Our first stop: Warnham Pond, which now is a nature preserve adjacent to a golf course. My journal reminds me that I hopped out of the cab, then after fiddling with the gate catch a bit (feeling very stupid in the process) I walked through some high grass to the pond, where a huge swan was swimming toward the other side.
So what was I doing at Warnham Pond—and why did I take a few ineffectual photographs of it? Well, Shelley’s father, Sir Timothy, kept a boat there—and fished there (as did his son). But what really thrilled little Bysshe about the pond were the stories about the Great Tortoise that lived there. Later, he would delight (and frighten) his smaller siblings with tales of this tortoise. He also told them of a “Great Old Snake” near their house. His sister Hellen later recalled that Bysshe would often attribute unusual night sounds to the Great Tortoise.
Well, all I saw was the Great Swan, photographing it while Brian sat in his cab, meter running. As I remember all of this now, I’m guessing Brian was thinking that he had just hooked a Great Tortoise of sorts, one with some pence and pounds to extract. (He would end up with quite a few—all well earned, as you’ll see.)
|web image of Warnham Pond|
Next stop—the Warnham Church, which my journal records as a small beautiful structure with a surrounding graveyard that features many old tablet-style gravestones (I saw no Shelleys). Then into the village of Warnham itself, where I got some shots of the Shelley Arms Pub.
|web image of Warnham Church|
|my photo of Shelley Arms pub|
But what I really wanted to see that day—and feared I would be unable to—was Field Place, the Shelleys’ ancestral home, a structure not visible from the road and accessible only by a long gravel drive that features an entrance sign that says Field Place Estate—not exactly an open invitation. Still … I’d never been one to hesitate (too much) in the presence of a literary site I wanted to explore and photograph. I’d trespassed many times … what could happen?
|my photo of Field Place entrance|
The worst? Chasing some John Cheever sites in and near Ossining, New York, in June 2010, I found myself detained, briefly, in Sing Sing Prison.
Note: I took many photos during my 1999 trip to Shelley-Land, but all were 35 mm slides, and I have not scanned them all--thus, some Internet theft for images here.