I am told that there is a ghost in the Cheltenham badlands
As is usually the case in badlands, they form quite rapidly, a soft under layer of rock being laid bare by land clearance and grazing. If the rock beneath the soil were granite, its unveiling to the elements would go unnoticed but the unstable nature of the Queenston Shale makes it a perfect candidate for extreme and rapid erosion.
The lower foot of the Niagara Escarpment is mainly composed of this material and when exposed it soon decomposes to a sticky red paste. The colour is attributable to the presence of iron oxides. Where the rock has undergone some type of chemical alteration green bands wander through the red. If it were not for the appearance of a blocky greenish strata beneath I might well have left suspecting that some mad spray painter had passed that way just before me.
We entered the badlands from their lower end; it was fantastic. I stood on a smooth, flat bed of washed out clay, no doubt a treacherous morass of muddy, red water in a heavy rainstorm. Many trees thereabouts are buried some way up their trunks by the never ending tide of freshly deposited mud.
Rounded ridges of the eroded rock stretched toward me like thick maroon fingers of some buried giant. The green bands added to the whimsy and I for a fleeting moment imagined that the lava flow that creeps upon a town might look quite similar. There is a slightly eerie feeling to the land and I was not in the least surprised to hear the story of a fisherman who claims to have been followed by the spectre of a solitary woman in a white gown. She wanders through the thick bush beside the river and vanishes shortly after she is seen.
Japanese tourists with video cameras skipped across the top of the ridges and in an attempt to join them I scrambled upward. It soon became apparent that the accumulation of tiny pebbles made any sloping surface a chute that would quickly convey a clumsy oaf such as myself down into one of the chasms between the lobes.