The good weather didn’t last, in the night it poured with rain again and in the morning the sky was grey and overcast. Over breakfast I decided that that this would be a good day to go underground.
So we drove thirty miles or so to Blaenau Ffestiniog which, in one of the wettest countries in Europe has the added dubious distinction of being the wettest town in Wales. It is famous because it produces not only the finest slate in Wales but also the whole world. The town sits on a rich vein of Ordovician slate about a million and a half years old and which according to Wikipedia “is a fine-grained, foliated, homogeneous metamorphic rock derived from an original shale-type sedimentary rock composed of clay or volcanic ash clay or volcanic ash and free from impurities and fossils is the finest grained foliated metamorphic rock ever found” – so now you know!
Welsh slate was so good that it was once exported all around the World but the industry started to fall into decline in the middle of the twentieth century and in the face of inferior product competition from Spain and China the mines closed, the water pumps were shut down and the chambers flooded, the industry declined and just never recovered. There is now only one working slate mine in the whole country.
The Llechwedd slate mines in Blaenau have been reinvented as a visitor attraction and we bought our (expensive) tickets and took Britain’s steepest passenger railway, with a gradient of 1:1.8 or 30° into the bowels of the earth and a forty-five minute tour of the subterranean tunnels and the chambers. There were stories of the hard life of miners, how the caverns were used to store national treasures in the Second-World-War and how today it is used to store and mature Welsh cheddar cheese before it is sold in Sainsbury’s supermarkets. We bought some in the shop on the way out – it was really good!
We were back at the cottage by late afternoon and with the sun making a belated appearance I took the children net fishing in the river across the field. They seemed to enjoy it even though we didn’t catch a single thing for our supper so it was a good job that we had some fish fingers in the freeezer as a back up!
I was rather tired tonight so shortly after Kim had gone to bed I said goodnight to Sally and walked along the corridor to the bedrooms. Part way along someone called out “Grandad, Grandad, Grandad” three times and assuming it was one of the three children I went to their bedrooms and asked who was calling me – all three were fast asleep, very fast asleep. I went back to Sally and asked if she was trying to trick me but she denied it. I went back to the children and in the corridor passed a cold spot that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand out like porcupine quills.
This was a “Blair Witch Project” moment. Let me remind you that this cottage was very, very remote, a mile from the nearest road and the night was as black as tar. It was a ghost, believe me it was a ghost. Do you remember my story about the bat and how if they fly into a house it is because they are haunted and the ghost lets them in?
I was scared, Sally was scared but Kim wasn’t scared at all and told us not to be silly and just go to bed.
All was fine until about one o’clock in the morning when I had a tapping noise that woke me up. I heard footsteps downstairs and thought one of the children must be walking about so I went to investigate. In the corridor I heard soft and measured footsteps in front of me, the voice said “Grandad” and as I followed into the black treacle darkness I said, “who’s there, who’s there?” but when I checked the bedrooms Sally and all of the children were all still fast asleep, very fast asleep. As I turned to leave something cold brushed past me like a floating whisper and touched me on the cheek.
I was scared, very scared! I put all of the downstairs lights on and fled back to bed, closed the children’s bedroom door, closed our bedroom door (as though that would make a difference) and pulled the duvet up under my chin and listened while the footsteps and the bumping noises continued. I felt sure that my hair would turn grey overnight. Kim didn’t stir. Sally and the children didn’t wake.
This has happened to me before. Once in a remote Posada in Santillana del Mar in Spain we were left alone for the night, there was no one else there and we both heard something walk along the corridor outside our room and stop for a moment outside of our door. Two nights running. Even Kim agrees with that ghost story.
You may not believe me either but in the morning there was another spooky thing when I discovered fish heads and crab claws in a neat pyramid pile on the roof of my car and I have absolutely no explanation for that unless it was a sign from the Mafia (Luca Brazzo swims with the fishes) some form of Druid exorcism or a warning by Welsh Nationalists. The gate that hadn’t been closed for several years was also firmly shut!
Let me tell you as well that on every one of the next few nights I woke in the early hours and never once did I hear another noise in that house and I never felt the cold spot again.
Also in the morning the owner of the cottage came to see us and we asked the question about the haunting. Very quickly she denied it and said that we were being silly but we all thought that she was just a little too hasty to make the denial.
Have you ever stayed in a haunted house or seen a ghost?