Monday, 4 January 2010

Ask Not For Whom The Bells Toll

Heading down the M40 this morning was a pretty winter picture. In places fields glistened with their light covering of snow, elsewhere you'd hardly believe we're in the grip of the coldest winter for 30 years.

I stopped off at Minster Lovell Hall, or at least its ruins, to search for the underground chamber where a long ago Lord (I must look his name up when I get back) starved to death because he was forced to hide after a long ago battle and he hatched a cunning plan with his servant which, as cunning plans often do, turned out to be a gross act of stupidity.

He hid away in a secret room that could omly be opened from the outside by the servant. Now please feel free to point out the obvious flaws in this train of thought. Servants can be fickle, or the unforseen is pretty much guaranteed to happen. As it happened the servant died and the master was left to ponder the wisdom of not having a keyhole fitted on the inside of the door as he slowly starved to death. His ghost has haunted the place ever since.

So there I was at midday poking around the ruins looking for the secret chamber that has eluded me for fifteen or so years. And guess what? It still eludes me.

Seriously though the ruins of Minster Lovell Hall are beautiful, located as they are behind the parish church. There can't be that many more tranquil place to be condemned to wander as a ghost or, for that matter, to wander as a shivering living being.

Anyway, my ulitmate destination today was the Church of St Mary's Avenbury in Herefordshire and so (having stopped off at an Old Prison in the Cotswolds for a bowl of Scotch Broth that took forever to arrive)I headed down the M5 and as the sun started to sink Emily (my sat nav lady) told me to turn next left. So I did. "Recalculating," came her familiar seranade. Not wishing to be given the Emily runaround I opted to do a U turn and got back on track.

I turned left too soon. So, once back on the road, Emily told me to turn left and off I went along a narrow farm track of a road that was thick with ice. The track got narrower and narrower and, to top it all, brought me to a farm gate that I had to open, slipping on the ice as I did so.

But Emily got me there. I managed to coax the car up a steep earth hill with the wheels skidding and finally I was able to park up. Heading off down a rough earth path it was about two minutes work and then there it was St Mary's Avenbury. And is all I can say is - WOW!
This place is a ruin in two parts and its surrounded by leaning and toppled tombstones that lean at awkward angles. A circle of skeletal trees surrounded it and the place felt well and truly spooky in the closing light of day.

I started filming and photgraphing it from all angles and that's when it got slightly weird. I was photographing one section of the church when, just before I took one picture, the cameras viewer filled with mist. I looked at the picture and, sure enough, as you can see on the photgraph to the left, there was a white mist over the tree to the right.

This wasn't on the photographs I took immediately before and after this one, and I was at a loss to explain it.

Then it dawned on me that I had breathed out as I took some of the pictures and I wondered if it could have been my breath on the freezing cold air. So I took another photo and breathed out as I pressed the button. No mist. So I'm still at a loss to explain it. The mist appeared on five of the photos I took and two of those were taken when I made sure I didn't breathe out as I took the picture.

St Mary's is a lovely spot and the ruin really does stand in the middle of nowhere. It is most certainly creepy and has an atmosphere that really does envelope you as approach.

There is something decidedly disturbing about the number of tombstones that either lean at awkward angles, have been swallowed by the ever cloying undergrowth that has long since wrapped itself around the fallen walls

Oddly I cover it on my London Ghost Walk as one of its bells, known as Gabriel, was always meant to ring out of its own accord to mark the passing of a vicar of Avenbury, is now located in the Church of St Andrew's by the Wardrobe.

I was thinking about this story as I knelt onto the cold earth to get another photograph of the church when I noticed a broken tombstone poking from the undergrowth. It was all that remained of the gravestone of V. John Smith a former vicar of the parish. I wonder if Gabriel rang out to mark his passing?

Anyway with night descending I head for Somerset but decided to submit to the allure of a raodside Travel Lodge en route. So until next time - Good Hauntings.


  1. Hello Richard, we brought St Marys Avenbury in June 2009. It was interesting to read about your visit. You certainly have a fascinating photo, many visitors to St Marys comment that their camera does not wrk or develops strange fogs or inages. Any chance of seeing a larger image of the foggy picture, strictly for personal viewing. We are planning to do much work on the site & ruins this year and anticipate closing the site to visitors - it is private property with no footpath thro. We welcome visitors and get many most of who have a ghostly tale to tell. If you wish to visit again just let is know, it's a long way to come to see a building site. Regards Meredith Attwell

  2. Hi Meredith

    Many thanks for your email.

    I'd be happy to let you have a larger image and what a fantastic location.

    My email adress is

    If you send me an email I'll send it as an attachment.

    Best Wishes