March 13 2017

Short Story: ‘The Ploughman’

Roughly three miles from my North Lincolnshire home lies the twenty-seven thousand acre Brocklesby Estate, home of the Eighth Earl of Yarborough. In addition to the huge agricultural estate with its open fields and woodlands, Yarborough also owns a number of villages and many farms and cottages.

I used one such cottage as the location for a short story that I wrote as part of a Writers’ Bureau assignment several years ago.

The story was to be in the region of two thousand words and on any theme — it’s always good to have such a free hand.

As I was reading shorts by authors such as Lovecraft, Poe, Machin and M.R. James at the time it was fairly natural that I should choose a horror tale. It also follows that, for my own offering, I’d adopt a similar voice — though this was more accident than contrivance.

What I found particularly encouraging was that my tutor — Nick Daws, now of Entrepreneur Writer — recognised its Poe-esque ‘feel’ and was surprisingly generous in his praise. I’ll briefly set the scene by providing a background to the tale, the spark of inspiration.

Although now a neat rural dwelling set among trees, way back in the 70s the cottage was a tumbledown wreck of a place. A narrow, rutted farm-track drawn between ancient hedgerows led from the Brocklesby to Habrough road to an unruly copse where the derelict farmhouse was gradually being reclaimed by nature.

I was a boy scout at the time and my troop was tasked with renovating the place. The project was clearly more to do with keeping a bunch of wayward kids off the streets during the summer holidays than actually doing anything constructive, but we had a good time.

Twenty or so years later and faced with the need to produce a tale for the writing assignment, the old cottage sprung unbidden to my mind. Perhaps it was because I’ve always loved the ‘haunted house’ sub-genre of horror tale.

So, with thoughts of the cottage swirling around my head I asked myself one simple question; the catalyst vital for any creative fiction project: ‘what if?’

What if a chap was forced by inclement weather to seek shelter in the cottage after sundown?

To read the outcome, click on the link below.

The Ploughman – A short story by Stephen Wand