One of the main influences for my writing thus far has been my childhood. I recently had the opportunity to revisit the playgrounds of my youth; and, perhaps inevitably, I was taken aback by how different they seemed.
I set out for a run from my childhood home, across the playing fields and through the Spinney I wrote about in The Source of the Lea and Abraham's Bosom, and on to the Marsh House playgrounds. There used to be an enormous children's adventure area styled after a fort, which was impossibly exciting to me as a child, and now it has become a BMX track. Marsh House still stands alongside, but it's a sad sight now, doors and windows boarded or bricked up. I recall the side of the building being painted in bright colours, back in 1978, when it was transformed into a youth centre. At that time there was a go-kart track there, on some old tennis courts, delineated by piles of car tyres. It was a mecca for youngsters back then, but now it is mainly deserted. It occurred to me that there could be some inspiration for a story here, so I thought I'd take some photos.
|This is the painted side of Marsh House, which now looks to be deserted and boarded up|
|The front of Marsh House|
|All the ground floor windows are either boarded or bricked up. |
I wonder what's inside
While I was wandering around reminiscing, I was reminded that the surrounding area, Waulud's Bank, is named after a neolithic burial site. A D-shaped enclosure, it takes the form of a grassy bank through the surrounding woods, down which we used to run, roll, cycle, toboggan ... depending on the weather. I've since found out that a major ley line runs through the middle of the site, stretching from Cornwall to Yarmouth; it also bisects the Avebury stone circles. Apparently there would once have been stones at Waulud's Bank too, but they have long since disappeared. We used to find arrow heads, bits of pottery and so on in the chalky soil there, but we thought nothing of it. In recent years, many very significant finds have taken place there, but with almost no publicity. I could only find one scruffy old sign mentioning anything about it; but I'm sure more people would be interested if the history was more widely known.
I'm also sure there's a story in there somewhere ... History can make for a compelling tale, adding a convincing background to a good story, particularly when ghosts are involved. For proof, have a look at the excellent blog Freaky folk tales, for some evocative MR James-esque delights.
|Part of the ancient Waulud's Bank in the foreground, and the three blocks |
of flats over the hill. Five Springs is the closer of them
|The only sign I could find with details of this fascinating area|