posted by Megan Wadsworth on Feb 3

It’s a wet and miserable day for a walk but in an effort to ward of the winter blues I force myself out. I head up towards the ruins of Houghton House, one of my favourite local haunts. The 17th Century hunting lodge was, allegedly, the inspiration for House Beautiful in Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan. I read this book when I was young, far away from here, back home in the southern states of America and I now live in its backyard. The smell of the wet moved earth and cow dung fill the air from the farm that sits across the entrance of the ruins. The gates opens up to a tree lined path to the ruins. Every few steps, among the uneven stones and debris, I can spot small glass like stones, perhaps old paving stones showing a hint of what once was. They are smooth to touch as the rain has given them a much needed clean. The deeply embedded stones glisten under the grey skies all the way down the long path.

I can hear the muffled wind and the rain dropping persistently on the hood of my parka. My boots squelch as I walk through the puddle welcoming me into the front entrance of this once grand house. I stand in the centre of this roofless building and can see almost every room due to the crumbling red brick walls dotted in moss that surround me. The rain falling in the house is making millions of tiny moving ringlets in the puddles sit throughout the ruins. Where I can’t see brick I see what I assume was some sort of cement plaster. I run my hand over some messages etched in the surface. Graffiti. I’ve never noticed it before. I feel sad that it’s there but also that I will now notice it every time I come. I walk to the back of the house and look out at the garden from a ledge. I picture stairs here at one point but I could also easily be standing in a window. The grass is well kept except for the moles hills that are making a concerted effort at taking over. Time travel feels at my fingertips as I look out, imagining a Georgian tea party happening here on a warmer day. However, I am soon interrupted by the distant sound of a train which brings me sharply back to this century. All of a sudden I can now also hear the constant whirring cars at the bottom of the hill rushing by my house which I know to be there, although not quite visible. I look out at what was once hunting ground and the view is interrupted by power lines and some nearby plant works. The rain is falling faster now and I turn to leave. My nose and ears are freezing from my long walk. My pace quickens back up the path already looking forward to the coffee that awaits me on my return home. The thought of this makes everything seem momentarily brighter.

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One Comment to “Houghton House”

  1. John Sarver Says:

    Having been there on one of our walks with you, reading this was like being there again, which I intend to do our fast-approaching visit/stay. Beautiful House Beautiful. Beautifully written!!

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