As a child, coming up the lane to our house was always a spooky experience; not the sort of Spooks you see on BBC on a Monday night, but the spine shivering type. There were chestnut trees [over eighty years old] meeting overhead. In daylight hours this gave the lane the appearance of a grand cathedral when the trees were in full bloom.
Come the autumn and the branches reaching to heaven like arthritic fingers, all the conkers long gone - smashed in the many enjoyable childhood competitions of conker bashing - and the place took on a different feel altogether. Coming up to Hallow’een and should you be the proud possessor of long straight hair, you were guaranteed to come up the lane with new found curls.
The house behind the big stone wall was built on the site of a Monastery which was razed to the ground by King Henry’s forces at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries - or so local legend has it. This may be true, certainly there was some edifice there, long gone in memory.
As we walked up the lane home, we happy band of five, tired and muddy after a day spent roaming across hills and through local forestry, we always raced up the last part of the lane. Two of us never felt anything, except to complain that one part of the lane was icy cold and to laugh at the other three members of our merry gang. We on the other hand were sure that there was some evil menace lurking just behind our left shoulders always urging us to run as fast as we could and to get out of the lane and up into our respective front gardens.
As I grew older I retained this sensation, most of the others either forgot or grew out of it, except for one of the lads. One evening, when we were suffering a power-out, Mum and I started chatting about local history.
I told her about the sensation in the lane, fully expecting to either be laughed at or told “Don’t be silly, there is no such thing as…” but no. Unexpectedly she looked at me intently and told me that my Grandfather, her father, had always said the exact same thing. I scoffed and told her not to be trying to make me nervy coming up the lane. No, she was in earnest. One of twelve, he and another brother had always had this sensation and Peter had gone to some lengths to find out why this feeling would come over certain people in this part of the lane.
Rolling on to a night in my mid twenties, my cousin and I were coming home one July evening from a dance. Strictly sober, it having been one of those dances where minerals only were served, Lee asked me if I would hurry up. I asked her why and she replied she thought we were being followed. I asked her how she felt and she described, exactly, the same sensations that my Grandfather and I [her Great Grand Uncle] had felt.
When we got into the house, I told her the story, backed up by Mum. After a while she stopped shivering and said that her own Mother, [Grand niece to both Peter and my Grandfather] had always said that she felt queasy going up the lane of a dark night.
The Chestnut trees have been cut, and are long gone, the lane is a much brighter place today, you can actually see the stars above on a clear night, but the Monk is still there urging us to hurry. All the old villagers are agreed that he is not intent on harming anyone on the lane, but is trying to get them out of the way of King Henry’s men to safety. Maybe he lost his own life trying to save someone, or maybe he failed in the attempt and is still trying. Whatever his story is, may he rest in peace.
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