Facing Fear With The Silent Eye, Part 6 – Release

I recently attended a workshop with The Silent Eye about Facing Our Fears, an extraordinary weekend spent among the hills and grey stone villages of the Peak District. It’s taken me a little while, as it usually does, to process everything that happened. Once again there was history and mystery, good company and tasty food, old friends greeted and new friends made. And, as always, revelations.This is part six of my account, parts one, two, three, four and five can be found here… As you pass between the gateposts leading onto Stanton Moor, there is a feeling of entering another world. Perhaps it’s the Cork Stone, a great stone guardian whose sphinx-like profile has monitored the path for millennia, or the old quarry marks, now overgrown. Or perhaps it’s the many cairns hidden amongst the heather, silent indicators that this is a land of the dead.

Humans have been using this place for thousands of years, which is why Stanton Moor is a place of national importance and, as such, is protected.  Prominent signage advises visitors to leave no rubbish, make no marks and, something that became important as we journeyed further into the landscape, keep their dogs on a lead at all times.

The weather was still holding and the place was crowded, people all along the path…

…and another crowd assailed her, many voices calling, the feeling of being surrounded. But this was not the stagnant waves of Eyam. Rather, it was the voices of those who had shaped this land so many moons ago. And they were curious.

But there were too many to answer, and she could make no sense of what they wanted to know…

We spent a little bit of time at the Cork Stone. Once again, there was a tradition of ascending the stone, but someone had, in time past, cut helpful footholds into the rock. Still, none of us felt quite up to the challenge. Besides, we had somewhere to see. We continued along the path, the heather giving way to trees and ferns, fairy toadstools like tiny flames among the undergrowth…

… ‘I can’t understand when you all speak at once.’

A figure detached themselves from the throng. An older man, robed, long of beard and hair. He held out his arm as they proceeded along the path, a gesture of welcome, but also of guidance.

‘Why do you visit?’

She thought about her answer, wanting to get it right. ‘We come to learn from you, of the old ways. And with respect for those who walked here before.’

He nodded once. ‘Then you are welcome. There is–‘

There was a thundering noise from behind and we turned to see what at first I thought were two large dogs, racing along. But, as they ran past me, I realised that it was in fact one large dog, chasing a young and terrified sheep. There was no sign of any owner and, as they sped towards the stone circle ahead of us, a woman there called out accusingly ‘Whose dog is that?’ while looking our way. We hastily denied any involvement and watched, helplessly, as the dog continued to torment its prey. They disappeared down another path but then, a minute or so later, the dog reappeared, securely leashed, their slightly shamefaced but otherwise unapologetic owner making a quick retreat from the clearing. The poor sheep, meanwhile, wandered back among the trees, calling for its mother, a plaintive cry that made us all feel quite sad. As a dog owner myself, I try to be responsible – I keep my dog leashed when I need to, clean up after her and attend regular training so it infuriates me, to be honest, when people ignore simple guidelines such as ‘Keep your dog on a leash.’ It was a strange and somewhat unsettling introduction to our next destination, the Nine Ladies.

One of four stone circles in the area, Nine Ladies is the easiest to find and, therefore, a popular walking destination. Taking its name from an old legend of nine girls dancing on the Sabbath and being turned to stone, there are, in fact, ten stones at the circle, as well as a King Stone nearby, remnant of a ring cairn. It was busy at the circle, people sitting on the stones, camping nearby, children running about. As we drew closer I heard a man, sitting on the grass, say that he would never sit on the stones. I agree with his viewpoint – this is an ancient site of worship, a sacred site, and I would no more sit in the middle of it and eat my lunch than I would by the altar of a church. But I suppose, to many people, such places are not seen that way anymore.

We waited a while, hoping the crowd might disperse, as we wished to pay our own respects. Eventually the circle cleared enough, except for one young woman who was dancing in and out of the stones.

…as the six stepped between the stones, each taking their own path to reach the centre, there was a feeling of power building. And, as the circle of light ignited, that power grew, strong as the flame that burned at the centre of it all…

We stood there a little longer, and it was at that point I turned to one of my fellow group members. A shaman, she had taken me aside the previous evening and indicated I had something with which she would help me, if I wanted. I’d thought about it, and now seemed a good time to ask. So I did.

I won’t go into detail here, as some things are private, but suffice it to say, as we left the circle and headed into the cairn-field, away from the crowds, I became quite emotional. Two of our group had decided to leave, and Sue and Stu were walking ahead, which left the two of us alone on the path…

…and so, in the ancient cairn-field, among the dead in the high places, a healing took place. Something she had carried for many many years was released, and she felt light as the birds circling overhead…

We rejoined Sue and Stu, who had been sitting enjoying the view. I think they knew that something had taken place, but they didn’t ask. Instead, they led us on and out of the moor, across a wheat field towards where a very large stone waited among brambles and rhododendrons. I was still recovering, in some ways, and the shaman was walking with me, ensuring my path was clear. But there was still some distance to go until the healing was complete…


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.

Wednesday Wander – Tower Of London

I could probably write about half a dozen posts about the famous Tower of London (and will definitely write at least one more). There are layers of history going right back to Roman times within the ancient walls, and the names of those who lived and died there are a rollcall of history.

The Tower, a World Heritage Site, sits on the banks of the River Thames as it has done for almost a thousand years. It was founded by William the Conqueror towards the end of 1066, the year he and his Norman forces conquered England. However, almost a thousand years earlier it was a Roman site, the nearby fragment of Roman wall and exposed Roman stonework within the tower grounds testament to that history. It is best known, however, as a prison, even though it was not originally intended as one.

The White Tower, from which the Tower takes its name, was the first major building on the site, started around 1078. Designed as a keep with lodgings fit for the new king, it has been described as the best preserved 11th century palace in Europe. Opposite the White Tower is the entrance to the Waterloo Block, where the famed Crown Jewels are held. We did go in to see them, but no photography was permitted, hence the lack of pictures here. Suffice it to say, it’s hard to believe they are real, such is the size and brilliance of the gems. I do recommend that, if you’re visiting the tower, you see the jewels as early as possible, as it does get busy later in the day. We went first thing and were able to move through the various antechambers quite quickly, as well as taking two passes on the moving walkways past the jewels themselves. Later, however, there were large queues stretching out the door.

The tower, of course, has a fearsome reputation as a prison and place of execution, where not even being royal would keep you from the axe. Three British queens lost their heads on Tower Green – Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Lady Jane Grey – as well as various members of the nobility. Others languished for years inside the various towers, or were sent to the dungeons to be tortured – this is a place where, if the walls could talk, the tales they’d tell would be difficult to hear.

Something perhaps not so well known is that the fortress also housed a menagerie. Founded in in the early 1200s by King John, animals from all around the world given as gifts or imported as novelties were kept for the amusement of the court. Animals housed there included a polar bear and an elephant – today, life size sculptures of the creatures can be seen around the grounds. Nowadays, the most famous non-human inhabitants of the fortress are the Tower Ravens, their wings clipped so they cannot stray far from the Tower. They are huge, the biggest ravens I’ve ever seen, their calls deep and barking and quite unnerving. There is a legend that states if they ever leave the Tower, the monarchy will fall and Britain with it.

We spent hours at the Tower, climbing worn stone staircases into creaking chambers, and down into dark dungeons, yet we didn’t see half of everything there was to see. One thing we did see, however, was a reenactment of sorts, where we had to choose an army to back when invading the tower. Each choice was based upon a real attempt, but only one, led by a woman, was actually successful (and she was the one we backed, too!). The reenactment was great fun – the actors really got into it and there was lots of audience participation. Set against the ancient backdrop of the White Tower it was very effective, one of those things English Heritage does so well.

As I said at the start of this wander, I could write half a dozen posts about this place, and I know I’ve only scratched the surface of the many stories held within its walls. However, in the interest of brevity, I’ll sign off here… for now. Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


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.

Wednesday Wander – Mykonos, Greece

The Greek island of Mykonos, also known as The Island Of Winds, is part of the Cyclades, a group of islands set in Homer’s wine dark Aegean sea.

According to Greek legend, Mykonos got its name from its first ruler, Mykons, said to be a direct descendent of Apollo. Zeus and the Titans were supposed to have had a great battle on Mykonos, and it’s where Hercules killed the invincible giants of Mount Olympus, having lured them to the island. Also, and I love this, because I guess I have a weird sense of humour, the large boulders scattered around the island are reputed to be the fossilised testicles of those same giants, and this legend is the source of the slang term ‘stones’!

Mykonos has a long history dating back to at least the 11th century BC, and has been under Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman rule. However, since 1831, it has been part of Greece, following the revolution in which Manto Mavrogenous, one of the island’s noted inhabitants, played a part. Manto, a wealthy, educated aristocrat, sacrificed her family’s fortune to help the Greeks and became a national heroine – a statue to her honour stands in the main town square.

The island is well known for its vibrant nightlife and nude beaches (sorry, no photos), and also for its famous windmills. Built by Venetians in the 16th century, they were originally used to mill flour – nowadays most have been restored as homes or storage facilities. There are also several fine museums, including one of the oldest archaeological museums in Greece. I’m somewhat ashamed to say I visited none of them, however, quite unusual for me. But Mykonos was a stop on a longer trip and I suppose I just chose to relax, instead. Ah well, I guess I need to go back.

It’s been quite a few years since I visited, but I still have plenty of memories – of meeting Petros the Pelican, the island’s mascot, of tangy feta and fresh bread, of my washing being done and coming back smelling of sunshine and herbs, of an old woman kissing my cheeks and offering me sweets after I bought one of her hand knitted jumpers (which I still have). There was nightlife, of course, dancing and drinking, the streets vibrant all through the night. But my overwhelming memory is one of sunshine and warmth, of brilliant white and deep blue, and through it all, the sound of the sea.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me! See you next time.


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.

Wednesday Wander – Snowdon, Wales

The results of a public poll to decide the best view in Britain were recently announced, and the winner was the spectacular view you see below. This is the view from the top of Snowdon, the tallest mountain in Wales, and it’s where I’ve chosen to wander this week.

By Fallschirmjäger (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3

However, unlike previous weeks, this fabulous photograph is not mine (it’s via Wikimedia Commons). I have been to the top of Snowdon, via the Snowdon Mountain Railway, but my experience was, shall we say, a little different.

Let us travel back in time quite a few years, to a family holiday. The decision was taken to ride to the top of Snowdon, something we’d never done before despite regular visits to Wales. We (my parents, brother and I) boarded the train, sitting by the window, and set off into what soon became a world of grey.

The weather changed, as it often does in the mountains, and thick cloud descended, our journey taking place in a tunnel of pale grey mist. At one point I remember looking out of the window and seeing the mist clear slightly – to reveal a precipitous drop down a green slope and, below, small white dots of sheep grazing. In some ways, I was glad I couldn’t see more.

When we reached the top of the mountain the visitor centre was under construction, so many of the large plate glass windows had been replaced with plastic sheeting that flapped and rustled incessantly in the unseasonable weather. But it wouldn’t have mattered had the windows been there, for all we could see was a solid, uniform grey. It was bitterly cold so we didn’t end up staying too long, catching the train back down to the valley and to green summertime once more.

These two photos are mine, taken on another visit as we went through the Llanberis pass, heading for the coast. It was a glorious day, and there were plenty of hikers heading up the mountain – no doubt the train would have been full as well. However, we had somewhere to be and couldn’t stop, so I was only able to take photographs from below as we went past.

So, while I can say that I have been to the top of Snowdon, I can’t say I’ve seen any of the legendary views. And, don’t get me wrong, I’m not marking this as a negative experience. The mountains of North Wales are one of my favourite places on earth, and part of their magic is the mist wreathing their summits like dragon’s breath, a place where legends are made. I know I’ll take the railway again one day and hopefully, next time, I’ll be able to see the view.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post and want 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.

#Writespiration – 52 Words in 52 weeks – The Girl In The Black Hood

Sacha’s prompts are always good fun, and this week she’s challenged us to write about ‘The girl in the black hood.’ 52 words, no more, no less. For some reason this one came to me fairly quickly…

She gritted her teeth, dug her heels in and pulled, the heavy load cutting into her cold fingers. Behind her a trail of blood and fur stained the snow.

Forget about little red riding hood. This girl’s hood was black, and this time the wolf was the hunted, rather than the hunter.

Fancy giving the prompt a try? Head over to Sacha’s blog for more details.


If you enjoyed this post and want 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.

Wednesday Wander – Portumna Castle, Ireland

I can’t believe it’s been a week since my last post! It’s been a busy time though, with a family wedding, and I’ve just not had much opportunity to sit down in front of the computer. However, there’s no way I’d miss taking a Wednesday Wander, so this week we are heading to Ireland.

Portumna castle, in County Galway, Ireland, is a fortified manor house built during the early part of the 17th century by the wealthy De Burgo family. At the time of its construction it was considered the premier house of its kind in Ireland, with none other coming close in terms of grandeur and style.

The manor house is still grand, as you can see, with a lovely approach avenue flanked by trees. There is also a large walled garden, set out as it would have been during the 17th century with herbs, vegetables and flowers. I would love to have the space and time to create a garden like that!

However, much of the style attributed to the house is gone, as the interior was gutted by fire in 1826. The shell of the house was given a new roof in 1968 and it is now being restored, but as you can see the walls are back to bare brick, and I remember there being no second floor.

Interestingly, there was a legend long held in the family that a child had fallen from the upper stories and only survived by landing on one of the family dogs. The poor animal’s back was broken and it died, but the story goes it was buried with honour for saving the child. During the restoration process, archaeologists did in fact find the buried skeleton of a dog… with a distinct fracture to the spine.

When I visited the house it was a glorious June day, as you can see, the gardens buzzing with bees and full of flowers. Even though the house was fortified, with battlements and gun loops, it felt like a home, the proportions pleasing. I’d like to go back one day and see how the restoration process is coming along.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

Wednesday Wander, Rock Of Cashel, Ireland

cashel-3It’s the first Wednesday of the New Year, and time for my first Wednesday Wander. This week I’m heading to the green centre of Ireland, and an ancient fortress once home to kings. This is the Rock Of Cashel in Co. Tipperary, Ireland.

cashel-5Cashel was, for centuries, the seat of the Kings of Ulster, and its name comes from the Gaelic ‘Caiseal’, meaning fortress. Cashel is also reputed to be the place where the fifth century King was converted to Christianity by St Patrick. Certainly there is a cross there, much weathered, which is said to have belonged to St Patrick (if one can be said to own a huge stone cross). The original has been moved into the museum on site, with a replica in its place outside. This is because of a legend attached to the cross – apparently, if you can reach all the way around it with both arms and your fingers touch, you’ll never have to go to the dentist again. I couldn’t quite manage it, but my husband did – however, I have to report that he has been to the dentist since our visit.

cashel-4Cashel was donated to the Church in 1101, and hardly any of the early buildings remain. The circular tower in the photo above is the oldest building on site and dates to 1100 – the rest of the buildings are mostly 12th and 13th century. The ruins are magnificent, and include the vast St Patrick’s Cathedral, a residential palace for the bishops who used to live there, as well as ornamental gravestones and monuments. It used to be that every resident of Cashel was buried on the Rock but we were told that, sometime in the last century, it was realised there was no more room. So, every inhabitant of Cashel at that time was told that they would be buried on the Rock – after that, no more. At the time of our visit there were still, apparently, a few remaining locals with the right to burial within the ancient walls.

cashel-1There are some interesting carvings on the monuments at Cashel, ravens and Celtic knots hearkening back to earlier times. The tomb above belonged to a king, and is carved with an infinity symbol made up of stylised greyhounds. I don’t know who was buried in the tomb below, but liked how it seemed they had decided to poke their head out for the photo…

cashel-2It’s difficult to describe the scale of Cashel, or the beauty of its ancient stones and surrounding countryside, the endless fields a lush green. Despite its sometimes violent history, Cashel had a bright clear energy, and there was a sense of how very old a place it was. It was definitely a highlight of our visit to Ireland, and somewhere I’d like to see again, one day.

Thank you for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.