The parish of Maenan and Llanddoged, Conwy Valley.

When we moved to Wales from deepest, darkest Essex, we took the precaution of renting a house for six months – we knew nothing of the area, and it turned out (in some ways) to be a wise move. North Wales is not one uniform, lovely green place you can randomly land in. Take Blaenau Ffestiniog, for example, the ultimate Slate Town, where the rain never stops falling. Or Trefriw, much of which sees no sun at all during the winter. Those things you learn from experience.

The place we rented was no run-of-the-mill house, however. It was an old school – Yr Hen Ysgol in Welsh, in the rambling parish of Maenan, which meanders along one side of the Conwy Valley, between Eglwysbach and Llanddoged. It’s not so much a village as small collections of houses, dotted here and there on steep and meandering country tracks. The school was a massive, grey granite building, sitting on a slight rise with a forest crowding behind it. The only other house nearby was a tiny cottage right next door, which had once been the schoolmaster’s house and was now home to a lovely young family. There was nothing else for the best part of a mile around.

The short road to the school was insanely steep and tortuous – when we went to see the place for the first time I just stared at it, started giggling wildly and hid under the seat. Fortunately hubby was driving, but I suspect I’d have done the same had I been behind the wheel. I never did drive in or out, once, in the time we stayed there. Frankly, it is a road for mountain goats, not people.

First impressions were wonderful – the school had stopped being a school some years before, and had been bought by our landlady, a pleasant woman who lived behind the property in what had been the school kitchens. So the isolation was not total, but the feeling of remoteness, the proximity of the forest and the stern beauty of the school itself made us agree to rent in a heartbeat.

I still remember it fondly, although there was the odd shadow. One related to a particular room in the school’s rambling interior, which had been almost entirely, and idiosyncratically, redesigned.

The school had four bedrooms divided into two completely separate pairs, one at each end of the building, which were accessed through their own set of stairs. In between was the massive full-height lounge and kitchen area, large enough for a small football match, had we cared to start one.

The master bedroom was at the far end of the school, up a modern, curved staircase. The bedroom next to it we managed to fill entirely with boxes – those possessions that we’d wrapped, and stowed, till we reached our final destination.

The other pair of bedrooms were accessed through an old, original staircase at the back of what would once have been the cloakroom but now served as a hallway. One of those was also stuffed full of boxes and the other was the spare room, in case anyone visited. It was sparsely furnished with a bed, dressing table and cupboards and a couple of anonymous pictures.

I thought very little about it, as I was constantly busy trying to arrange viewings of houses, trekking up the steep forest path on dog walks and somehow fitting in my writing. Then one night, feeling unwell, I decided my restless sleeping was disturbing my other half and the dogs, so I quietly tiptoed through the cavernous, darkened lounge, up the far set of stairs and into the spare bedroom, thinking to spend the night there.

This proved to be easier said than done. Sleep did not come easily, partly because I was feeling bad but also because of a strange sense of being watched. This grew stronger and stronger, as time passed, but in the end I dropped off – only to wake with a huge start, heart pounding, with a vivid feeling of dread, and threat.

Needless to say, I scuttled back to the other room quickly, and it was several days before I entered the other bedroom again. From that time on, every time I entered that room I had the distinct sense of another presence, and a faint whisper of the fear that had come to me that night. It was nothing tangible, but nevertheless, I did not go there often.

I am curious, though. At a safe distance in time and place, I wonder why this should have been so? What was it that made that particular room seem so threatening? Is it something in the school’s history, perhaps, that I know nothing of? I heard vague tales of a strict headmistress. Perhaps this was the room where naughty pupils were brought for punishment? I would love to know.

Perhaps it is something more esoteric, such as infrasound, which has been found to be at the root of a number of reports of ghostly happenings and sudden changes of mood. I would welcome ideas.

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