Life at Castle Howard, with its expansive stone rooms, profusion of stair cases, and acres of land, is fit for the life of an Austen character. The 9th earl got to live a dream life-he was free to explore art without worrying about money. Unfortunately for him, his society measured artistic talent by paintings sold. The earl, in this beautiful castle and grounds, got to live within his dream.

Roy Wood, the forest that is also a garden behind Castle Howard, reminded me of childhood. When I was younger, I was obsessed with finding secret places, places that adults ignored. I loved the tiny copse of trees by a nearby park because there was a place for groups to gather. I loved my friend’s unfinished basements. I had a hidey-hole in my closet that I would curl up for hours with a good book, I stored most of my secret treasures up there. The one thing in my amassing of secret places that was missing was wide open spaces in which to roam. My dad grew up in a small town; hearing about his boyhood haunts made me long for untamed spaces. Walking through Roy Wood, I could imagine all sorts of games that kids could play in woods. Those are the spaces where you can imagine fairies and other worlds in.

The moors around Haworth also evoked a feeling of wondering exploration from my childhood. As I thought about the worlds the Bronte sisters created, I realized that the imaginary worlds of children depend largely on environment. Our imaginary worlds were houses, circuses, and zoos. Having the moors to run through gives children a space within their environment. Contained within a house, it’s easy for kids to remain unaware of expansive possibilities. Free to roam places like the moors, kids get a feel for how large the world is, at the same time they get a feel for how to operate in such a large space. I took my mystery places where I could find them, but I imagine for people growing up in Haworth and Castle Howard over the past century had mystery places vying for the attention of children.

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