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The Last Queen at Pool Bridge

Welcome to the Storywalk - The Last Queen.

A fresh folk tale in the woods of Horner ending at a quiet pool hidden deep in the forest, will the secret of longevity be revealed?

This story starts at the grassy sward next to the bridge near Pool Bridge Campsite entrance. The trail is about 40 minutes long, is suitable for all ages and finishes at 'Pazey Pool' so you can do a spot of wild swimming!

Below you will see several horizontal bars, the first with a pad lock and counter on, this is the distance from the next chapter, the closer you get the smaller the number. When the counter hits zero the chapter (the first grey bar) opens and reveals the images and story hidden, it will also have directions to the next chapter.

At the end is a hidden geocache journal which you can sign and re-hide for the next walker.

Enjoy

Christopher Jelley

Instructions

 
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Chapter one

The Bridge

To start this tale you must find a comfy spot, a log or stone perhaps, a tree to rest your back against. My tale is not long but this is where it happened, and this is where it ends. For you to become part of the story you need to sit just for a moment and catch your breath with the butterflies and the birds. Everything here breaths and everything is alive, and though the forest breath may be long and smooth, it is very deep, as deep as the heart of the forest itself.

Think how many times the river has walked this valley since the Queen stepped from her royal carriage long long ago. This was the spot her royal feet graced the fertile earth, never before or since has one so high in office come away to this distant place.

But I am getting ahead of myself, and so much time has passed since that day. These trees you see about you today, are the childrens children of those that were part of the secret, the graceful ancestors that witnessed that magic day.

If you are comfortable then I shall begin.

A long time ago their lived a fair and righteous Queen who governed this kingdom well. All her minions had prospered beneath her rule, from the humblest to the highest. Her kingdom was vast and this tiny slumbering valley far from the Queens palace was of no concern to her.

Health and wealth had spread evenly through out the land beneath her even hand, but alas all must come to an end.

On her ninety sixth birthday the Queen celebrated with due pomp and ceremony for one so rich, and visitors came from far and wide to bestow their good will. Lords and ladies, rich and poor, young and old made the long and arduous journey to the palace to see the Queen.

Well indeed, so many visitors came to the Queens birthday celebrations that she could not see them all and many were given lodging and good food but returned at length with out even a moment in the Queens company.

Now in one of the Queens many chambers, a guest lodged from this very valley. He had walked the journey with nothing but hard cheese and a flask of water drawn from this very stream. But when he arrived he was given foods so rich and brilliant they were fit for the gods to dine upon. Never before had his eyes rested upon such succulent diversity.

But if he thought this was the limit of the Queens generosity to her guests then he would be wrong for when he entered his rooms he was dumbfounded indeed. They excelled in grandiosity further than his dreams could stretch. A strange hush came over his soul, as the walls were upholstered from floor to ceiling with tapestries and cloths depicting wild hunting scenes. The ceiling itself was awash with plaster cherubs, dancing with baskets of fruits and showering the room with favours and good will. For his benefit alone a warm fire had been laid in the hearth.

For one used to sleeping beneath the stars and the bows of trees this was like an enchanted world of endless splendour, and this room was typical of any given to a guest of the Queen.

Whilst in the palace he sought time and council with the generous Queen, but she was so busy with all the visitors that she was unable to see him and at length he returned to the West Country unsuccessful of his task.
Walk with me down the valley and I shall continue my tale.
 
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Chapter two

Down Stream

A year passed and still the kingdom flourished and the Queens birthday celebrations were even more lavish than the previous. She was ninety seven years old and age was catching her up, her throne and crown seemed to engulf her and all the people knew that her time would soon come to an end.

Again the visitor from Horner Water came asking for time with the Queen, but again she was so busy with all the Royal appointments that she could not. His quarters were even more fantastic than before, with oak panelled room upon oak panelled room inlaid with silver cherubs and jewel encrusted insects dancing across lacquered lily pads. The stately rooms were fit for gentry, not a common visitor from the west country, but her generosity new no bounds and as he waited for her council he was brought foods even more brilliant than the decor that surrounded him.

He stayed for a week before returning again without any time with the Queen, but whilst he stayed in these royal apartments, he did not eat a single mouthful of the lavish food, nor sleep in the feather bed. He only drank from a flask he carried always and curled up by the hearth like a dog on a rug.
Come further down stream and we will tell more of this tale.
 
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Chapter three

Further Down Stream

Again a whole year past and the Queens health was greatly feared, preparations were made for her passing but who would take the kingdom, who would be her successor, who would govern the land with such balance and fervour?

But still she ruled and as birthday arrangements were made the visitor began his long journey from the West Country again. He carried with him nothing but the leather flask of water and a simple hard cheese.

But this time when he arrived the Queen was not well at all, and no one was given council to see her by the Physicians orders. But still he waited, sleeping on the hearth rug and sending message best he could to the Queen.

And on the very day of the Queens birthday, there was a great hush in the palace, it was if the building itself had already set into morning for the Queen even before she had died.
Come down river further and I shall tell you more.
 
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Chapter four

Down River Further

In the palace our traveller rested awaiting the Queens council, but to no avail, she was so frail that none were being admitted save those closest and even their visits were numbered. But news travels in the castle, and those behind the scenes making the beds and cleaning the chambers talk, and the Queen herself needs these lowly things done.

Just by chance the Queen overheard a conversation between maids of the guest who sleeps on the hearth mat and eats nothing from the royal plates. Though she was ill, and it was the very day of her ninety eighth birthday she ordered that the guest be brought to her, even though the Physician had forbid it.

And so our traveller spoke with the Queen at last.

But it was behind closed doors without guard or maid for the travellers gift was for the Queen alone.

What was said, I do not know, what was offered, I can only guess for the frail Queen summoned a carriage for the morning as they would depart at first light for the west country.

There was a great flurry about the palace throughout the night to prepare for the journey. The Physician pleaded with the Queen to wait till her health recovered but she would hear none of it.
Come further down river for our tale continues there.
 
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Chapter five

Onwards to the Next Spot

Day after day the carriages rattled along, the Queen in her delicate state, outriders before and aft, maids and courtiers in the carriages behind. The traveller rode on the Queens coach with the driver up top, never resting throughout the journey, only stretching when the horses were changed or the Queen took her refreshments.

On and on the train rattled, over hills and along valleys. Through dell and ditch past thicket and thorn, endlessly rolling onwards to the wild edges of her kingdom. Never before had the Queen and her entourage been so far from her palace and stately chambers, never had a royal personage fed a gaze upon the purple heather and fiery gorse bushes, this deep in the west country.

Further and further the carriages rattled, horses and driver were changed countless times, axels re-greased, and deeper into the west they rode till finally a long descent through tall Oaks and coppiced hazel terminated at pool bridge.
Now we alight to our final destination, where our tale concludes, along the same path the Queen walked barefoot and hand in hand with the travellers all those years ago.
 
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Chapter six

The Pool

The Queen was very frail from age and her monumental trip, but eager and exited aswell, but to the surprise of her courtiers and maids she stepped down from her carriage with bare feet! Her long trailing skirts with fine embroidered gems glinting in the sunlight, calm after the rattle of the ride.

The traveller took the Queens hand and led her down the path you have just walked to the pool. About her danced insects and butterflies with bodies brighter than the gemstones on her cape. The woods were filled with hush and song in equal measure.

The party arrived here at the pool and the traveller led the old Queen forward to the waters edge, her delicate white feet in the bright stream. The traveller stood on the bank side careful not to step in himself but close by the Queens side, steadying her. This is where the waters were deepest, this is where the simple beck slid over ancient rocks and became calm and still, as if waiting.

At the waters edge the Queen gazed into the dark stream and all about her the trees themselves appeared to peer into the beck also and see what she saw. For in the water was a reflection of the Queen in her youth, not an aged and withered lady, but fresh faced and bright.

And then it happened, there was no great crash, nor ear splitting noise, but more a feeling like a cloud slipping in front of the moon. Some remember a shudder like a ghost passing over their grave, some remember seeing a puzzled look upon the Queens face for just a moment.

But they all saw the Queen faint and fall into the pool.

That frail fare Queen in her ninety eighth year and ruler of broad lands, fall beneath the cold Horner water.

The Queens entourage saw it all happen but were too far away to catch her. Nor did the traveller at her side arrest her fall, it was as if her faint was expected by him!

A gasp in the air, then realisation of what was happening, ladies in waiting and footmen ran forward to aid the frail queen. But before any got to her the traveller was lifting her from the beck, her gemmed cape now sodden and heavy, the bright brocades and fine metal embroidery clinging to her body. Her bare feet being lowered onto the dry bank.

The Queens aides ran to her side with dry cape to cover her but then stopped in their tracks before her as if winded. For as the Queen turned, it was plain for all to see she was no aged woman but the Queen of her youth perhaps now only twenty years old.

It was said as a dry cape was placed about the young Queens shoulder that her aged reflection slipped quietly away beneath the dark waters, leaving the youthful Queen to rule afresh.

It was never questioned that the young Queen was any other than her youthful self, for her rule had been so straight and true, all were happy that she would reign again.

So when ever you come to pool bridge and stare or swim in the waters here, remember the Queen who came here all those years ago, and found her youth a second time.

But do not gaze into the dark waters for too long for the magic hidden in these hills is not truly spent.

And I have heard the traveller still walks this path, he can sometimes be seen at this pool weaving tiny boats from oak leaves and cob nut shells, and talking to the waters as one would to a lover.
There is a journal hidden close at hand, and inside this Bell Tree there is a bell! Return the way you came, and only a hundred yards back up the trail you will see a grand Oak with a hollow trunk just off the path to your right.
 
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Chapter seven

Tree Log

Inside this hollow tree is the journal inside a little box under some rocks. When you have signed then put it back just the same, hidden well and out of sight but still accessible by the next walkers.

Also if you look up into the tree you might see something to spread the magic about.

Thanks for Story Walking, there is more info about my projects at http://storywalks.info

Many thanks

Christopher Jelley
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