better after eating and drinking it all and turned to look out of the window whilst I rested.

Surprising, it was nice day outside. Sunlight was pouring across Bodmin Moor from a really blue sky, the grass and bushes were a wash of green and I could just see little colours of flowers. Bird song was drifting through the air and I could just hear the calling of cows from a nearby farmer’s field.

‘Have you finished, sir?’ Molly asked.

I nodded and stretched out as she gathered everything up.

‘I think I’ll go outside,’ I spoke.

‘As you wish, sir. If there is anything else….’

‘No, that’ll be all,’ I said as if I was the lord of the manor.

I got up off the chair and went back into my bedroom. I went out the door and back the way I had come last night. I should have sought Mrs Bennett and asked her if my aunt wished to see me, but I knew my aunt would not want too, she rarely give me an audience.

The smell of freshly baked bread and something sweet, hint my nose at the bottom of the main staircase and I walked towards the kitchen. Opening the door, I saw the back of the elderly cook, Mrs Marsh removing bread from the oven. Her granddaughter assistant, Margret who was almost twice my age was at the sink washing something. There was a fire burning in the stove and a kettle boiling on top. The scrubbed, wooden table was piled with a mixture of different foods and the back door was half open, suggesting a delivery of things from the village had just arrived.

I coughed and walked in, making sure I was heard, Mrs Marsh was partly deaf.

‘Oh, it’s the young master,’ Margret said, turning around.

She was tall and curvy, wearing a simple dark green dress with a peek of white underskirt showing at the bottom. Her arms were going thick with muscles from carrying and working hard in the kitchen. Her face was pleasing with rounded cheeks, plump lips, blue eyes and dusty blonde hair poking out of a too small white cap. I noticed too the gold band on her ring finger and the growing bump of her stomach.

‘I sent his porridge up,’ Mrs Marsh half shouted as she tipped a loaf of bread out on the counter.

Steam curled upwards, trying to mix with Mrs Marsh’s white hair that was held back in a tight bun under her cap. The old woman had dark blue eyes which were slowly failing her and her face was all wrinkled and worn. Her skin was darkened by the sun and I recalled she liked to doze outside. She was wearing a dark blue dress, covered in flour and other stains.

‘Thank you for that, it was most needed,’ I said.

I walked in and inspected the items on the table; there were fresh fruits and vegetables, cooked ham, cheese, butter, two dead chickens, three dead rabbits, a pot of jam and another of sugar. There was also a jug of milk, a bottle of sherry and larger bottle of Cornish cider.  My aunt had ordered Mrs Bennett and Mrs Marsh to buy more food in as usual during my stay.

‘I’m going out to the moors. Can I take some of this with me?’ I asked.

‘Boys, always hungry,’ Mrs Marsh said with a hint of a smile.

A few minutes later, I was handed a cloth wrapped package of food and sent out the kitchen door. Unable to keep the excitement within me down, I broke into a small run and dashed through the little patches of gardens. There was a tall wall with an arched doorway at the back which led out onto a small road. I took this way to the moors.

There is nothing like the sense of freedom you get from the moors. There’s this vast spread of rough land as far as the eye can see and it’s empty of people. The smell of the heather and wild flowers flooded me and a realisation that I had truly missed this hit me hard.

I was about to run and spend the day explore the moor when the clop clop of hoofs and the stomping of boots from behind stopped me. I turned and saw the old gardener, Mr Marsh – Mrs Marsh’s husband- coming towards me leading a stoat chestnut moor pony, her mane and tail a mixture of dark brown turning black.

‘Hello, young master!’ he called to me with a wave.

I walked back through the arch and towards him. Mr Marsh looked like a gardener should; large boots covering his lower legs, baggy trousers and a loose dirty white shirt with rolled up sleeves. He had white hair, kind green eyes and a less wrinkled face then his wife. Soil was ingrained to his hands and other places. His skin was dark – the sign he spent all his time outside and his back was bent forward, another sign of all his hard work.

My eyes fixed on the pony beside him.

‘Rosy!’ I shouted and dashed over. I threw my arms around the pony’s neck and hugged her tightly. She smelt of fresh hay and warm fur.

Mr Marsh chuckled, ‘heard you were back, Master William. Thought I’d get her ready for you to ride.’

‘Thank you,’ I said, my voice muffled.

‘There you go, then,’ Mr Marsh said and handed me the reins.

A little spark of fear quivered in my stomach. I had not ridden a horse in a year, what if I had forgotten? Rosy nudged me with her pink nose and I patted her. She had always been a quiet and patient pony, unlike her wild cousins that roamed the moor.

I climbed into the saddle with only a little help from Mr Marsh, who then walked us to the arched door.

‘Looks a good day for it,’ Mr Marsh spoke and he give me the reins again.

I nodded, seeing the blue of the sky against the greens of the moor. Then Rosy was walking on, sure footed across uneven ground that was half hidden by the heather, mosses and grasses.

To Be Continued…

Stone Circles (Part 1)

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Every summer, I travelled from boarding school in London back to my aunt’s house, Trenworth Manor in Cornwall. My parents had died when I was a baby, leaving me a fortune and placing me in the care of my mother’s childless and widowed twin sister. My aunt, not knowing what to do with a boy had always put me in the care of others.

I was thirteen that year and growing into a gentleman all ready. I had short brown hair, that curled at the ends, light brown eyes and my face, though still  rounded with child-likeness was becoming more strong and defined. I was tall for my age but thin as I had yet to fill out. I also had some faded scars on my palms, the results of being caned too hard a few months back.

Looking out of the small, two horse drawn carriage’s window, I saw the scene around me began to change. After travelling many hours by a few different horse drawn coaches, I was pleased to see Bodmin Moor growing wild all around the road as it meant I was almost at my aunt’s house. She lived in a small manor house, left to her by her husband, on the edge of the moors and overlooking a tiny village.

The two brown horses clopped through the half open gates, the carriages wheels crunching over stones then we were there at the front door of Trenworth Manor. The driver let me out and I looked around at the house. It hadn’t changed in a year, it never really seemed too. The huge grey stones and plan front loomed over me, the handful of windows seemed to be judging me like eyes and the door was a closed mouth, keeping it’s secrets inside.

I went up the steps whilst the driver lowered my trunk. The door open as I got there and the housekeeper, Mrs Bennett, peered out of the gap. She was a short, stocky woman, with a huge bosom that her practical black and white frilled dress seemed unable to keep in. Her face was worn and wrinkled more then her years but she must have been in her mid-fifties that year. She had small, unhappy brown eyes. Her dark brown and grey hair was to her shoulders and plaited back.

‘Good day, Mrs Bennett. Please inform my aunt Mrs Whitley that I have arrived,’ I announced.

Mrs Bennett grunted at me like an old dog, opened the door wider and walked off. None of my aunt’s servants had ever had the time for me either. I walked in, hung my hat on the stand and went into the parlour to await my aunt or Mrs Bennett’s return.

I heard the driver drag my trunk into the hallway and stop to catch his breath. I had all ready paid him and we had known each other for a few years now. He should also remember that he wouldn’t get any hospitably here.

After a few moments, he left, closing the door behind him. I heard him urging the horses on and the coach wheels starting up. I went to the window and watched them leave down the short driveway and out onto the moors.

Turning, I took the parlour in; a few chairs were dotted around, two low tables placed between them, a small fireplace in the far wall and on the mantle a ticking brass carriage clock. My aunt never had visitors. Expect her solicitor and sometimes people looking for work.

I didn’t sit but walked around the room, stopping sometimes at the window or the fire place. I was tried and hungry, wanting to eat and go to bed. The minutes passed and Mrs Bennett came bustling back, tutting over my abandoned trunk in the hallway before coming into the room.

‘Your aunt is not feeling well today. She’s employed a new maid to wait on you,’ Mrs Bennett replied in a clipped voice.

‘Oh. Has my governess not arrived yet?’ I said.

It was normal for my aunt to employ someone to teach and keep an eye on me over the summer. For the last few years, my governess had also been the teacher of Bodmin town’s girl school. Before that, there had been a string of young women in their first appointments as governesses. I could not really remember them all.

‘No,’ Mrs Bennett sniffed, ‘your aunt has decided you are too old for one now. You should be able to take care of yourself.’

I was taken back by this and didn’t know what to say.

‘I disagree,’ Mrs Bennett said in a low voice almost as if she didn’t want me to hear but could not help speak her thoughts, ‘boy should not be left to wander around and idle away!’

‘Idle?’ I uttered, horrified.

Mrs Bennett rose to her short, full height, holding her head high and staring down her nose at me as if I was something disgusting that shouldn’t be inside the parlour.

‘I have too much do. You know where your room is,’ she added then turning on heel, stormed off.

Unsure what to do, I walked slowly to the connecting rooms I always stayed in. Trenworth Manor seemed un-decorated and half empty of furniture. The wallpaper and paint were badly faded, where there were small paintings on the walls they were dusty, the rugs and floorboard, though clean were threadbare and scuffed. The staircases’ banisters had been polished so much, they had turned dull.

The furniture that did dot the hallways and gathered in rooms was old, some tables and chairs going back generations – family heirlooms. The fabric on the curtains, chairs and cushions were so faded you could no longer see the colours or patterns. There were perhaps only a few ornaments – vases that stood empty in on window sills, animal and people figurines on mantles and bookcases.

The manor give the impression it had not been lived in for years but someone was trying to keep up appearances. There was a pressure of silence, broken only by the ticking of clocks that echoed around and the creak of wood. There was a faint musty, damp smell masked by the scent of lilies and fire smoke. I also recalled the smell of dried fruit and green leaves from Christmas.

I climbed two staircases, down a short corridor and arrived at the first of the three doors. Opening the door, I entered the bedroom and found someone had recently aired it out. The window was open, the breezy moving the curtain across the plush window box seat. Taking up a whole wall and most of the room, was a large double four poster bed with dark red velvet curtains swept around the wooden poles. At the head, two small tables guarded either side and at the bottom there was a worn bedding box.

In the opposite wall, was a white marble fireplace. Coal, firewood and kindling stacked neatly and waiting to be lit. On the mantel, was a small sliver joint picture frame containing paintings of my parents looking at each other. There was also a small blue vase and two china dogs. On the wall above was one of my favourite paintings; Bodmin moor in all it’s summer glory was the ruins of castle in the distant. To the right of the fireplace was a small dark wardrobe.

Smiling at the familiarity and glad not be be travelling anymore, I relaxed. Taking off my shoes, I climbed up onto the bed. Laying down, the pillow felt soft on my head and the blankets warm underneath me. I yawed then shut my eyes, feeling sleep hushing me away.

To be Continued…