Posted in Inspiration, Writing Journey

A Strange Experience in an Historical House.

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I always enjoy celebrating birthdays and anniversaries. Last Wednesday August 20th was my 31st wedding anniversary and as part of the celebrations Vince and I visited our local stately home Hardwick Hall, which is owned by the National Trust. As National Trust members we are regular visitors to the grounds since it is only five or so miles from where we live but  I have never visited the house, so we left the dogs at home with our daughter and set off for a few hours of exploring the house and gardens.

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The gardens although not in their full summer bloom were spectacular as you can see. I will blog about the gardens another time. The house was seriously impressive from the outside, it is notable for the amount of windows it has. It was built between 1590-1597  for Bess of Hardwick (1527-1608).  I was particularly interested in the tapestries for which  Hardwick is famous. Some of these have been sent away for specialist cleaning and restoration and the finished result is spectacular.

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The entrance hall was dark, despite the numerous windows. Most of the windows were screened to protect the tapestries from the sun and there were copious amounts of  dark wood paneling. So that explained the darkness but not the oppressive feeling I experienced after a few moments standing in the hall talking to one of the volunteers.

Undeterred  we carried on into the exhibition rooms adjacent to the entrance, which were dark with uneven floors. I tried to concentrate on the tapestries many were darkened by age. The longer I remained in the rooms the more disoriented I became. Initially I put it down to the low ceilings and darkness. I have suffered from severe vertigo in the past so I recognised the symptoms, dizziness, nausea and the inability to walk in a straight line but that didn’t explain the oppressive presence I also felt in those rooms.

I stuck it out as long as I could and then told Vince I had to get out of there. I wanted to see the rest of the house despite feeling ill so  we kept going up to the next floor and the amazing room where Bess of  Hardwick received her guests. This room was lighter with higher ceilings and seemed free of the oppressive presence  I sensed in the rooms below. The long gallery was also on this floor and it’s reputed to be haunted but I felt nothing there. Probably because there were lots of little children running about, which made us all smile.

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Then came the bedrooms, which were colour themed. The green room was opulent as the picture below shows. So was the blue room but it was also freezing. I don’t mean draughty. I mean icy cold. I couldn’t stay in the room long enough to take a photograph.

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The rest of the house was interesting and I will share my thoughts and photographs in another post but my lasting impression will be the oppressive presence of the lower rooms and the icy coldness of the blue bedroom.

I checked to see if anyone else had recorded a similar experience  and found this article, which mirrors my feelings about the blue bedroom.

I haven’t experienced anything like this for a number of years and certainly didn’t expect to feel so debilitated in a house full of tourists but I did. I will continue to visit the gardens and park and admire the grandeur of the house from outside but I don’t think I will be stepping inside anytime soon. 🙂

Has this happened to you? Check out my other ghostly encounters:

Have You Ever Stayed in a Haunted House?

Ghostly Experience in the Lake District.

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Posted in Inspiration, The Dragon Legacy

What Makes A Great Summer Read?

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So after Saturday’s rain  the summer sun has returned and with it my happy optimistic mood. If  you read my last post  you will recall I was feeling down and attributed it to the grey day.

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Taking advantage of the sunshine I spent a couple of hours tidying and enjoying my garden with these  lovely butterflies  who decided to join me. I love gardening because it gives me time to think and plan and this post is a result of yesterday’s gardening interlude.

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Lots of people will be off on holiday in the next few weeks and many will be searching for  a good book to enjoy whilst they’re relaxing on the beach or sitting by the pool.

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Even if you’re not going away to the coast or countryside, if the sun stays out the excuse to sit in the garden with a good book is too much to resist.

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The point of going on holiday is to relax and most of all escape from your normal daily routine. Having a little ‘me’ time recharges our emotional and physical batteries before returning to our often stressful lives.

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So a summer read must offer escapism. Many novels today mirror reality or focus on the worst bits of everyday life, I would avoid these when looking for my holiday read. That doesn’t mean the story has to be sugary sweet just hopeful. Or so far removed from reality that even if it focuses on the darker side of human nature the reader knows that anything is possible including a happy outcome. 🙂

DSCN0763 DSCN0783 Continuing the escapism theme, the setting of a summer read is important. It needs to be in a place the reader would like to explore, so coastal locations are good as are mountains and picturesque countryside. I enjoy reading stories set in the summer too but I don’t think this matters as long as the setting is escape worthy.

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If you’re on a crowded beach then its easy to be distracted. So the ideal read must have an absorbing plot with lots of twists. Vivid characters are essential they need to make an impression. The genre of the story is subjective but I love a story with mystery ,lots of  action and sizzling romance. The romance doesn’t necessarily have to be the focus of the story but  a little spice always adds to the enjoyment. 😉

So that’s my recipe for the perfect summer read.

The Dragon Legacy Series
The Dragon Legacy Series

I leave you with some snippets from The Dragon Legacy maybe it could be your perfect summer read?

You can read the first page of The Dragon Legacy on BooksGoSocial

 Let’s You Escape:

‘The elusive turquoise-scaled dragons appeared through the haze. Their minds united by a single aim: the dragon egg’s safety, the reason they risked exposure to the human world.’

 Fabulous Setting:

‘The dragon lord’s golden eyes focused on the grey sky above the rock strewn hills. Dawn mist hovered around the summit like a silken web. It drifted through the rocky outcrops until it reached the valley where he stood alone.’

‘Mists floated across Lake Ullswater and cloaked the twisty lanes in an impenetrable shroud.’

Absorbing Plot:

‘Demon slayer Lukas Draco is a loner. He lives by two simple rules: No emotional entanglements and duty must remain his first priority. His beliefs are challenged when he’s inexplicably drawn to Fleur, a human woman with an unusual psychic aura. Sparks of sexual attraction ignite  threatening both his search for the dragon’s egg he buried a thousand years ago and Fleur’s life. Under the cover of a murder mystery weekend an apocalyptic hunt begins’

Vivid Characters:

‘Fleur stole a sideways glance at Lukas…His face was the epitome of masculine beauty, characterized by well-defined angular cheekbones, covered with pale, almost translucent skin. Its apparent delicacy did not detract from his masculinity; he looked like a fallen angel.’

‘Xavier Serpente clenched his manicured nails into his expensive Italian silk trousers… The threat of danger, which simmered under the surface of his urbane respectability, was his greatest attraction.’

Mystery:

‘Lukas forced his mind back to his mission. He studied his murder mystery character profile. His fellow participants mustn’t find out his identity. Or the real reason for his presence at Hallows House.

Action:

 ‘Escape impossible, the furious dragon man slammed him against the tree trunk. His bones cracked. The onslaught repeated with greater force, and his head and neck rocked on his shoulders.’

Sizzling Romance:

‘Lukas caught hold of her hand as she turned away from him. “No, don’t! I like you this way.” He ran the pad of his thumb along her responsive lips. “Trust me. Everyone will like you as you are.” She looked vivacious, like the color of her dress, with lush, pink lips and hair like golden rain as it slipped from its elegant restraints. He wanted her back in his arms. His arousal rocketed several degrees as the tip of Fleur’s tongue darted out and tasted his thumb. “Hell!” Another few seconds and leaving wouldn’t be an option.’

 All excerpts from The Dragon Legacy ©Jane Hunt

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Inspiration

The Perfect Holiday Cottage

Back garden view of our retreat in Northumberlan
Back garden view of our retreat in Northumberland

If you have been following my blog posts this week you will know I visited Northumberland. Now that I am back home again I want to share some thoughts and photographs of the lovely holiday cottage which was the base for our Northumberland holiday. Intended purely for couples and their dogs it was small but well designed with everything we needed for our stay.

Living and kitchen area
Living and kitchen area

 

Raised bedroom area with a view out to the field at the bottom of the garden - Lovely.
Raised bedroom area with a view out to the field at the bottom of the garden – Lovely.

 Even though this cottage is close to the A1 and easy to get to, it is so quiet and secluded.The perfect place to get away from it all with a ring side seat  of all the wildlife. There were hares, rabbits, pheasants and at night time, bats easily seen from the garden and lots of wild song birds. We even had a visit from an Arctic Tern looking for breakfast.

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Cheeky Sparrow

 

I would love to wake up to this view every morning.

View  from back garden across open fields.
View from back garden across open fields.

 My only regret was I couldn’t try our the log burner but alas it was just too warm. 🙂

Lovely log burner
Lovely log burner

After a wonderful holiday its time to leave ‘the good life’ behind (that comment will be lost on anyone not old enough to remember the 70s sitcom)

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The neighbour’s chicks run free just over the fence.
Fresh vegetables anyone?
Fresh vegetables anyone?

Back home again I’m looking forward to finishing my third book The Dangerous Gift.

Look out for more excerpts, news on The Revenge Masquerade and lots of book reviews.

Have a lovely weekend.

 

Posted in Inspiration

The Other Side of Dunstanburgh Castle – Dunstan Steads

Dunstan Steads Beach from Dunstanburgh Castle
Dunstan Steads Beach from Dunstanburgh Castle

So yesterday afternoon we decided to visit the beach we could see from the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle and it was so worth it. It was a mixture of sand and rocks and bordered by sand dunes and crashing waves – lovely.

Sand Dunes
Sand Dunes

 

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Waves on the rocky beach below Dunstanburgh Castle

A quick picnic on the beach overlooking at Newton just below Newton Point.

View from beach close to Newton.
View from beach close to Newton.

Then we walked back on the track by the sand dunes. A lovely walk which is dotted with wild flowers and Unusual beach huts. I would love to hide away in this one – the perfect writing cave with a view of the beach and sea.

The perfect writing hideaway?
The perfect writing hideaway?

 

Beach side with a sea view...
Beach side with a sea view…

 

With a wild flower garden.
With a wild flower garden.

The last part of the walk is along the edge of the golf course. No one would mind putting their ball in the water here.

Has anyone seen my ball?
Has anyone seen my ball?

A scream disturbed the silence of the golf course. Not the start of a thriller but me tripping over a stone and plummeting down the grassy bank. Thankfully Jazz and Vince caught me and I escaped with a bruised back. Undefeated I carried on and saw how great Dunstanburgh Castle looks from the golf course at the side of the beach.

Dunstanburgh Castle from Dunstan Steads
Dunstanburgh Castle from Dunstan Steads

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Another great walk with lots to see on quiet, dog friendly beaches I’m really going to miss this.

 

Posted in Inspiration

Spectacular Ruin On Rugged Coast – Dunstanburgh Castle

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Approaching Dunstanburgh Castle

Yesterday we visited a ruined castle at Craster. It was the most spectacular yet. I thought Lindisfarne was amazing built on a volcanic rock on an island but Dunstanburgh castle is a spectacular ruin on a breathtaking stretch of the Northumberland coast.

Alongside the walk to the castle
Alongside the walk to the castle

The photographs speak for themselves although in real life the waves crashing against the rocks is even better.

The view from the walk to the castle.
The view from the walk to the castle.

You do have to pass close by to sheep and cows so you will need to keep your dogs under close control but they are clearly used to visitors and ignored us which suited me.

Jazz and Oby were well behaved.
Jazz and Oby were well-behaved.

The ruined castle has some interesting features including these windows.

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 There is also a double height tower.

Double Height Tower
Double Height Tower

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Today is our last full day here in Northumberland and I will be sad to leave the beautiful coast and countryside and the friendly locals. Today we are off to explore the beach we saw from the castle yesterday.

From from the castle gorunds towards Craster Harbour
From from the castle grounds towards Craster Harbour

 

Amid the ruined castle
Dunstanburgh Castle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Inspiration

Summer Holiday #2- Castles and Islands

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After a lazy morning reading and blogging we decided to explore Holy Island and Lindisfarne castle which is close to Berwick-upon-Tweed.

DSCN0763Lindisfarne is a castle on an island which is only accessible at low tide along a causeway. We arrived at  about three in the afternoon and I must confess I was a little apprehensive about driving across the causeway. There is something awe-inspiring about driving or walking for that matter on land which the sea claims as its own. When we arrived at the huge car park there was an electronic screen displaying the tide tables and I breathed a sigh of  relief; low tide lasted until 21.30 plenty of time for Vince, the dogs and I to explore.

Holy Island  although quaint and with lots of pretty gardens was a little commercial for my tastes. Food stalls , gift shops and lots of tea shops and restaurants predominate . However once you leave the village behind there is a spectacular view of Lindisfarne castle  and the surrounding countryside.DSCN0759

DSCN0751       DSCN0752Lindisfarne castle is owned by the National Trust. Sited on a volcanic mound Beblowe Craig it was built in the 16th century to protect the island’s harbour. Stones from the demolished priory following Henry Vlll’s dissolution of monasteries were used in its construction. 

Lindisfarne was redesigned in the early 1900s by architect Edwin Lutyens for the founder of Country Life Edward Hudson. He used the Edwardian country house as a retreat.

Today it is open to the public and used for weddings. A wedding party was just leaving when we arrived. As we had the dogs we didn’t want to go inside which was fortunate as it is usually closed on Mondays. 🙂  

DSCN0773There were some beautiful flowers growing  up the side of the castle which made it look spectacular.  I think these are a type of marsh orchid.

Bamburgh castle which we visited on Sunday is visible across the bay and proves the point that Northumberland is a county of castles.

I managed to get this distant shot just before it rained.

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Posted in Inspiration

Summer Holiday #1 New Friends,Castles and Walks on the Beach

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Last Friday saw me madly packing for our trip to one of my favourite parts of the UK Northumberland which is England’s most northerly county.  In the past holidays have always been family affairs  but this time it’s just Vince and me. We are having a fabulous time staying in a lovely cottage close to Bamburgh which even has its own supply of vegetables.

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When we arrived we found these lovely cows at the bottom of the garden. There were lots of calves who were fascinated with us. They made the view from our cottage even better.

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There were also hens and lots of wild songbirds including this cheeky Pied Wagtail.

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 Yesterday we walked along the beach from Bamburgh castle past the Black Rock Lighthouse to Budle Bay. Oby really enjoyed himself and even did a spot of rock climbing.

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Posted in Inspiration, Writing Journey

Places To Find Inspiration- My Contemporary English Country Garden

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We’ve been in our new house for about two and a half years now and this is the third time we’ve remodeled the garden. The main reason being we had an enormous garden at our former house and I miss it. 😦 even though a smaller less time-consuming garden was one of the reasons we moved to a new house on a small village estate.  For the first couple of years  it was okay we planted lots of pretty  flowering shrubs and sat back and enjoyed them but then  at the end of August last year we adopted Oby 🙂

DSCN6684cropped-cropped-2013-06-18-13-26-18-e1371568673962.jpgOne large dog in small garden was fine but two and we knew major alterations were needed.

The grass or should I say mud patch needed to be taken up and replaced with patio and decking.

DSCN0209The plants were the next project they needed to be in raised beds to combat against dogs doing what dogs do. 🙂 My clever husband created planters for my fruit trees: Plum, Cherry and Apple and raised beds for my  Roses, Lilies, Lavender, Poppies and Rosemary and Thyme. I  will probably paint them but for now I just plan to  enjoy them.

Next on the list is extending the garden into the large driveway to give the dogs more room to play. I should point out that we live on the edge of numerous trails and a country park, again one of the reasons for moving to this location and they  have plenty of places to run.

 Now when I’m writing I can see the lovely flowers out of the window. I’ll leave you with a few photographs of the flowers I can see at the moment.DSCN0204

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Posted in Inspiration, Writing Journey

Ghostly Experience in The Lakes

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I was inspired to write The Dragon Legacy from my lifelong love affair with The English Lake District. Incidentally it is also the setting for my second ghostly encounters post.

Like my ghostly experience in a haunted house this occurred on a family holiday about thirty years later with my own children. Not a spooky house this time but a family walk by the beautiful Lake Ullswater on a bright August day.  At the time none of us attached any supernatural significance to the event until afterwards…

Photo0039Taking advantage of the beautiful summer weather about ten years ago we decided to walk from Glenridding to How Town before catching the steamer onto Pooley Bridge and back to Glenridding. The walk is about 7 miles and seemed the ideal afternoon pursuit. Ullswater steamers run between Glenridding and Pooley Bridge and stop at How Town.

Lots of other people had the same idea and the first stretch of the walk was full of families with children running around.  As we left the village behind we realised a young boy about the same age as my ten-year old son was walking with our kids. They chattered happily for about five minutes and then I became worried that he would be separated from his family, although when I looked around no one seemed to have missed him.

We reached a patch of grass close to the lakeside where some families were having picnics and decided to stop for a drink. The boy stayed with us for  a while kicking the stones and chatting to other children and families.  As we were leaving he came up to us and asked where we were headed.

“We’re walking to the How Town pier.” I said knowing it was approximately five miles ahead.

“You’ve a long walk ahead of you.” The boy replied.

I thought this was a strange remark for a child to make. We decided he must be a local child from one of the farms who made friends with children who passed by. We set off and when I looked back the boy vanished. I scanned the groups around but he wasn’t there, we carried on assuming he returned home.

During the long  walk the weather changed and we got very wet, a common occurrence in these parts. The seven mile walk seemed  to take forever as we got lost and ended up following one of my husband’s short cuts, never a good thing.

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When we finally arrived at How Town Pier exhausted and wet we’d missed the last return ferry and faced a repeat of the long walk to get home again. As we convinced the kids they could make the return journey despite their blisters the boy’s words came back to us. We definitely did have a long walk ahead.

We trudged homeward  and discussed the boy and his prophetic remarks. My daughter said he’d been dressed strangely  like a child from  the 1930s or 1940’s something we didn’t think about until afterwards even though it set him apart from the other children.

We looked for him on the way back as we passed farms and campsites but there was no trace. We couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something eerie about  him and the whole experience.

Hours later we reached Glenridding and  returned to where we were staying. Later that evening at the hotel bar my husband recounted our little adventure to some locals over a pint. They didn’t seem surprised and assured him the boy was a regular occurrence often seen by tourists  on that part of the lake.

 Intrigued we walked that way the next day but never saw him again.

When  I researched ghostly happening on the lake there were stories of fairies and lake monsters as Ullswater is known as ‘The Dark Lake’ but nothing documented about the boy.

Just coincidence or something more?

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Missed the Haunted House Post? Read Here.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Inspiration, Writing Journey

A Walk in the Meadow on a Summer’s Day

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Summer  has taken such a long time to reach us this year, nature seems to be playing a constant game of catch up. I’ve been waiting patiently for my oriental poppy to flower,finally on Saturday it did. 🙂 Now the sun has arrived the wild flowers are abundant in the countryside around my home. I took a walk with my daughter and our dog Jazz this lunchtime  to give us both a break from our computers and here are a few of the flowers we saw on the way. 🙂

orchids close up

The Marsh Orchids which are pictured grow in the country park close to our home.  I always escape to the country park and trails when I want inspiration or just need to work through an issue with a plot or character. Walking through meadows of wild flowers always makes me think of  the supernatural especially Fae.

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Jazz needed to recover  when we got home 🙂

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We found the enchanted wood below near Curbar in the Peak District Derbyshire last Sunday.

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This water filled rock was found high up on Baslow edge. I couldn’t help but wonder what mystical worlds it concealed.

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Finally an inquisitive visitor I had whilst writing this post. This friendly bird visits us several times a day. 🙂

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What’s your favourite way to spend a summer’s day?

Jx