A Scream at the Chapel, Bradwell Abbey

To entertain myself, and hopefully entertain others as well, I’m currently pursuing a creative writing course with the fine old Open University. It’s proving to be a fascinating experience, and I didn’t expect to have as much fun as I am, or to be getting such great feedback from my fellow students.

Most of the writing is peer-assessed, but every few months there’s a formal assessment point where we’re asked to put together a few thousand words, and these are marked for our eventual grade. This ‘term’, I’m working on creative non-fiction, which I thought would be a new genre for me, but it’s really the sort of thing I usually write: taking everyday experiences and looking at them from creative or unusual angles. I’ve decided that this assignment piece is going to take the form of a guided walk around one of my favourite spots, interspersed with me reflecting on architecture, hauntology, Freud’s Doppelgänger theory, psycho-geography, the memory of places, all sorts of things. Today, I set off with my good camera to take some pictures to illustrate the story and add to the ‘guided walk’ vibe.

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Ritual carvings, Shenley Wood

I don’t spook easily, these days. I do most of my explorations around MK alone, and have pretty much got used to the tickles at the back of my neck that mean I’m being watched, and usually it’s a magpie about to tell me off, or a neighbourhood cat watching me go by. But on Christmas Eve, when I went for a wander up to Shenley Wood and stepped off the beaten track for a moment, I had a distinct sense that I wasn’t on my own, even though there was no-one else to be seen.

The paths through Shenley Wood are always a bit of an adventure. They’re bark-chipped, for the most part, but often so boggy that in places, I’ve come close to sacrificing a shoe to the ooze. I was squelching uphill through one of these bits when I spotted a strange structure hidden in the trees just off to my left. Any other time of year it would have been hidden in the foliage but winter lays everything bare. It looked like a metal chute chained to one of the thicker trees and I was intrigued to work out what it might be. There was a small track leading off the main path into the clearing, so I hopped and wobbled my way in. However, the odd contraption wasn’t the only thing I found in the clearing.

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