Spooky

It’s not often I’m lost for words but trying to describe the feeling I had when sitting in the pitch dark on the first floor of Margam Castle this evening is one of those times.

We went on a ghost night last night. Traditional Welsh Cawl (a rich lamb stew) at the haunted Prince of Wales pub in Kenfig, followed by a tour of Margam Castle. We’ve been on several ghost tours and walks and they’ve each been great in their own way. Bath was atmospheric, York was well delivered and Dunster was an all round good night.

But last night was different again. It felt more personal when we were in the pub, where the landlord told us about the things that had happened to him during his 9 years running the pub. They were stories of mischief and general good humour. The spirits in the Prince of Wales were friendly and generally non-threatening.

We moved on to Margam Castle. We’ve been there many times during the day but immediately we got out of the car, the place had a completely different feel. It wasn’t completely dark and there the house stood out against the cloudless sky. The stars were clear and bright and we couldn’t have asked for better conditions.

After some history of the house and the family that lived there, we proceeded inside. With all the lights out, the atmosphere was eerie and every sound was magnified with the echo. Our host told stories about the malevolent spirits that occasionally showed themselves and we watched and waited, unsure of what we were going to see (or not see). Despite the lack of sights or sounds, the place was full of atmosphere and I would not have been surprised to either see or hear something myself, or find one of the other people claiming to have seen or heard something. But the spirits were shy tonight.

We went upstairs and sat in the pitch black silence. Now, as the guide spoke, I could make out a faint murmur beneath his voice. But as I realised it was the echo coming back, he mentioned this as a characteristic of the house and it’s central staircase. He told us about the times he’s been setting up and has felt something, and one of his theories is that the presence upstairs is an elemental spirits, that is, more ancient than human beings.

We heard nothing upstairs either, but as the night was drawing to an end, I became aware of a feeling inside me that I cannot describe. If you have ever walked in on the aftermath of an argument, when everyone is quiet and there is a feeling of awkwardness, you can only describe accurately that feeling to people who have experienced it themselves. How do you describe it to someone who has never felt it? That’s why I find it hard to describe how I felt on the upper landing of Margam Castle. I can only say that I was uncomfortable, uneasy and didn’t want to stay there. But I can’t say why.

It was a tremendous evening. We’ve been to Margam many times and it’s always a rewarding visit. But the ghost tour was by far the best visit I’ve had.

Looking back

I’m well in to the final 16 weeks of the preparation for my Kilimanjaro trek. Please visit my Just Giving site and make a donation to Cancer Research UK, the charity I’m collecting for. So it’s serious now and little things like rain and wind get in my way. So this morning, after waiting for the wind and rain to stop, I set off for a walk around the estate. Before you conjure up images of stately homes and rolling parkland, I’m talking about the housing estate on which I live. And before you conjure up images of me strolling around, know that I was wearing a backpack weighing 9kg (20lbs in old money).

I decided to take the route I used to walk to school and when I thought about it, I realised that the last time I walked to school was 30 years ago this year. I’ve used this route before when training for the other treks and it always brings back memories. I walked this route for 8 years on and off, every day during term times except for a brief period when I used a subsidised bus service. When I got to the school, it looked familiar although closer inspection revealed a number of changes – the most obvious of which was the big blue perimeter security fence and, nearer the buildings, a second big blue security fence. It reminded me of a prison camp and also of the perceived threat to school kids these days. Judging by the in depth defences, the school could hold out for days against a determined siege. Certainly until home time, when the whole barrier system is rendered pointless when all the kids pass through the gates and out of it’s protective embrace.

From the school, I walked through another housing estate and down to the sea front. Walking on sand is easier on the joints but takes a little more energy as the sand gives as you push forward. Ideal for what I’m doing at the moment. I was dressed up for the inevitable downpour; grey clouds filled the sky and the wind was blowing them along quickly. But it was warm and apart from a  few spots of rain at the start, it remained dry throughout the walk.

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