compels the unwary

November 26, 2019

[one’s] sense of orientation goes awry, as it does on Bodmin Moor, and although roads intersect the vast expanses, and sign-posts give direction, some strange instinct compels the unwary motorist or walker to travel in a circle, the waste-heaps and pitted pools becoming all alike, and there seems no way out, no means of escaping from this fantastic world.

Daphne du Maurier
Vanishing Cornwall

The shoulders of Elsa began to shake, and her head bent lower and lower. Julius had to cover his mouth with his hand to prevent himself from laughing. He had discovered a new thing, of hurting the people he liked. It gave him an extraordinary sensation to see Elsa cry after she had been smiling, and to know that he had caused her tears. He was aware of power, strange and exciting.

Daphne du Maurier
The Progress of Julius

the same hard quality

May 28, 2019

The first thing I noticed was the clarity of the air, and then the sharp green colour of the land. There was no softness anywhere. The distant hills did not blend into the sky but stood out like rocks, so close that I could almost touch them, their proximity giving me the shock of surprise and wonder which a child feels looking for the first time through a telescope. Nearer to me, too each object had the same hard quality, the very grass turning to single blades, springing from a younger, harsher soil than the soil I knew.

Daphne Du Maurier
The House on the Strand

eerie and fantastic

October 23, 2017

Moonlight made a ghostly path for me, and shadows, eerie and fantastic, lurked behind the trees.

Daphné du Maurier
My Cousin Rachel

Village sign twinning Warleggan with Narnia

Village sign twinning Warleggan with Narnia

Ghost Vicar at rest in his church

Ghost Vicar at rest in his church

church of St Bartholomew, Warleggan

church of St Bartholomew, Warleggan

Frederick William Densham in life

Frederick William Densham in life

Few who have been out walking on the moor at night, could have failed to feel the atmosphere of “otherness” in the landscape around them. It is truly a haunted place. Here have been glimpsed shadowy, lantern carrying figures – perhaps the ghosts of ancient smugglers or wreckers, doomed to wander abroad at night.

Thomas Hardy in 1870 called this ‘the region of dream and mystery.’ Anyone whose walked the bleak moors or the rugged coastline would have to agree with him. Here you find bronze age stone circles, abandoned ruins of farmhouses, roofless cottages, and the ragged winding houses of long closed tin mines. There are enchanted pools and ancient churches and timeworn Celtic crosses…And, of course, ghosts.

The village of Warleggan welcomes all with its own village sign – a sign that explains it is twined with Narnia!

Here you’ll find the church of St Bartholomew, haunted by the sad ghost of Frederick William Densham, the incumbent who took up his residency in the village in 1931. The Reverend Densham soon managed to alienate his entire congregation. His eccentricities, his arrogant nature and autocratic style* were to much for the locals who petitioned the Bishop of Truro for Densham’s removal.

The Bishop would have none of it. Densham was a church appointment and his incumbency would stand!

Consequently the village gave Reverend Denham the ‘cold shoulder’. They boycotted his church services. But Densham, not to be deterred by a lack of congregation, preached his sermons to pews filled with figures he’d cutout from cardboard – each named after a previous vicar of the church **. At the end of each service, the reverend would dully note in the register:

‘No fog, no wind, no rain, no congregation.’

Reverend Densham died alone in his church in 1953. Subsequently, his ghost has been observed by many local people, shambling up the overgrown footpath to the vicarage. Usually around teatime. The spectral Densham probably drawn back to this reality for a hot cuppa and some home-baked scones, no doubt.

* Nonsense, in reality, the good Rev fell out with a local man Nicholas Bunt, the head of the parish council, who had great local influence and told people to stay away from the church. Fearing Bunt, they complied.

** However, in the interests of accuracy, while a fitting touch to the Reverend’s story, I suspect this part is fiction created by Daphne du Maurier for her ‘Vanishing Cornwall’ book. He was certainly eccentric and lonely and had travelled widely, a great supporter of Indian independence and a lifelong vegetarian to boot! But he preached to an empty church, not cardboard cutouts, I suspect!

Bottled memories….

February 1, 2015


If only there could be an invention that bottled up a memory, like scent. And it never faded, and it never got stale. And then, when one wanted it, the bottle could be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again.

Daphne du Maurier