I seek out the Plough.
I need a bit of Dutch courage.
Before entering, I study a plaque on the wall.
It describes the object that’s to be my quest.
It seems devised to put even the bravest of seekers off.
I take a corner table.
I sip my pint of Theakston’s
and I analyse my feelings…
I am, at the very least, apprehensive.
I feel a heightened awareness of my immediate surroundings.
I also have a sense of lightheadedness.
I am strongly mindful that I am about to do something new,
something I have never attempted before.
As I rise to leave, I have a feeling of ‘not being in control’.
I am about to embark on a passage of events
and I am to be a mere passenger.
It is late summer
and the heavy evening sky is a steely grey.
The air is thick and humid.
I set off down the entry lane of a disused psychiatric hospital.
I struggle to locate the point where my path veers off.
A man with a dog approaches…
‘Are you going to…’
His speech has an air of foreboding.
He points me in the right direction.
The path weaves around some derelict farm buildings
and the way opens up into a vast field.
I enter another field,
even larger and sloping away.
I feel small in this amphitheatre that is wide open,
yet is rimmed by trees a deep shade of green.
The smell of damp vegetation is stifling me.
Suddenly, I feel exposed and vulnerable
as I hear a distant rumble of thunder.
I zip my jacket up,
not so much for protection against the light rain,
but for somewhere to hide…
Like pulling up the bedclothes.
I realize that something isn’t right…
The trees to my left are far too near.
According to my map
I shouldn’t be so close to them.
I am in the wrong field.
I turn around and retrace my steps.
I listen as I walk,
hearing my feet swish through calf high damp grass.
I also hear the rustle of my jacket
and the hum of a distant plane.
I find the correct field,
but the approach is through a dark threatening hollow of uneven ground.
I tread warily
and the waist high nettles sting me through my thin trousers.
I take special care at a stile slippery with green slime.
I cannot afford an accident…
No-one knows I am here.
A few yards into the field
I notice a herd of bullocks are approaching me.
I turn tail – their harmless threat seems very real in this place.
I feel as if I’m being followed and look around.
There is nothing there.
I study my map
and find an alternative way to reach my quest.
The route follows a thorny hedge
and I climb a series of electric fences.
The light is beginning to fade.
It will, I realize,
be too dark to safely return this way.
There is no only on way to safety…
Right past my quest.
I pass through a thick double hedge
and find myself on the edge of a small country estate.
I am soon on a green horse ride
and my eyes are drawn to a strange stone obelisk
standing alone like a sentinel.
I don’t linger,
the place is infested with midges.
I follow the ride as it winds to my right.
I now sense the nearness of my quest
and my map confirms it.
I pull up sharp…
I am just not prepared for what I see…
It looms over me
standing stark and isolated.
It takes the form of a white cross.
This vision is far, far, removed
from anything I could have expected…
A well-manicured lawn.
A garden umbrella.
A car on a drive.
a satellite dish.
A security light.
And, would you believe, a burglar alarm.
At this place.
The legendary, terrifying, most haunted house in England.