I’ve been fascinated by recent coverage of the water shortage in Cumbria leading to the rediscovery of an abandoned village. Mardale Green was evacuated in 1937 before the area was flooded to create a reservoir to supply the city of Manchester. After a final service in the church, and the disinterment of 97 bodies in the graveyard, the old village was left to be engulfed by 18 billion gallons of water. But stories about… something… remaining alive down there circulated in the pubs of the Lake District as long as the village remained in living memory.
This summer’s heatwave has lowered the level of Haweswater, the lake that was increased in depth to make the reservoir. And the remains of Mardale Green are once again above water, offering a bit of a spooky experience for those who want (or like, or both) to feel that way.
I can’t make it to my beloved Lake District right now due to work commitments, but it made me think of the brief episode I wrote in by 2016 book, The Rule Book, based on stories I was told in the Golden Rule over my years of drinking there. The Ghosts of Mardale Green is one of over 50 short stories in the book, all based on events that took place in the pub since it opened in 1723, or based on stories that have been told to me there. Here it is…
The Ghosts of Mardale Green (Sunday, December 10, 1989)
Alan, you’ve seen them, haven’t you? The ghosts of Mardale Green.
Ah, they’re not scary!
They are if you says it like this: The ghoooosts of Maaardaaale Greeeen…
They’re not scary at all.
But you have seen them?
I have that. You can too, if you like. Any clear night when the moon’s shining. Take yourself up there and you’ll see them under Haweswater.
Ghosts under water?
Aye, because that’s where Mardale Green is. They flooded the town, you see, back in nineteen thirty four or thereabouts, to raise the reservoir for Manchester. It’s down there, some houses and a nice old church.
What about the people?
Well, they rehomed them, of course. Old Bertie Thomas, he came from Mardale Green. You can ask him when next he’s in.
So who are the ghosts then, if there’s no one there?
Must be folk buried in the churchyard, or whatever. I don’t know – but I’ve seen them. Little lights under the water, moving about like they’re walking up and and down the road.
It’s not ghosts – it’s the reflection of the moon! That’s why you can only see them when the moon’s out!
You go there then, watch out for them, and tell me it’s the moon. I’ll tell you now and I’ll tell you then, it’s not. It’s just spirits going about their business. They’re not scary. Unless there’s a storm blowing when you’re up there – the noise of them trees is more unhinged than any ghost…
You’ll be telling me next the pub is haunted.
This building’s near four hundred year old – of course it’s haunted!