It closed three decades ago, but there is a temptation to take a drive up to the old school, to see what the place looks like now. It would be a pointless enterprise, but, so then, are many things.
It was the mid-2000s that I last visited the buildings that now form an outdoor adventure centre. I had picked my way gently through the Dartmoor roads, that at times are so narrow that the ferns on both sides touched the car. Partly I had been anxious not to get the slightest scratch on the hire car; partly I had been trying to remember past moments from those roads and the hills between which they ran. There was a laughing thought that I would meet one of the old housemasters driving a school minibus at breakneck speed though the valley.
We had reached the crossroads much sooner than I had expected, I had indicated to no-one in particular and swung to the right between granite pillars, a hundred yards later and I had turned left into the old school driveway. Everything was smaller than I remembered, buildings had changed; some had disappeared. I had stopped outside the main office and sat silently. There was no sign of life. No-one came to ask what this stranger was doing at their centre.
I remember suddenly wondering why I was there. How absurd it had seemed to try to step back through the years. I had turned the car and had headed back down the driveway, almost anxious to be away from the place before someone saw me.
It had been a summer’s Sunday evening and, in the 1970s, it would probably have been the last Sunday of the school year. I thought about it and I had imagined I could hear on the wind the words of God be with you till we meet again, and then the voices and the laughter. The girls from the sister school in Teignmouth, dressed in the height of fashion, giggling and coy, or confidently precocious. The boys in the staid Sunday uniform, black blazer, maroon tie, white shirt, awkward and gawky in the presence of female company.
It had all seemed a long time ago and there had seemed better things to be doing on a Sunday evening than looking for ghosts. We had driven to Hound Tor and had climbed to the top on a perfect long summer evening.
A few miles’ drive away, there is a temptation to try again.