Pyschic borderlands, thresholds, shifts in time, and strange, fantastical, medievalist-romance style stories: this is Alan Garner’s work. But you already knew that didn’t you? Did you know that this fabulous writer works right from the heart of a landscape that also inhabits all of his novels, Alderley Edge in east Cheshire, not too far from where I live?
This piece is about much more than a vague personal or geographical connection. For in Garner’s work, as in his life, myth and magic, past and present, coexist in their own other-wordly time-space continuum.
Long long ago Alan Garner bought an almost-derelict cottage, one of three known collectively and locally as ‘t’owd hall’ (Toad Hall) at Blackden, near Goostrey, close to the famous radio telescope at Jodrell Bank. During the course of the cottage’s restoration Garner discovered that the place he was to make his long-term home was, in fact, a three-bay timber-framed medieval hall complete with ghosts and a history few knew about. The land this house was built upon later proved to be a gateway to the past. Its soil and fields yielded – then and now, still – medieval artefacts, ancient pottery, stone tools, and other weird and wonderful objects belonging to the people who had lived there hundreds of generations, tens of thousands of years ago.
Later, in the early 1970s, Garner read of an abandoned sixteenth-century former apothecary’s house – called The Medicine House – in the Staffordshire village of Wrinehill, 17 miles away. The place was due for demolition, yet another medieval property forced to give way to the present, this time to the construction of a new road. Garner bought it for the grand sum of one single English pound. He had it dismantled and transported piece by piece to Blackden. Once there, he painstakingly matched up the internal wooden skeleton to the markers on the timber made by the house’s original medieval builders, and rebuilt it right next to his ‘medieval’ home Toad Hall.
Today Toad Hall, The Medicine House and the surrounding landscape are sites of archaelogical and cultural significance preserved and protected by The Blackden Trust. The doors, windows and chimneys of The Medicine House are still portals for the passage of spirits and witches (take a guided tour!); its timber still holds the secret of a buried cache of herbal seeds hidden in its frame until such time as they might root again in another time and place. The earth still gives up an occasional ancient treasure. Alan Garner still lives in and writes from the same house. Worlds, medieval and modern, still turn and reveal strange half-known faces. A book may open, another tale begin. Once. And again…………
For more, go to http://www.theblackdentrust.org.uk