The Sols Hole, that would be the accurate translation of the Dutch name Het Solsche Gat.
It is near the place where my late grandmother lived, Garderen in the middle of the forests in Swampyland. Remember I told you about roasting Chestnuts at her place?
The place was magic to us, often after school was out we’d be going to this place on our pushbikes, usually the two of us, me and my girlfriend (first kiss, you never forget). We’d be then going into the woods near Het Solsche Gat and pulled our pushbikes away from the dirt road and underneath the green Ferns and be invisible to the world.
And we would spend hours reading Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books, our favourite book, lying on a thick soft horse blanket under those Ferns with the sun light filtered green on the pages of our books.
Het Solsche Gat was supposed to be a haunted place within those woods where once centuries ago a Monastery stood, a Monastery with lots of towers. But the debauchery life style of the Monks with wine, women and their pagan songs and rites was reason for God to punish the monastery in spite of the prayers of their righteous leader Father John. They had a Black Mass to which a lot of witches came and it attracted ghouls and ghosts from hither and yonder as the story goes. The Devil himself supplied the Monks with wine so they never went out of it and they danced, chanted and cursed until the morning light. One year at Christmas Eve it was decided by God it was enough so a violent thunder storm came over the place and the entire Monastry, Monks included, was hit by a giant lightning strike and sank into the deep dark and cold earth leaving this giant hole in the ground.
According to the stories they told us the spirits of those Monks could be set alight when they surfaced in the swamp in the middle. Old stories told to us said that you could sometimes hear the large bell of the clock tower chime from deep down in the earth. Just to prove it was actually true we went there in the middle of the night in Summer when we were a little bit older and threw lighted matches into the swamp. It sometimes set alight the swamp gases bubbling up from below making nice blue flames, but not every time we went there thus adding to the magic story that there were no more spirits from debauchery Monks left to come towards the sky.
When you’re 11 or 12 years old you believe those tales but at the matches throwing age we knew better of course but still it was very funny to sneak out of bed after midnight and meet a couple of friends there and sit on the banisters at the side of the swamp, talking on a hot and muggy summer night. And it’s those moments that I still remember, the fog, the musty smell of the swamp, those blue flames from the lit methane marsh gases.
We sometimes went there during the day too, looking for Frog Spawn, Newts and Salamanders, picking Ox lip flowers for our girlfriends and hang around for an hour or so after school before heading back home for Tea, red faced from cycling, hungry. Summers were nice in those years.