Friday, 15 October 2010

The Major Oak, Sherwood Forest

I arrived in Sherwood forest at dusk, just as the last of the tourists were leaving. In the semi-darkness I made my way along the winding paths past ancient oak trees until I arrived at the clearing containing the biggest oak tree of all, the Major Oak.

This monster of a tree is so huge and ancient that it has to be propped up with wooden supports, it dominates the clearing and is surrounded by a low fence to keep the hordes of tourists at a distance.

There was no-one around so I slipped over the fence to take a closer look at this majestic old tree. As I walked around the tree it's huge limbs spread out above me, impossibly large and heavy, but still bearing fresh acorns despite its advanced age.

Then I noticed a huge fissure in the bark, I crept up to it and was able to squeeze inside and enter another world. The interior was huge. There was ample room to stand up straight or lie down flat. I noticed patches of fibreglass which presumably were placed there in an attempt to stop the rot and decay. I lay down on the floor, within the very bowels of the tree and meditated...

I was approached by a pair of tiny redcaps, only 8 & 10 inches high. They were squat creatures with broad faces and were dressed in peasant clothes. I asked them who they were but they just stared blankly at the ground in front of them. They appeared to me like a couple of peasant tribesmen being questioned by someone from a totally alien culture who's language they did not understand.

Suddenly one of them made a strange sound like an animal call: "Geee!"

Then the other smaller one, did the same: "Geee!"

Then both together rapidly one after the other: "Geee! Geee! Geee! Geee!"

I asked them to take me to the underworld. They were still staring at the ground, a look of non-comprehension on their faces, when suddenly one of them ran off, swiftly followed by the other. I followed them both and found myself on a broad path clinging to the edge of a mountainside. They ran off around a bend and as I followed them I just saw them disappear into a cave in the side of the mountain.

As I approached the cave I had a sense of foreboding. Something was in that cave and it wasn't pleasant. The redcaps were still making strange sounds: "Geee! Geee!", but now they seemed to be waiting for me to enter. I realised that I had no reason to trust these little creatures, and so I decided to return to the oak tree.

I hadn't really been expecting anything like this to happen and so I was unprepared when it did. It was a fascinating experience but at this stage I wasn't prepared to just travel into the depths of the underworld to see what I could find out. First I needed to find out my purpose and why I was doing all this...


Rob Wildwood (Aurvandil) has now released a book containing hundreds of his own stunning full colour photos of many of the magical places he has visited in his travels. The images capture the magic and mystery of each place and are enhanced by extracts of local folklore that reveal the magical lore of each place and tempt deeper investigation. Every site listed has full directions and map grid references that can be checked online, so join Rob Wildwood as you discover Britain's magical places at

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