Nighttime Adventure – FFfAW

Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It involves writing a piece of fiction from the given photo prompt in around 75-150 words – give or take 25 words. If you’d like to join in with the challenge, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday to Tuesday every week.

Here is this week’s prompt, kindly provided by Joy Pixley. Thank you, Joy!


And this is my story:

Nighttime Adventure

Urging him to silence, Edeline clasped Robert’s small hand as they crept down the dimly-lit stairs. It had been easy to persuade the boy to join her on a nighttime adventure. Even little princes loved adventures.

She smiled to herself, imagining Jerald’s face when he realised his son was gone. She’d been careful with her plans, so no one could have guessed. And tonight, when they snored like hogs after too much banqueting wine, those plans would be fulfilled.

‘See, our transport awaits,’ she said, as they left the palace grounds. Excited, Robert sped ahead… just as King Jerald stepped out of the carriage and guards seized Edeline’s arms.

‘No sister, you will not be holding my son to ransom! I’ve known of your lover’s desire for my throne for some time and I’ve paid trusted retainers to become my eyes and ears. Besides, Robert chatters incessantly to our loyal old nurse…

‘Enjoy your adventure in my dungeon with your lover,’ he added, hoisting Robert onto his shoulders. ‘The rats will keep you company’.

Word Count: 174


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Hill Figures of Britain

Hill figures are large designs or motifs created by cutting into a steep hillside to reveal the underlying geology. They are a type of geoglyph, and are intended to be seen from some distance away. There are many such figures in Britain, England in particular, although they can also be found in other parts of the world. They include human and animal forms, especially horses, as well as more abstract symbols, and nowadays, even advertising brands. There are sixteen known white horses in the UK (seventeen if the painted one on Cleadon Hill is included). Many hill figures date from around the 17th and 18th centuries, and some from much more recently. My favourite and the oldest by far, is the famous Uffington White Horse, included amongst those shown here:

The geology of England, particularly in the south with its rolling chalk hills (downs) makes it very suited to the creation of these figures – which are often just called ‘Chalk Figures’. The county of Wiltshire is especially well known for these figures.

There are three main methods of creating them, the first being one used in areas where the soil is thin. It involves stripping away the the turf and soil so that the underlying white chalk stands out clearly. This is a quick method, but one that needs regular maintenance if it is not to become overgrown and disappear from view.

A second method is known as the trenching method, used in areas where the chalk is not near the surface. It involves digging trenches down to the rock along the figure’s outline and filling them in with rock brought from elsewhere. This is a far more permanent method and allows traces of the figure/design to remain visible even when it becomes overgrown. The Uffington White Horse was created by this method.

A third method, known as the covering method, involves laying rocks along outlines cut into the turf, and is generally used in areas where there is either no underlying chalk, or no tools are available for cutting down to it.

The Fovant Regimental Badges, on a chalk hill in south-west Wiltshire, are examples of the covering method. They were created by soldiers garrisoned nearby waiting to go out to France during WW1. The first was made in 1916, although many of the original carvings failed to survive the elements and by the end of WW1 there were 20 identifiable badges. During World War II, they were left to become overgrown so they couldn’t be used as landmarks by enemy aircraft, but once war ended the local Home Guard formed themselves into an Old Comrades Association and began the task of restoration. I believe only twelve remain today.

I’ll say a word here about the painted horse at Cleadon, up in North-East England. This is quite different to the hill figures of further south, being a small figure of a white horse, two metres tall and three metres long, painted on a low cliff on the hill. Interestingly, it is one of only four ‘horses’ in the UK that face to the right.

The Cleadon White Horse, repainted, located in South Tyneside, North East England. Author: S. Whitelaw Creative Commons

Today it is very defaced by graffiti. It’s thought to have appeared in the 1840s and there are at least six possible reasons for its creation. I won’t go into these, but I’ll add a link HERE to a site with a photo of it in its graffitied state and a little bit about it so you can have a quick look at it if you’ve time.

The reasons for the creation of hill figures are still obscure, but the practice dates back to prehistoric times. They could have simply been created for artistic reasons, or as representations of particular gods. They may even been symbols of the nearby tribe and act as a warning to other tribes to keep out of their territory – as the Uffington White Horse.

Uffington White Horse. Satellite image from USGS Creative Commons

Stylised in shape, this is the oldest hill figure in Britain, now believed to be 3000 years old. It is also the second largest figure measuring 360 feet /110m by 126 feet/38.5m. It is located in Oxfordshre (formerly Berkshire) about a mile and a half from the village of Uffington, the village associated with the famous 19th century novel, Tom Brown’s School Days, written by Thomas Hughes. The figure is believed to have held political significance as it sits high on the Berkshire Downs escarpment, dominating the valley below – aptly called the Vale of White Horse.

It is thought there were many white horses at the time of the Celts, but time and the ever invasive grass and weeds have caused many to disappear from view. As I mentioned above, there are sixteen known white horses in the UK today. White horses were considered to be lucky by the Celts, as were horseshoes. Some historians believe the Uffington Horse figure represents the goddess Epona, protector of horses, who was connected with the local Celtic tribe, the Atrebates. An alternative theory suggests it is not a horse at all but the mythical dragon slain by Saint George. A mound at the foot of White Horse Hill is known as Dragon Hill.

Dragon Hill

My second favourite hill figure is the Cerne Abbas Giant – also known as ‘The Rude Man’ or ‘The Rude Giant’ – and is one to make little old ladies blush and everyone else just giggle. He can be found at the village of Cerne Abbas near Dorchester in Dorset and we dropped by to say ‘hello’ to him four years ago. This is our picture of the figure as in can be seen from the road. It doesn’t show the complete outline too well, so I’ll add an image from Wikipedia:cerne-abbas-giant-dorset

Cerne Abbas Giant at Cerne Abbas, Dorset, Author: PeteHarlow. Creative Commons

The Cerne Abbas Giant is 180 feet/55 m high and 167 feet/51 m wide, making him the largest human chalk figure in Britain. The club in his right hand is 120 feet in length. The figure was created by a turf-cut outline being filled with chalk. It was once thought to have been Celtic in origin, some sources claiming he was identified as Hercules during Roman times. But the figure’s actual history can’t be traced back further than the late 17th century, making that claim difficult to prove. It is not mentioned in writings before 1694, and it has been suggested the figure is an offensive representation of Oliver Cromwell.

It isn’t known how many hill figures have disappeared over the years, and many at present are in danger of becoming ‘lost’. Grass gradually encroaches and the figures need constant maintenance to keep them visible. Many figure undergo organised restoration every few years. I believe it’s every seven years for the Uffington White Horse.



Historic UK

Wikipedia – (general site on hill figures)

Various Wikipedia sites for different hill figures

The Chesterfield Pagans

Chalk Figures of England

A Secret Shared – FFfAW

Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It involves writing a piece of fiction from the given photo prompt in around 75-150 words – give or take 25 words. If you’d like to join in with the challenge, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday to Tuesday every week.

Here is this week’s prompt, kindly provided by Jade.M. Wong


And this is my story:

A Secret Shared

The emir’s eyes narrowed against the dazzling glow of the diamond proffered on the palm held out before him; a jewel of such majesty it would stand preeminent in his collection. Muhammad’s wealth was as renowned as the might of his emirate.

And wealth had bought him that power.

Muhammad’s control was absolute: his executions struck terror in men’s hearts. Many attempted to gain his favour; only a few succeeded.

He pointed a long-nailed finger at the low-born cradling the diamond and curled it slowly back. ‘You found this gem in a cave, you say?’ he whispered, shielding his words from attendants’ ears.

‘Deep inside the cliffs, Eminence,’ Aasif whispered back, nodding. ‘Legends say countless more adorn the tunnels beyond, but my torch was burning low, so I ventured no further.’

Muhammad licked his greedy lips. ‘This cave’s whereabouts…?

Aasif duly replied and Muhammad gestured to his guards before whispering, ‘Reflect on the folly of sharing secrets with strangers before your execution at dawn. But be assured, Aasif, this secret is safe with me.’

Word Count: 174


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Wayland’s Smithy

Wayland's Smithy Long Barrow

Wayland’s Smithy – sometimes called ‘Wayland’s Smithy Cave’ – is a Neolithic long barrow, or burial chamber, located in a copse of beech trees close to the ancient Ridgeway Path and the steep scarp slope of the Berkshire Downs, now in the county of Oxfordshire.

Map of Oxfordshire showing the location of Wayland’s Smithy. Source: Ordnance Survey OpenData. Author: Nilfanion, created using OS data. Creative Commons. (Annotations added by Millie Thom)

It overlooks the beautiful Vale of White Horse – so named after the famous Uffington White Horse barely two miles from Wayland’s Smithy.

There are many barrows in this region, both round and long, but Wayland’s Smithy is the only long barrow in Oxfordshire (Berkshire pre-1974 *). In neighbouring Wiltshire, the county in which Stonehenge is located, there are 260 long barrows, over half of Britain’s total.

The excavations carried out in the 1960s showed that Wayland’s Smithy was built in two stages:

Wayland’s Smith 1 is now invisible. It was a mortuary structure with a stone floor surrounded by sarsen stones and chalk built between 3590 and 3555 BC. Fourteen bodies were discovered in here in 1963: eleven men and three women. They appeared to have suffered violent deaths, possibly from arrow wounds, which would suggest battle. Two of the bodies had been gnawed by animals. This original mound was partly destroyed when the second barrow was constructed:

Wayland’s Smithy 2, built between 3460 and 3400 BC, was a much larger barrow built over the top of the first. It consisted of a 55 metre/almost 200 foot-long earth mound with a sarsen kerb and outlying ditches. The south entrance to the tomb was blocked by six large sarsen stones. Today, only four of the stones remain, but it is easy to see where the missing two once stood, particularly in the first photo of this post. A six metre-long earth passage leads through an antechamber into the burial chamber.

This larger, more obvious barrow was first excavated in 1919. Eight bodies were found in the burial chamber, one of a child, but no grave goods were present, nor were there any thigh bones with the skeletons! Wild animals again…? Victorian research…?

So why has this ancient burial site become known as Wayland’s Smithy?

There are various forms of the legend associated with this site. Most of them centre round the Anglo-Saxon Weland/Wolund/Volund. Weland was a Germanic smith-god, so it seems evident that the name of the site was applied by the Anglo Saxons… four thousand years after the mound was constructed.

An illustration of Völundr (Weland/Wayland). Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons

One story has it that Weland/Wayland was the son of the great God-Giant, Wade, King of the Finns. By the time he was an adult, Wayland’s metalworking skills far surpassed those of his tutors.. This is an interesting and entertaining story, but far too long to relate here. If anyone would like to read it, it can be found on the site, Royal Berkshire History, and another version of it can be found on Wikipedia. I’ll just say that after many incidents and escapades, the Wayland in both of these stories still ends up at his smithy high up on the Berkshire Downs.

Another story tells us that Weland was an invisible elvin smith of outstanding skill who lived in the long barrow: Wayland the Smith. Some versions even tell us he was a lord of the elves. If a traveller’s horse should lose a shoe, a penny left in the roofstone of the right-hand burial chamber – traditionally known as ‘The Cave’ – the horse would be reshod by the time the owner returned to collect it.

Both of these stories include Wayland’s ‘run in’ with the cruel, Germanic king, Nidudr, or Niduth. In this tale, Wayland was captured by this Swedish king, Nidudr, lamed (by being hamstrung) to prevent him escaping and forced to work in the king’s smithy. In revenge, Wayland killed the king’s two sons and made drinking cups from their skulls, with jewels made from their eyes, and a brooch from their teeth. He then sent these to Nidudr. His final act of revenge was to rape the king’s daughter, who had brought a gold ring for him to mend, before flying away by magic.

Fun story, eh?

I’ve been to Wayland’s Smithy many times, and we never fail to say ‘hello’ to the White Horse while we’re up on the Ridgeway. I’ll devote a post to this handsome feature – er, creature –another time.

Satellite view of the Uffington White Horse. Source: World Wind Author: USGS  Public Domain

I have to admit, I love this whole area. It was all part of the kingdom of Wessex in King Alfred the Great’s time (9th century) and Alfred was born in Wantage, one of the springline settlements at the foot of the Berkshire Downs escarpment.

Wayland’s Smithy no longer plays a part in my books about King Alfred, but it did when I first wrote Book One – which was initially historical fantasy. It took a long time to change it into straight historical fiction! I decided fantasy really didn’t suit a story about the famous King Alfred, despite there being many fanciful myths about him burning the cakes and sneaking into the Viking camp disguised as a wandering minstrel.


I decided to write this post partly because it’s on my long list of history-type posts ‘to do’, but mostly because my blogging friend Amanda (Forestwoodfolkart) over there in Australia featured Wayland’s Smithy as her Monday’s Mystery Photo last week. The information may be of interest to anyone who had a guess as to the photo’s location. If you don’t do Amanda’s weekly challenge, and would like to have a go at the many interesting photos she shows, hop over to her blog, Something to Ponder About. Amanda also does a great post every Thursday in which she presents different proverbs and quotes for readers to ponder about.


* In the UK, many county boundaries were changed in 1974. All this area of the Ridgeway and the Vale of White Horse had been in the county of Berkshire since just before 849 – the year of King Alfred’s birth. In a treaty made with the Kingdom of Mercia, Alfred’s father, King Aethelwulf of Wessex, was given a small area of  Mercia, which became a new Wessex shire of Berkshire. Today, all this area is in Oxfordshire – yet the rolling chalk hills known locally as the Downs, are still called the Berkshire Downs.


Golden-hued Days of Autumn – FFfAW

Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It asks that we write a piece of fiction from the given photo prompt in around 100-150 words – give or take 25 words. If you’d like to join in with this challenge, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday to Tuesday every week.

Here is this week’s prompt, kindly provided by Phylor.


And this is my story:

Golden-hued Days of Autumn

The shed at the bottom of the garden was Marigold’s very favourite place, her retreat when others got her down. They simply didn’t understand her and her brother, Perkin, was forever on her case.

‘Why can’t you be like the rest of us and enjoy being who we are?’ he’d yelled, the last time they’d disagreed. ‘You always have to be different!’

Their intolerance upset Marigold because she really didn’t know why she was different. It wasn’t because she revered the beautiful Earth – all her people did that. So it must be because she’d enjoyed the company of mortals over the years.

The mellowing of summer’s radiance into the golden-hued days of autumn always left Marigold in pensive mood. It was hard to watch her human friends gradually age and die, whilst she and her kind enjoyed lives of eternal summertime.

She flapped her faery wings, hoping she’d meet them again one day. But until that time, she’d flutter round the garden and help the next generation of humans appreciate the glorious world around them.  

Word Count: 175


If you’d like to read other stories, or add one yourself, click on the little blue frog:

Why Was King Alfred So Great?

I thought I’d share this Guest Post, so kindly posted by Jason, theopinionatedman, on his blog, Harsh Reality. Thank you, Jason! As one of the two main characters in my trilogy, I’ve lived with King Alfred for a few years now and decided to write a little about his ‘greatness’. So here it is…

My Internet Got Up And Went – Yet Again!


Before I start, I must tell you that this is nothing more than a ‘moany’ post – and I’ll try to write something more sensible by tomorrow. Right now I’m having a sulk.

Sometimes I hate living in this village! Pretty as it is, and the surrounding countryside is lovely, our Internet connection is abysmal! Or rather, it’s just downright unreliable.

On Wednesday afternoon, I’d decided to do some catching up on reading posts I’ve missed due to my writing commitments. I’d been on my blog for five minutes and yes… you’ve guessed it… our Internet connection flew out the window. AGAIN!

It’s now Friday afternoon, and we’ve just been reconnected. Engineers couldn’t come out before today so we’ve had two whole days of twiddling our thumbs. The Internet in this village is very slow at the best of times and despite having been promised ‘Superfast Broadband’ for the past two years, we’re still waiting – whist surrounding villages have had it for ages!

shutterstock_199521074Perhaps we’re just too small a village to bother with. But the fact is, there are a lot of people who work from home living here, to whom the Internet is crucial.

The problem regarding losing connection altogether is something else, and no one seems to be able to tell us why this keeps happening – or perhaps the engineers just aren’t telling us.

Anyway, I must apologise to anyone who has left a comment on my last posts which I haven’t replied to. Also, I have several new followers I still need to get back to. Thank you for being so patient and understanding.


Moan over.

Have a great weekend!