A Dorset Weekend With The Silent Eye – Part 1

I know. It’s been a while since I’ve been here. And I’m still officially on a blog break. However, a few weeks ago I spent a weekend in Dorset with The Silent Eye, which I really wanted to write about, so here we are.

It usually takes me a little while after such weekends for me to process everything that happened. There are layers upon layers, some of which only become apparent once I’ve had a chance to reflect. There is magic, and impressions – whether they are valid or simply a product of my over-active imagination, I’ll leave to you to decide. There is always joy. And so the weekend began…

I took a train, as I usually do – I don’t drive much and there is something I love about travelling through the landscape where roads don’t tend to go, seeing the way the colours change, subtle tints of leaf and stone and sky. This trip was a long one – first into the bustle of London, then out, past glimpses of the Houses of Parliament and the Thames before heading south through leafy suburbs into open countryside. We crossed the New Forest, past wild ponies grazing in tree-lined clearings, skirted the coastline at Southampton before turning right and ending up in Dorchester, where Sue and Stuart were waiting for me.

It was such a pleasure to see them again. The sun was shining, and it seemed an auspicious start to a weekend that would be spent exploring a sacred landscape close to the midsummer solstice. Once I’d decanted my luggage into the car, we hit the road, heading for our first stop, Cadbury.

South Cadbury is a small and charming village located just over the county border in Somerset. It’s a quiet place with houses built of mellow golden stone, where roses climb and foxes dance along thatched roofs. It is also, according to long-standing tradition, the location of the legendary Camelot, court of King Arthur (I’m not 100% sure about this, as there are several other solid theories, but that’s another blog post). There is a ‘castle’ here of sorts – Cadbury Castle, an impressive Iron Age earthwork crowning the hill that overlooks the village. Evidence suggests it has been inhabited since Neolithic times, and excavations in the 1960s did, in fact, uncover an Arthurian-era feasting hall on the site, reinforcing the legend. We were going to make the trek up the hill to the castle, but our first stop was the small church that sat almost in the shadow of the hill. And so the companions converged…

…the church was quiet, empty feeling. Pretty enough, with roses and tree avenues, views out over the long fields. But there was no power there…

It was a lovely reunion with familiar faces, as well as new, with two lovely Americans making up our group of seven. Once we’d exchanged greetings and spent some time in the church, we took a short walk along the road to the entrance to the castle. It is accessed via a track with a gate – there is no entry fee and the way is deep and hollow, trees curving along its length. I started up the steep path and…

… it was as though she were being pulled up on a string, forging far ahead of the group, feet sure on the rocky path, a hollow way of green. As she neared the end of the path, her attention was drawn to two high points to the left of her, festooned in leaves and branches. Yet there seemed to be someone up there, a host of presences waving their arms. ‘You are welcome here,’ they cried. ‘We are so pleased to see you all! Come join us’. And she knew that on the field ahead there would be tents as far as she could see, white and blue and cloth-of-gold, all come to this place for the dance. But when she reached the field, it was empty, and sorrow overwhelmed her. ‘Do not worry,’ they said, still smiling, still welcoming. ‘We are still here. Come, join the dance…

It was a very strange feeling. I can’t explain it any other way except to say it felt almost as if I could have flown up that hill, the clear joy of being there thrumming through me. Even though I was already far ahead of the group, I had to temper my pace so as not to lose them entirely. It reminded me of another place that had affected me profoundly, somewhere I’d also had impressions of blue and cloth-of-gold – Carl Wark.

I waited at the top of the track for the rest of the group, all of us taken by the trees and air and landscape that undulated for miles around. Notches and earthworks were visible in the landscape around us and, in the distance, like an island rising from a green patchwork sea, was Glastonbury Tor.

…as she looked out to the distant Tor (distant, yet somehow close at the same time), it seemed as though there was a thread between it and where she stood, the low landscape between bursting with light and energy like fireworks, building to midsummer…

We stood for a little while, looking at the view and the impressive earthworks, listening to a short history of the place. It had been overthrown by Romans, who had stationed their legions there, but soon came back under local control. While this did happen occasionally, the scale and success of such an attack would, according to historians, have to have been led by a powerful local leader or king, adding fuel to the Arthurian legend. It was a fascinating site and I was still buzzing, whether from the energy of the place, the simple joy of being there with like-minded people, or a combination of the two, I wasn’t sure. We split up to explore the ramparts, with a plan to meet at the summit point. However, something had other plans for me…

…’Come up and over,’ they said, pulling her across the field. ‘Come dance with us!’ She hesitated, feeling a brief shadow, a time when this place had been rent with sorrow and violence. ‘Do not worry,’ they said. ‘It is but part of this place, and a small part at that. There is nothing but joy here now.’ And so she followed them up and over the green hill, butterflies dancing around her feet as she reached the summit. And there she could see the land stretching away, though this time rumpled and folded, rolling hills and deep valleys, a patchwork of summer green. She twirled, caught up in the joy of the place, of the dance….

I did twirl. Ah well. There was no one to see me except the cows, the undulating nature of the hilltop hiding the others from view. I carried on up and over, the landscape unfurling around me as I took a narrow path through the grass and wildflowers to the summit…

…’ Was King Arthur here, once?’ she asked. Laughter. ‘There have been many kings here’…

Hmmm. I rejoined the group at the very topmost point of the fort, where a stone pillar indicated the direction of so many sacred and important sites: Stonehenge, Glastonbury, Avebury, Maiden Castle… This was a very important landscape, connecting with other sites as far afield as Wales (the hillfort of Dinas Powys). If you are familiar with the concept of ley lines, energy lines within the landscape, it was interesting to note that Cadbury stands on the St Michael line, one of the most well-known. After a moment’s reflection, we made our way along the high earthworks towards the track. I could have stayed up there longer, (as I think could most of the group) but there were hotels to check into, plus a dinner reservation we needed to get to. However, we paused briefly, amused by a romantic message left below, and noted a strange phenomenon in one of the fields. There was no fence keeping those cattle in that line, and there was an earthwork visible on the hillside directly above them. Hmmm again. This was a very interesting place, and a suitably wonderful start to the weekend.

All too soon, it was time to leave, to head down the hollow path and back to the real world. Although, I think we would have been welcome to stay longer…

…’Where are you going?’ The stone hit the pathway with a sharp crack!, just missing her. ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry!’ She stopped, turning to see where the stone had come from. The bramble-tangled banks rose high either side of her, seemingly deserted. Still, it felt as though someone was waiting for a response. ‘I’m sorry I have to leave. But I’ll be back. And I thank you for your welcome.’ It seemed there was a sigh, and acceptance of her apology, and she proceeded down the path once more, unimpeded…

I guess this means I’ll have to go back there again.


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Home Again…

Hello everyone!

I’m back from my adventure. The jetlag has worn off, the laundry is (mostly) done, and the holiday seems almost like a dream.

Yet it was real, and it was fantastic – I saw so much and have so much to write about I hardly know where to begin (there will be many blog posts!). New York was everything I’d imagined. I felt immediately at home there, perhaps because it’s a city that’s so pervasive in popular culture – yet it felt as though I knew it, as though I’d been before and was just being reminded of where everything was.

We wandered as much as we could in four days, including a walk through Central Park, where we took in the amazing skyline and I found the obelisk, partner to London’s Cleopatra’s Needle. We saw sights large and small, and didn’t let the weather, which included torrential rain and a snowstorm, stop us from getting outside and experiencing as much as we could.

The weather followed us, snow falling in Toronto on our first day there, Niagara Falls creating ice sculptures, the sun peering out from behind shifting clouds. Yet I basked in the warmth of family and old friends (and by old I mean fabulous), reforging connections and visiting familiar haunts, sad to leave when the time came.

But Boston, and the New England coast beckoned. We walked the Freedom trail, spent time in Salem, then followed the coast southwest through Plymouth, Newport, Mystic and Milford, finally ending up back in New York on a hot and sunny afternoon, ready to catch our overnight flight home.

And now it’s back to reality. The recent warm weather was a wonderful welcome home, and I’m away again this weekend, on a long-planned writing retreat with friends. Stories beckon….

It’s nice to be home x


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

And don’t forget to get your Bloggers Bash tickets – follow this link to join the fun 🙂

A Blogging Blip and an Anniversary

Yesterday, as I usually do on a Wednesday, I put together my latest Wednesday Wander post and hit Publish.

But a funny thing happened. While my dashboard assured me that the post was, in fact, published, when I clicked the link to view it all I got was:

Oops, this page doesn’t seem to be here.

Strange, I thought. I went back into the dashboard, thinking perhaps I’d left the page too quickly, negating something mysterious in the process of click to publication. But my post was there, still insisting it was, in fact, published. I could update it if I wanted to, but it was definitely out there.

Except it wasn’t.

After trying a few more times I gave up. Perhaps the Happiness Engineers were tinkering with something, or perhaps it just wasn’t meant to be. I went to bed, planning on looking at it again this morning.

But when I woke up, there it was. My shiny new post, published as promised. Whichever gremlin had been holding it had released it from their claws. So that’s one less thing I need to do today.

There is plenty to do around the house this morning, but I plan on taking a moment of reflection. For today is an anniversary. Six years ago I returned to the UK, my family in tow, arriving on a snowy dark day to the land of my birth. I sometimes wonder what would have happened had we stayed in Australia. I’m not sure if I’d be writing the books I’m writing. I’m quite sure there are several wonderful friends I would never have met. But, as Aslan says, we are never meant to know ‘What if.’

I’m happy that we’re here, even though there are dear friends and family I miss in Australia. That is the lot of a wanderer, I suppose. And so today I will pause, to reflect on the past and celebrate the present.

Hope your day is wonderful, wherever you are 🙂


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

And don’t forget to get your Bloggers Bash tickets – follow this link to join the fun 🙂

Thank You

It’s evening. The time of day when I’m usually working (other than during the day, when I’m at work). Working, over the past few months, has been editing and formatting and writing, leaving not much time for blog posts or visiting around. I did write a short post the day before yesterday, with some updates on things I’ve been doing, and as soon as I did so comments appeared, people wishing me well, smiles from across the blogosphere travelling to my little space.

I love this blogging community, I honestly do. Blogging has, without exaggeration, changed my life. When I wrote my first post, about three and a half years ago, I had no idea of the journey I was beginning.

I called this blog Journey to Ambeth because it was going to be about writing. All about writing. About me writing books, about the things I learned about writing along the way. But, like so much in life, it has grown and changed into something more, encompassing travel and short stories and ideas and dreams, a space where I can express myself however I choose to do so.

But the biggest thing, the absolute best thing about blogging, has been the people I’ve met along the way. People from across the globe, many of whom I’ve now met in person. Others with whom I’ve had only virtual conversations, yet I know that, when I meet them, it will be like seeing an old friend. I’ve NaNo-d with them, celebrated new releases and publishing deals and life’s milestones, tramped hillsides and stone circles, blogged and bashed and learnt so much, experienced incredible generosity and kindness. I’ve made friends for life, friends I would probably never have met if it wasn’t for writing those first few words.

And I am grateful every day for it. So I just wanted to say thank you 🙂

———————————————————————————————-

If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Maiden Mother Crone, Part 8 – Farewell

So this was it. The final stop on my weekend with the Silent Eye, not far from where it had begun for me, two days earlier. We were very close to Aberdeen airport, but, other than the occasional plane or helicopter overhead, you wouldn’t have known it.

We were standing on high ground overlooking a river that turned, serpent-like, through a green landscape. A huge boulder sat on the edge of the drop and across the river from us were several homes, nestled among trees. Behind us was a ruined church, roof and windows long gone. Yet it still held secrets.

We went into the tidy churchyard, rows of stone monuments to war dead from both sides reminders of a not-too-distant past. The church itself, dedicated to St Fergus, was built of grey stone, weathered by time like the grave markers surrounding it. Interesting that it was the second church of the weekend – sacred places in the landscape were often overtaken by others as beliefs changed, often as part of the process and against the wishes of the community.

Yet symbols and relics remain, and inside the church were several such reminders of a far more distant past – the Dyce symbol stones. Carved Pictish stones, once again marked with the mysterious symbols we had seen on the Maiden stone and others, stood against the wall just inside the door, a small wooden overhang protecting them from the worst of the elements.

There was a double disc and z-rod, and another of the mysterious beasts that look like a cross between a bull and a dolphin, their message obscured by the passage of years. There were Christian symbols too, reminders of a time when Christianity and mystery dwelt side-by-side. On another carved stone set into the wall itself, white quartz pebbles had been left in offering, a nod to a much older belief system.

After spending some time in the chapel we went back out to where the land rose high above the river Don, one of two rivers from which Aberdeen takes its name. We stood in a circle around the large boulder, water below us, the sky wide above, and shared readings and reflection, a last opportunity to consider all that we had seen and experienced over the weekend.

All too soon, it was farewell. We split up into separate cars, with plans to meet down the road for tea and a last chat. However, roadworks scuppered that plan, sending us in different directions until we realised we had no choice but to simply keep going. I ended up at the airport earlier than expected, finding it strange to be all at once alone. However, I’d booked into the lounge so spent a comfortable afternoon watching planes and helicopters take off and land, still half in a dreamworld of mist and rain and dark Scottish pines, grey stones humming with power and warmth. It seemed a million miles from the modern world of steel and internet, and perhaps, in some way, it was.

Later, as I flew above cloudscapes coloured by the setting sun, I reflected on the weekend I’d just spent, the joy of spending time with companions known and the pleasure of meeting companions new. It seemed to me that it would take some time for me to process all I’d experienced and so it has been, this final post coming some six weeks after the fact. Even now, I can feel the resonance of that weekend, of lessons I think I’m still learning on a lot of levels. Scotland was a challenging land, a land that did not compromise, that refused to conform. Yet it was also a place of great beauty and welcome, and somewhere I instantly fell for, no matter the weather it threw at me.

I can’t wait to go back.

This is the final instalment of my account of a recent weekend away in Scotland with The Silent Eye. Click here to read part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, part six and part seven.


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

A Ramble In More Ways Than One

I missed my Wednesday Wander this week! Not because I didn’t have anywhere to write about, but because I’ve been deep into Ambeth these past two weeks, doing a fine toothcomb edit of Under Stone, the fourth instalment in the series. The story has taken me over again and I’ve been immersed fully into it, emerging only to eat, sleep, go to work and take care of my (slightly bemused) family. Oh, and watch Game of Thrones, of course, because DRACARYS – how good was the last episode? It took me a day to recover, I swear.

However, last night I edited the final word in the final chapter, and so this morning I decided to take a break and walk to work along the canal, something I’ve not had the chance to do for a few weeks. Not much had changed along there – it was still green, lush branches almost trailing in the still water in some places, creating archways over the slightly muddy path. There were more ripe blackberries than before, reminding me to bring a container next time I walk that way, their juicy goodness destined for my freezer and winter pies. But mostly, it was just the same.

And that was just what I needed. A reminder of the real world. Not so far removed from the green gardens and hidden pathways of Ambeth, but real enough. The grey heron was in his usual spot on the fallen tree at the widest part of the canal, preening his feathers in the sunshine. Canada geese, ducks and swans sailed past, silver fish jumped, canal boats reflected in the dark waters. As I walked I felt in some way as though I were waking up again, from a self-imposed slumber where all I did was dream of another land.

This afternoon after work I watched the gorgeous girl in a show, caught up with friends and had dinner with my family. Later, I might take my tea and sit in the garden as dusk falls, watching the sky change colour and listening to the rustle of birds as I cradle my cup close, enjoying the warmth. The nights are cool, even though it’s August, a hint of autumn around the corner, my favourite time of year. The Perseid meteor shower is happening now, with the peak expected this weekend. If I can, I’ll sit out and watch the stars fall – I did so years ago, driving out to the countryside and sitting in the darkness, light streaking across the sky above. I’ve never forgotten it.

And then it’s back to work. A final edit, some work on the cover design and a few other related items, as well as another story begging to be completed. There are blog posts to write, as well, people to visit in their online domains. But for tonight I think I’ll just sit and consider, taking a moment to breathe and remember who I am before I dive back in again.

Wishing you all a lovely weekend 🙂


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

How Pinterest Boosted My Blogging Stats (with a little help from my friend)

Even though I’ve been blogging for three years now, I’m still finding my way around some of the other social media platforms. There are so many it can be difficult to find time to work across all of them, especially if you want to, you know, actually get some writing done.

One platform I’d been hearing a lot about, especially from other bloggers, was Pinterest. I’d heard of it years ago, via a designer friend, but hadn’t ever bothered to look into it. It wasn’t until my soon to be sister-in–law was pinning wedding ideas and invited me to take a look, that I decided to set up an account.

Once set up I pinned a few blog posts, set up a couple of boards, followed some people and left it at that. I didn’t really get any blog views from the site, and I just didn’t have any time to put into it. That was, until a few months ago, when I had a lovely catch up with some blogger friends, including Suzie from Suzie Speaks. Pinterest came up again and the exchange went something like this:

Suzie: ‘How’s your Pinterest page going?’

Me: ‘Well, let’s put it this way – I have three followers, and two of them are sitting on this couch.’

Needless to say, Suzie soon set me straight as to how important Pinterest could be to my blog (well, once she stopped laughing she did). I took her comments on board and started to spend a little more time there, sharing posts and making my images look more enticing (or at least, attempting to). But I still wasn’t really getting anywhere.

Suzie, in the meantime, had been very helpful with suggestions and, taking a look at her own successful Pinterest account, I wondered whether I might benefit from some more targeted assistance. As it turned out, Suzie offered a Pinterest management program where she would, for a monthly fee, work with me to update my Pinterest page. So I signed on.

Suzie and I discussed my likes and dislikes, and the sort of things I’d like to pin. I wandered around Pinterest, losing myself down the occasional wormhole of vintage fashion or travel. Suzie recommended the types of boards to create that would attract new followers, as well as other ways to maximise the account, and I began to make connections. With her help and expert eye my boards were optimised and organised, with shiny new pins created using the Canva app. Suzie also set me up with a group blogging board, as well as joining other blogging boards (something I didn’t even know I could do on Pinterest!).

And the proof, it seems, is in the numbers. We started in January, when my total blog Pinterest views for the month were zero. In February they went up to 75 views, in March 182, then in April 266. The trend continued upward – in May I had 378 views, June 422, and in July they hit an all-time high of 597 views from Pinterest alone!  My followers on Pinterest have gone from 3 to 721, which is pretty amazing, plus I’ve met some great new bloggers, which has been a nice bonus.

In summary, if you’re thinking of adding another social media account to your blogging arsenal, consider Pinterest. And if, like me, you’re not quite sure how to get started, look at getting some help. I’ve certainly found it to be worthwhile!

For more information about Suzie, her blogging tips and social media management options, head over to her blog at suzie81speaks.com. Make sure you say hi; she’s lovely!


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.