In the Glen

An inter-city express train rushed by the top of Valentine’s glen. The crows circled
above the tree tops as the pines, oaks and chestnuts whispered secrets to each
other. Then once again, the glen was silent.
“It’s beautiful here. So peaceful,” said Claire.
“Most of the time,” the old man looked down at the river gushing down the hill. “But
people have recounted hearing a girl crying and moaning in these woods on some
nights. Some believe the glen is haunted,” Tom told his granddaughter. “On hot
summer days almost seventy years ago, Pat, Bill and I searched for trout, jumped in
the Three Mile Water to cool down and plotted how we would avenge a rival gang.”
They walked down the dusty path mirroring the river’s course.
“We swung across the river on a long rope tied to one of the biggest chestnut trees
that clung to the sides of the riverbank, trailing our toes through the water to cool
down as we skimmed the surface,” Tom continued. We caught mice and frogs and
scared our sisters with them. We salvaged wood washed downstream and then that
last summer we made a raft.”
Claire listened intently as he continued.
“At night we sat on rocks in the river, dipping our toes into the coolness as we drank
bottles of cider and smoked. On a roughly made fire on the riverbank our fish
cooked, flavoured by the wild garlic that nestled in the dark crevices along the river’s
course, long before we’d ever heard of barbeques.”
“The river was crystal clear then. We swam in it and had water fights. Now it would
be an obstacle course, dodging tyres, old bikes and trolleys from the Spar. People
don’t have any respect for the river now, the way we had.”
On either side of the river tall firs and ivy clad oak trees clung to the steep banks. He
pointed to a pine tree, fallen across the river, providing a more conventional
crossing, “We’d have had fun shimmying across that,” he smiled.
Three art deco viaducts strutted like giants across the Three Mile Water river
meandering down the wooded glen before it gushed down into Belfast Lough. As
they walked further downstream he pointed to large boulders. “This was our other
crossing. We used to jump across and push each other off the next stone. We
climbed on the viaduct and jumped off the steel girders into the river below.”
They walked down the sloping path, their steps gaining momentum as the river
gathered pace, twisting and turning down the glen.
“It’s still here!” Tom pointed to the mighty chestnut towering over the rippling river.
He smoothed the bright green velvet moss growing on one side of the old tree trunk
with his wrinkled hand. “But it’s a different rope,” he grinned. “I’m glad the river’s still
being enjoyed.”
Soft ferns waved and dipped their leaves into the rushing waters below them as they
followed the bend in the river.
“But then the next summer we didn’t go back. It wasn’t that we’d grown out of those
sort of things. We just didn’t go back. After her murder in the glen. It just wasn’t the
same. We heard things.”
“Did you know her?” asked Claire.
“Yes. Few are still around who remember her. But long after the rest of us have
gone, and what happened that night has been forgotten forever, the trees will keep
whispering secrets to each other and this river will still run down Valentine’s glen.”