Long ago, before the land mass divided, a great forest stretched from Brittany to Cornwall. The haunt of wild beasts and the untamed men of ancient folklore, it was also a realm of secrets and enchantment. According to legend, the Holy Grail was buried there, and the magician Merlin was bound forever inside an oak tree by his vengeful lover. As Senga ('Agnes backwards') explains in A L Barker's The Haunt, 'People said the way through the wood was the way from earth to heaven.'
When Owen and Elissa Grierson decide to retire to a remote village in Cornwall, in the heart of the primordial woodlands, Owen's response to nature is literary rather than practical. At the sight of his overgrown garden, he quotes Horace with evident relish: 'Though you drive out Nature with a