This time two of us travel to the site. We find it easily, and are surprised to find that we can walk straight up; no fencing or security here. A small boat house, still full of canoes was the first clue that the place might be special.
Some of the out buildings are badly fire damaged, yet oddly equipped with school furniture; the liquid computers melted to the benches. Bright orange puddles of chair.
We make our way around to the first buildings, climbing over and under fire damaged roofs. The gym is well equipped; weights, mats, a pommel horse. The floors have pushed up in to damp, swollen ridges, that shift as we step, and throw up green clouds of must.
Further towards the back, we find the science labs. The windows are boarded and it is blackness inside, our torches picking out slashes of colour; pictures and charts.There is no equipment left here, the odd pencil and overflowing litter bin. The board is covered in chalk scribble. It’s warm and dry, and quiet.
We head back outside into rain, and we’re keen to get inside. There are three open doors; one filled with boating equipment, one clearly the changing rooms for the gym. There is old school junk; toys and musical instruments, artwork and plan tpots. Coat hooks and benches run the length of the small room. The smell is weird and sweet. Connected, is a small shower block, all hanging wires and exposed pipes. Soaps still line the window ledge, slowly leeching their oils into tiny amber beads in our torchlight.
We find the art rooms, large and bright. The floor is rain water and leaves. Art work adorns every wall, and a pink tissue flamingo hangs from the ceiling. Progress files still sit in rusting cabinets, written in some art-teacher’s curling script. In a room at the back, we find three looms, bright work attached, and a small box kiln.
We head back outside. In an outbuilding close to the main school, we find the gardener’s store; stacked with gardening equipment and brittle note books. A large upright cupboard reveals evil looking poisons, neatly labelled, bottled, boxed, stacked. We breathe in creosote and damp.
We find the main building, and are in. Down a corridor and to the Kitchen, fully stocked. Rows of mugs still drain by the sink. The cupboards are fully stocked with baking trays and pans, the towel dispensers are fully loaded for the next wet hand. The dry air is still, and quiet. The darkness is total, and we only whisper.
We pass a games room, full of pool tables and table football. A panelled room with rows of keys, a sewing room; still piled with clothes, buttons cracking underfoot. The corridor is filled with broken, clanking plates and each step makes our hearts beat faster, down here in the dark.
Up winding staircases, towards the cold and the light. Broken windows and the rocks that broke them. We find bedrooms and bathrooms; discarded tooth brushes and old books. Somebody has taken the time to break open every toilet; preferring to use the corner of a bedroom floor. The smell hits us, sharp and hard.
We feel uneasy in the main building. There are strangely arranged playing cards, old Christmas decorations, a dead pheasant in a sealed room. Each closed door reveals some new strange thing, and up here in the rain, the school is not quiet. Around an old green sofa, footprints are visible in the carpet pile, circling.
Further along dark corridors we find linen cupboards stacked with thick brown woollen bed sheets, and classrooms with large bay windows, most of which now crunch beneath our feet. Everywhere, there are photographs of children; standing uniformed in the school grounds, skiing on dry slopes, grinning in canoes.
We retrace our path down into the darkness, stumbling over warped flooring and keen to be outside. It’s dark, and the dog walkers are passing close to the fence. We pick our way out, and plan our return. J.S.