The VV often visits the village of Kingsland in Herefordshire. Some of her family still live there, and she spent many happy childhood days wandering past the black-and-white houses, set next to grander Georgian stone, and the later Victorian red brick homes with their little front gardens and black iron railings dividing front paths from the pavement edge.
The house that is pictured above on the left, with its ivy-smothered windows and walls, was once the village rectory. The VV has never been inside and these days it is privately owned, but it has always held some sense of allure and now takes on a life of its own in the pages of Elijah's Mermaid, the VV's second Victorian novel.
However, turn right at the house's back boundary and, rather than heading across the field, you may well find a little stream almost hidden by shrubs and low branches of trees to form a natural barrier between the gardens and pasture land.
The VV has always been drawn to that stream and in Elijah's Mermaid, she has re-imagined its path as being somewhat larger - a place where two orphaned children who are living with their grandfather love to spend their days in play and, after reading The Water Babies written by Charles Kingsley, to try and catch such a creature inside the trap of a jam jar.
Woman by a stream, from The London Illustrated News, 1875
The origin of the 'haunting' is said to stem back to the time when a village rector lived in the house with only his daughter for company. The local gossips would have it that the girl appeared to be with child, with all manner of aspersions cast as to who the father might happen to be. However, no child was ever seen and the scandalmongers tongues were stilled - until the night when a poacher was walking along the banks of the stream, when he heard the cries of a mewling babe and, on further investigation, was shocked to discover a tiny corpse.
In the tradition of these things, it is still said to this very day that if you walk past the stream at night you might also hear the cries of the child who was either born or concealed in the water; abandoned there and left to drown. And now, in Elijah's Mermaid, the VV has made her own allusion to this tragic story and, hopefully, to have laid the ghost of whatever it is that cries at night.