While I was up North for my half term break, the first chinks in winter’s armour began to show. Daffodils have started to come through the sodden ground and the greyness split for just a moment to allow the spring sunshine in.
So on this morning that brought light and the scent of a waiting summer on the air, I took a little stroll through the village and to the place of so many childhood memories and the initial inspiration to my current book; my Grandparent’s farm. A meander along the canal first, into the fields beyond always brings a warm feel despite the bitter breeze, recovering the aching heart and soul which had pined for a little more Northern air.
As you know, I am fascinated by the English Civil War, but one of my starting points was Harrison’s farm. Although much adapted these days under the care of my Aunt, the original building was thought to have been built during the Civil War for a Parliamentarian, Major General Harrison. As one of the Regicides, he played a huge role in the downfall of the monarchy as well as being part of the bloody war in the North. The Lancashire countryside was ravaged by war and yet this little house seemed to escape the constant changing of boundaries and payment of lands. The heavy stone walls, low beamed ceilings and head-cracking doorways (not good for a tall family) have stood the test of time and are steeped in memories, and likely a ghost or two to boot.
Fields beyond roll down into woodland and the River Douglas, home to my book’s heroes. Before moorland rain was funnelled into reservoirs, the river would have swelled to an enormous weight, feeding the ruins that once were an abbey’s mill deep within the trees. I currently have no photographs but the remnants of stone mill wheels and its grinding apparatus lie solemnly beneath the green lichen and ivy which entangles the ground. In a few months the whole woodland floor of this place becomes a blue carpet as the bluebells surprise the darkness with their vibrancy. It is so magical and wonderful, the sound of water rippling as the dappled light breaks through the canopy and a heavy scent of history and a life long forgotten echoes through everything. It may be thought a shame that my book should use this place for its darker moments, but the contrast to me makes it all the more sinister!
You could once follow up river to the edge of the Pennine Moors, to Rivington Pike and Winter Hill – a sight which still makes me smile inanely. Each time I drive up the M6 I hold my breath as my car curves the long bend north of Warrington, for beyond this is my first glimpse of the real north. As soon as I see these hills I know I am home. There is a security in this vision, a safety, even if I can only imagine the Pike when concealed by clouds. And it is certainly one hell of a view from the farm!
All these things feature as scenes and settings to my tale. But what doesn’t feature is the old school house at the end of the lane, the first in the village under Victoria’s reign – long since another Aunt’s home. I love the weight of beauty in this house both outside and in and feel so very blessed to have been under its influence as I grew up. It also provides something of a yard stick for my real grown up living aspirations. However, these days that’s probably a lottery win too far!
There is little wonder that now my youthful roving feels done I yearn for a little more of this life. Of course, it is the memory of this life which is strong, the reality these days is a little different. However, no matter how hectic things can get or how far I may travel, a short stroll down this happy lane and past moments of history both personal and distant, can inspire and soothe. Medicine for mind, body and soul.