Marchlands follows three separate families who live in the same house called Marchlands at three different time periods - 1968, 1987 and 2010.
The three strands interconnect - the families are linked by the ghost of a little girl, Alice, who drowned in a tragic accident in 1967, in local lake Blackwater Tarn. The episodes are multi-stranded and a number of characters appear in more than one time frame.
The first episode opens with a girl with long blonde hair and a distinctive yellow dress running through woods. She anxiously looks behind her.
We move to 1968. It's early morning and Ruth is lying in bed, staring at a photograph of her daughter, Alice (the little girl we've just seen.)
We're in the same bedroom, but now its 2010 - the walls are stripped and there are boxes and mess everywhere. An alarm goes - a dishevelled Nisha, who is five months pregnant, is anxious to get to her scan. But her partner Mark has other ideas...
We move to the same bedroom in 1987 and Eddie has similar romantic intentions. But he and his wife Helen are disturbed by their children - fifteen year old Scott and eight year old Amy. Helen gets up to open the blinds and we pull away to reveal the house - Marchlands - a remote house near a small village in the North of England....
Ruth and her husband Paul live at Marchlands with Paul's oppressive parents Robert and Evelyn.
Ruth is grieving for her eight year old daughter who died six months previously. She is haunted by Alice and cannot let her go. Ruth tries to talk to and connect with her husband - she is suspicious and anxious to discover the truth of what happened to her daughter. Though devastated himself, Paul wants to move on.
Whilst Ruth visits Alice's grave she passes Liz Runcie and her eight year old deaf daughter Olive.
Later Ruth tries to seduce Paul - but he can't respond. He can no longer look at her - for every time he does - he sees Alice...
Initially Helen and Eddie ignore Amy's 'imaginary friend' Alice, but Scott and Eddie are silenced one day when Amy tells them that Alice is dead. Amy loves reading 'The Secret property of Alice Bowen' - the scrapbook she found hidden under the floorboards in her room.
Things come to a head when Helen fears Amy has drowned in an over-flowing bath - relief turns to fury when she realises it's just a doll - but she's further angered when Amy blames Alice.
Helen and Eddie are increasingly worried about their daughter. Helen forbids Amy from talking to Alice ever again, whilst Eddie buys Amy a kitten to distract her. For a while things look like they might be getting better until they hear blood curdling screams from the garden. It's Amy - her kitten has drowned in the pond. She cries and tells them that it was an accident - but it was Alice, yet again, who was responsible...
Mark previously lived in the village and has brought his partner, Nisha, back to live in this rural idyll.
Whilst Nisha is stripping a wall in a bedroom she finds a photo of a young girl behind a skirting board. We recognise it as Alice. Nisha spots that the photo was taken in the same room and notices something in the picture. Later disaster strikes as Nisha breaks her ankle falling off a ladder.
At the local shop, on their way back from the hospital, Nisha chats to an old friend of Mark's - a now grown up Scott Maynard. He's surprised to hear that Mark has returned to Marchlands. Nisha then spots Mark signing with an older Olive Runcie. Back at the house Nisha suspects that Mark is not being entirely truthful with her, but decides not to push it. For now.
Later, back in the bedroom Nisha finally uncovers a beautiful mural, which details a little girl in a forest. She's mesmerised by it and its title - 'Alice in the Woods'. That night Nisha suggests the name Alice for their unborn child...