Monday, 29 June 2020

The Real Life Mill

In 2011, Greyhart Press published my novelette The Mill as a stand-alone title.  It was originally published in the acclaimed Pendragon Press anthology We Fade To Grey in 2008, edited by Gary McMahon (who, in asking for it, succeeded in pulling me out of a writers block that had consumed me for two years).  A story about grief, guilt and coughing ghosts, Mark Morris in his introduction called it "one of the most moving pieces of writing I have read in a long time".
Almost everything about The Mill has a touch of autobiography, not least the key location and The Folly, as we called it, can be found at the end of Shotwell Mill Lane in Rothwell,  From above (thanks Google), it looks like a very small wooded area but within it are the ruins of the old mill.  When I was growing up, in the 70s and 80s, we often played down there (war games worked particularly well, with the old cellars and walls) and it wouldn't be unusual, during the summer holidays, to head down with your mates and discover four or five other groups of kids there.
The River Ise separates Rothwell and Desborough and The Folly is shown in the centre of the photograph
In 2012 (you can see the post here), I explored the site with Dude and found it extremely overgrown and difficult to navigate - it obviously wasn't used as a playground any more.
Dude, in 2012, standing in front of the right hand cellar
During the lockdown period, two things happened.  My wife and I, trying to find long walks in a relatively small town, followed an old footpath map and discovered several places I didn't even know existed, one of which led us to walk back by The Folly.  It was a lovely day, no-one was about and so I took the chance to grab a few photographs.
The same cellar Dude is standing in front of in the other photo - so those trees have sprouted well in the past 8 years...
Further around from the cellars, I wonder what the grave-shaped opening is for?
If you've read the story, I hope you found the Mill itself to be quite a scary place.  I've never been to the real location in the dark but, with its well out of the way location and the whispering trees, I can imagine it's quite eerie.  When I was researching the idea, in an attempt to lend as much truth to the descriptions as I could, I looked everywhere to try and find a photograph of the original mill.  I failed and so made the whole thing up (or, I suppose, did what a writer is supposed to do).  Then, quite by chance, my mum spotted a picture (she remembers the building before it was demolished) someone had posted on a Rothwell Facebook page.

This originally appeared in the Kettering Evening Telegraph in December 1939 and, to my delight, Shotwell Mill looks as creepy as I've always hoped it would.  What do you think?
Kettering Evening Telegraph, 22nd December 1939
Sometimes, it appears, real-life can be even more creepy than a horror story...

You can find more details about The Mill here

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