Footsteps. A ghost story...

Footsteps will be my first full length children's novel.  Part of it will form part of the dissertation for my MA.  I may have a separate blog on the research and writing of this work, but for now it will be a separate page on my general blog.

What is Footsteps about?

When Ellie stays with Gran for the summer, she hears footsteps in the night.  But the only other person in the house is Gran and Ellie knows the footsteps are not hers.  Six-months previously, her cousin Sol also heard the footsteps in Gran's house. But Ellie can't discuss them with Sol  – he died in a car crash within weeks of hearing them.

Ellie soon uncovers an old legend associated with the house: anyone who hears them dies within the month.  Ellie tries to talk to Gran about her discoveries but Gran doesn't take her seriously. 
With some supernatural help, Ellie undertakes a dangerous quest to get the curse removed before it is too late.

Additional Ideas

I've decided to jot down some additional things that might or might not find their way into this story:

Gran's House
Belongs to rich distant cousin who has asked Gran to house-sit it for a year or two, while rich relative is abroad.

Has been rebuilt and modified over the centuries

Suffered a serious fire in the past

Has a 16th century tower (like Canon's Ashby)

Has topiary in the shape of chess pieces in the gardens

Has a large pond

Has a chapel or has the parish church next door (like Canon's Ashby or Broughton Castle).  (Ellie may hear bells in the night)

Has a cat that "know's" when something bad is about to happen.

Photos of historic houses and gardens 
These may serve me as "models" for aspects of the house and garden in Footsteps

                                                             Canon's Ashby

                                                      The church next to Canon's Ashby

                                                               Baddesley Clinton

                                                             Farnborough Hall

Upton House


                                                       Coleton Fishacre

                                                      Oldway Mansion (Paignton)

                                                       Powerham Castle

                                                      Compton Castle

                                                       Bradley Manor

                                                        Barrington Court

                                                       Lytes Carey Manor

                                                      Packwood House

Sculpture Garden
After seeing the fantastic sculpture garden at Burghley House in Lincolnshire - some photos below - I am considering adding one to Gran's house.  I am thinking of a scene for Footsteps where a innocent and pleasant sculpture park becomes loaded with menace...

Psychic abilities

Other significant items
18th or 19th century automata.  Perhaps there is a small collection in the house or attic or there is one particular piece that is sinister or creepy?

A rocking horse that rocks by itself?

Sounds (musical instrument?), smells (leather, polish, ether, antiseptic), a face at the window?  Voices on the wind.

A sundial with an apt motto

The church and churchyard

There are some key scenes in Footsteps involving the church and churchyard in Ashbey House.  The inspiration for this setting comes from Cowden in Sussex where these pictures were taken.

The gardens of Nymans, Handcross, West Sussex
Used for some of the gardens at Asbey Hall

More garden pictures including those used as the model used for hedges and pond at Ashby House

Stamford Military Hospital
From April 1917 to January 1919, Dunham Massey Hall in Cheshire became the Stamford Military Hospital. It was intended for soldiers whose injuries, whilst not life threatening, were of sufficient gravity to require medical care.  In 2014, the National Trust who owns Dunham Massey converted part of it back to Stamford Military Hospital.  We visited in early November 2014.


  1. For sounds in such a place, how about an aeolian harp?

  2. I like that idea! An aeolian harp would be a useful addition to the sculpture garden or I could just put in the topiary garden. The sounds could really add to the atmosphere. Perhaps it will make sounds with no wind present in a creepy scene?

  3. I see from your selected reading list that you're a fan of C.S. Lewis. The writer who inspired his fantasies was George McDonald, one of whose stories uses the aeolian harp as a central motif--mysterious, haunting. Can't remember which one off the top of my head, but they're all worth reading!

  4. Thank you. I will look out for it. I've read "Back of the North Wind", the first part of which was lovely,so imaginative and original. I didn't like the second half - long winded and seemed to lose the plot, but perhaps his other books are more consistent?

  5. Hmmm. I'm afraid there's nothing consistent about George MacDonald. His imagination is wild and he seems to have had a hard time managing it. In the end that turns out to be one of the strong points of his writing--for me at least. But I do agree that "Back of the North Wind" falls apart before the end. My favorites are his shorter "stories for the childlike," as he called them, especially "The History of Photogen and Nycteris" and the amazing "The Light Princess." I have his collected shorter stories in two volumes called "The Gifts of the Child Christ," published in 1973. I hope there's a current version, but I don't know. Just thinking about it makes me want to go back and read it all again!

  6. What about some closed off rooms in the house? Maybe partially furnished? Add another layer of mystery?