Derelict mansion going to waste.
A LETTER TO RICHARD BRANSON
I was sitting in the back garden enjoying Easter Sunday, sunlight on my eyelids, reflecting on a recent visit to Yorkshire:
At Holmfirth, I was photographed outside the famous Sid's cafe.
Across the table stood the statue of that loveable rogue, Compo.
His lived-in face beneath the woolly cap was instantly recognizable.
At Hebden Bridge, I noticed many strong women, and they noticed me!
Up the hill, in nearby Heptonstall I visited the grave of Sylvia Plath.
There were flowers there, and the graveyard was very peaceful.
Some people say her life with Ted Hughes was full of dark corners.
I couldn't comment on that, Richard! What goes on between couples
is their own business as far I'm concerned.
In Haworth, I was literally on the doorstep of the Bronte sisters,
I bought a few postcards in the parsonage shop, the very same house where they lived and wrote their wonderful poems and novels.
Later, I ventured onto the moors and tried to imagine Heathcliff
and Cathy running together through the purple heather.
It's my birthday today, Richard. April the 20th, the same day as W.H. Davies, who wrote: What is this life if full of care/We have no time to stand and stare...'
I was thinking of my friend who made time for me to 'stand and stare'
at Yorkshire's many fine sights.
I was also thinking of your phenomenal success as a businessman, Richard.
Your giant Virgin empire touches almost every aspect of our lives, from Virgin
planes and trains, to books and banking, mobile phones, and who knows?
maybe Virgin poetry one day.
Something for the future, possibly!
As I sit here, I see you in your hot-air balloon, circling the globe,
flying over countries I may never see.
I am somewhat grounded in hard economic realities, Richard, yet, somehow I feel reborn today, my heart is leaping like a spring lamb in the fields of praise.
I feel like running up to Central Station and buying one of your Virgin saver tickets and heading straight back to Yorkshire. Why?
To come to the point, Richard. I have discovered a beautiful ruined property on the way to Castleton. It is located on the Bradfield Moors overlooking Dale Dike reservoir.
Further on up the road, you come to Strines Hotel, thereafter you reach Derwent and Ladybower reservoir, where the the famous Dambuster bomb was first tested.
The house is a veritable mansion, Richard, lying derelict and abandoned, but it's structure looks sound, stone-built (millstone, probably).
I felt looking at this fine place, What a pity it's fallen on hard times.
My friend mentions a story about the previous owner being a solicitor who got involved in fraud and later committed suicide.
I don't know anything about the house, apart from the fact that it's set in extensive grounds, includes out-houses, and a field full of Highland cattle.
See enclosed photo of myself with one of the Highland beasts.
I hope, Richard, this letter doesn't sound like one of those Nigerian scams that have recently been plaguing people's electronic mail.
Not so long ago, I was nearly buying a plane ticket to Madrid to collect the millions lodged for me in a safe deposit box with a Spanish security firm.
No, this letter is a plea from the heart, an Easter Sunday prompting from my subconscious.
I wish to see this house restored to its former glory. My friend has already found a name for the property:'McPhee Mansions', a private joke between friends. We took so many photographs, inside and out, and fell in love with the place. So idyllic sitting there in the sunlight admiring a house that once must have been its owner's pride and joy.
I looked beyond the broken windows
and the rubble, saw that the honey-coloured walls were still sound, solid,
and that the whole edifice was repairable. Indeed, there were signs of scaffolding, but I saw no workmen that day,only a woman hanging out her washing in the adjacent warden's house; obviously someone is keeping an eye on the place!
We never spoke to her as we were in a hurry to get to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Richard, after a disappointing time at Castleton in the Peak district, where I was not in the mood to go exploring the caverns and experience the wonders of blue john stone.
To sum up, Richard. I am in the garden
this Easter Sunday. The sun is shining
and I'm seeing a long-haired, bearded
smiling man with outstretched arms ...
go figure, as the Americans say!