By 24th August 2015Uncategorised
Recently my life tried to become an M R James story, but I was saved by a morass of nettles and blackberry vines.
Part One (the true bit): I was in the Torquay Museum a while back with my little one, and as I checked out the prehistoric Torbay section, I came across a cabinet displaying human bones from a 5000 year old passage grave. The location of the grave is specified as being situated a few hundred metres from our house, and 300 metres behind Broadsands Beach (on an area of farmland arranged around a wooded hill, with Brunel’s viaducts on either side). I did a double take at the display, then asked a member of staff if the grave was still there. A book was produced from a back room, and I felt like I’d waited my whole life for that moment: consulting with a museum curator on ancient ruins.

The grave was not listed in the book. But, a few days later, I was assured by a lifeguard on the nearby beach that it was still there. And though it was getting late, during my evening walk, I decided to beat a path up the hill to find the grave site …

Part Two (still true): I climbed over a fence behind the beach huts and slowly made my way through 20 feet of brambles and reeds, then climbed the steep hill, scattering pheasants from the edge of the wheat field. I spent over an hour exploring seven fields divided by old, half-collapsed stone walls. The fields surrounded an eerie copse of trees on the summit, which reminded me of the M R James Wailing Well story; there was a large drinking trough for cattle set inside in a curious circle of trees. The stillness and silence up there was remarkable, as were the views of the bay below. Besides the antlike figures of the keep fit class, I saw nothing moving below the hill the whole time I was up there.

I eventually found the site of the grave, but the stones were entirely covered in nettles and vines … Anti clmax, but I’ll go back in the winter when the foliage recedes to get a decent picture. And yet, allow me to continue the story, but in my imagination …

Part Three (speculative): But here’s what began running through my imagination while I was up on that hill, entirely alone as the sun lowered in the sky. It might also be the conclusion to the story that you all wished for (and I don’t blame you). But I imagined the final part of this tale appearing in some kind of report:

“The sole eye witness was a man taking part in an exercise class on the beach, some 300 metres away from the incident, but facing the hill. After hearing a short, shrill cry from the top of hill behind the beach, the witness looked up. With the setting sun in his eyes, he couldn’t be certain of what then occurred on the south-facing slope, but was sure that he saw a man break from the copse of trees on the summit and run down the hill, towards the viaduct. The running man was then followed by a second figure, that also emerged from the treeline upon the summit. This second figure was described as being of a dark colour, small, and bone-thin, while also giving the appearance of being unclothed.

At the very moment when the second, smaller figure seemed to catch up with the running man, the witness lost sight of the two figures within the wheat. There followed one more cry from the hill, though it was muted as if the mouth that issued the cry had been covered or blocked.
The remains of the local man, reported missing since last Wednesday evening, were found within the semi-collapsed, megalithic, chambered tomb, on the far side of the hill.”

I feel a longer story coming on (not my pics below, but those taken by local historians many years ago).


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