Saturday 29 January 2011

Mulgrave Woods and Jeannie the Fairy

Folklore tells that Mulgrave Woods in North Yorkshire was the abode of Jeanie the Fairy. She was said to live there in a cave called Hob's Cave and to dislike visitors intensely. She would cast curses on anyone who bothered her and many a local misfortune was blamed upon the malevolence of this mysterious spirit. Long ago a brave and foolish local farmer decided to go and find this elusive fairy for himself, to purge the place of her misfortune once and for all. But as soon as he laid eyes upon her terrible visage his courage failed him and he leapt back on his horse and fled in terror. Jeanie chased him and he only escaped with his life when he remembered that the spirit could not cross running water, so he galloping for the nearest stream and leapt across it. As he did so Jeannie struck the horse with her wand and cut it in two but the farmer just managed to reach the safety of the other side before his horse fell down dead.

"A very mischievous fairy, Jeanie of Biggersdale, resided at a place so called at the head of Mulgrave woods. A bold young farmer, perhaps under the influence of John Barleycorn, undertook one night, on a wager, to approach the habitation of this sprite, and to call her : but his rashness nearly cost him his life ; Jeanie angrily replied that she was coming, and while he was escaping across the running stream he fared worse than Burns's Tarn O'Shanter, when pursued by Nanny the witch ; for Jeanie overtaking him just as his horse was half across, cut it in two parts though fortunately he was on the half that got beyond the stream !"

This snippet of folklore was all I had to go on, so I took out a map and located Mulgrave Woods. I was surprised to discover that the woods were still completely intact and covered an extensive area on a private estate, filling a whole valley which contained two streams with many side valleys and gulleys. The woodland extended almost all the way to the sea at Sandsend and reached inland for several miles, its many fingers following the stream beds and gulleys deep into the countryside. Exploring this area was going to be a daunting task!

Further investigation poined me towards one of the side gulleys with a high waterfall, famously known as Biggersdale Hole. Could this be it? The steep gulley leading down into the hole was called the Wizard's Glen and was reputed to be a magical place. Of course I just had to investigate!

I set off one morning in late January, crossing the North York Moors until I reached the seaside town of Sandsend, just north of Whitby. The weather was not great so I didn't fancy a long hike through the woods and instead opted to drive around the woodland to a farm located just above Biggersdale Hole. I parked my 4x4 in a field and soon found the stream that led me directly to the waterfall. The small trickling stream suddenly transformed into a torrent of water as it disappeared over a lip of rock and plunged into a hidden gorge deep below.

I gingerly crept around the edge of the gorge on tiny rabbit trails but could find no possible way down the sheer sides.

I sat there and meditated, I could sense an entrance at the base of waterfall, a hidden doorway to the otherworld, somehow I had to get down there! I was left with no option but to follow the top of the gorge and hope that the sides became less steep further downstream. I was able to walk through the field that adjoined the gulley, but unfortunately the sides of the gulley were sheer for its entire length and it was only when I reached the main valley directly ahead that I was able to scramble down and eventually made my way down to one of the main streams in the valley called East Row Beck.

Now all I had to do was follow the bank of East Row Beck until I came to the small stream that flowed out of Biggersdale Hole! The going was tough and sometimes I had to leave the flooded riverside and climb up the steep banks into the forest again, but eventually I made it to the entrance of a steep-sided valley. There was a clearing there with a little wooden footbridge crossing the steam, now all overgrown and little used. The hint of a pathway, long overgrown, led into the Wizard's Glen.

The day was overcast and misty and the glen seemed incredibly magical and mysterious. It may have been a trick of the light but as I stood there I kept catching movements out of the corner of my eye, as if hidden spirits were darting from tree to tree, watching me. Apart from the bubbling of the stream, dampened by the mist, the silence was total, and I was totally alone there, but the place was so magical that it lifted my spirits and drew me onwards into the glen.

The old pathway soon came to end, petering out by the tiny stream and disappearing into undergrowth and fallen branches. The magical feeling was now giving way to a more ominous one, so I decided I'd better tune in and ask permission to continue first. I was told to drop an offering of food into the stream, and also to place my new batch of flourite eggs in there too. I did as instructed and the food floated off downstream, while the eggs glittered under the surface of the water. The eggs would be infused with energy, I was told, but I must leave them there.

I now felt like I had been given permission to enter and so I pushed on through the bushes, waded through the stream and climbed over fallen branches.

The going got tougher and tougher the further I continued. Clearly no-one had been this way for a long time! I could sense the presence of Merlin above me, he seemed to be encouraging me to continue. Was this his glen? The Wizard's Glen?

Ahead of me whole trees had fallen down the gulley into the stream, it seemed impossible to go on. I wanted to turn back, to get out of this place, but the silent encouragement willed me forward. I climbed over the fallen trees, through thorn bushes and over wet slippery rocks and after an exhausting struggle finally I neared the end of the gulley and could hear the tumbling waterfall ahead!

The head of the gulley was rocky and barren, and the rocks slick with spray from the waterfall. It didn't look so deep as it had done from above though, but still there was no way out other than the way I had come in. Carefully I climbed over the wet rocks and sat down by the pool in front of the waterfall and got my breath back.

As I tuned in there I projected my spirit through the waterfall and through the wall of rock behind, and suddenly found myself standing on a green hillside. There I was met by a young troll with shaggy black hair. He seemed happy to have company and he danced and played with me, and eventually we tumbled off down the hillside, head over heels, until we stopped by the side of a bubbling stream. We sat there and talked like old friends. I asked him if the Wizard's Glen was Merlin's Glen. He told me it was not, but that Merlin was always with me when I needed to call on him. He also told me that I would not find Jeanie the Fairy here, I needed to look elsewhere in the woods.

I returned to the rocks by the waterfall. It seemed like my efforts had been in vain, but I was not despondant and was happy to have found such a magical place. As I looked down I then saw a red stone gleaming in the water, so I reached for it and picked it up. Merlin spoke to me and informed me that this stone would add fire to my wand. I wasn't quite sure what he meant by that but I popped the stone in my pocket before starting on the arduous hike back out of the gulley.

I felt a lot more relaxed now and the sense of foreboding had completely gone. Only now could I truly appreciate the beauty of the place. As I walked slowly back, taking in the atmosphere, I suddenly noticed a white feather falling from the sky directly in front of me. I reached down and picked it up and then looking to my left noticed a row of small holes like rabbit holes that seemed to have been carved directly into the conglomerate that made up the sides of the gorge. I couldn't see how they could have formed naturally and the rock looked too hard to have been carved out by animals.

I sat down there and tuned in and soon realised that a colony of small boggles dwelt here, living halfway between our world and the otherworld, the shallow holes being just entrances to their subterranean otherworld. Slowly they crept out and as I had done in other places I planted my wand into the ground there and sent them healing. The boggles were happy here in the Wizard's Glen, they felt protected and needed no help from me, but they were not aware of the other communities of boggles that I had encountered. They could not leave the area of the glen and the nearby forest and so had never ventured out into the wider world. I told them that this would soon change, and sometime in the future they would be free to roam the world again.

After more scrambling and climbing I finally made it back to the walking trail where my flourite eggs still lay glistening in the water. I picked them up and they seemed to feel very fresh and energised. Holding them up to the light all the flaws and fractures in the crystals seemed to shimmer as if they had been coated in a tiny thin layer of gold leaf. I was sure they had looked nothing like this before! They were now ready for whatever purpose my guides had in store for them.

I now found a small path leading up the side of the gorge that I had not noticed before. The path was quite broad but was overgrown. Clearly it had once been constructed by human hands for some unknown purpose. I decided to follow it as I thought it might provide a shortcut back to my car. As I neared the top I took one last look back into the Wizard's Glen, half-expecting to see faery forms dancing through the air, but the glen was silent.

I pushed on through the rhododendrons and was startled to encounter what I at first thought to be a small holy well, but on closer inspection appeared to be some kind of small shrine. A fairy shrine? Out here in the middle of nowhere?

I left a small offering there and continued on. Following the path to a knoll just above the shrine I then found an old abandoned summer house hidden in the undergrowth. Was this the answer to the mystery? In times gone by the landowner must have built this summerhouse, and the shrine, with the path leading up to it from the valley. Some Victorian romantic fancy no doubt.

Then I made the strangest discovery of all! A dead cock pheasant lying suspended in a tree as if he had just recently tumbled down out of the sky. I inspected the pheasant closer and I could reach no other conclusion than that was what had actually happened. How strange! This was not the first nor the last time that I was to encounter dead birds that had seemingly fallen from the sky, but what was the meaning of it? That one would have to remain a mystery for now.

I continued down the path and was happy to find that I was soon heading back towards my car, it had been an amazing detour, full of discoveries, but I was still no closer to finding Jeanie the Fairy. I referred back to the folklore "a place so called at the head of Mulgrave woods". Perhaps I needed to try higher up the valley?

I checked the map and saw that there was an old motte buried in the woods near the head of the valley called Fosse Castle, which I remembered had some old folklore associated with it. The motte was abandoned in the 13th century when the newer medieval castle was built right in the heart of the valley.

I took a long drive around to the other side of the valley and parked near High Lees Farm. I then followed a vert wet boggy footpath back down into the valley until I came upon a tree-covered mound near the valley bottom, the old motte of Foss Castle. I stepped up onto the flat-topped motte and paced around it's upper rim wondering how I was going going to find Hob's Cave. Beneath me the valley tumbled down into a rocky gorge where a stream cascaded over a jumble of dark and damp looking rocks. Any number of dark shadows under the rocks could have been the entrance to a cave, but how was I to explore such difficult terrain?

I decided to scramble down to the gorge in any case, just to see what I could find, and was relieved to discover an old partly-overgrown path down near the bottom. Turning right I followed the path upstream towards the head of the gorge, but the path petered out and I soon found myself scrambling over rocks and climbing up the side of small cascades. The rocks were slippery and at one point my foot slipped into pool, soaking it.

Eventually I came to a point where I could go no further, the rocks were just too slippery and steep, but the place looked absolutely magical! Bright green moss coated all the rocks and a large hollowed-out basin lay to the left that must have been carved out by swirling rocks over many thousands of years.

Gazing around I suddenly noticed that to my right was the remains of an old building! So weathered and overgrown with ivy that at first glance it looked like part of the rock face.

I sat down there in this enchanted spot by the stream and called upon Jeanie to show herself to me if indeed she dwelt here.

I waited a short while, tuning in to the energies of the place, and then I saw a woman appear! A strikingly attractive, powerful woman with flame-red hair that seemed to sweep up into the air like it was actually composed of flames. She did not appreciate being disturbed but when I explained to her my purpose she assented and agreed to show me the way to her cave dwelling. She took me by the hand and floated off to the north east, but unfortunately I could not keep up with her, and my way was blocked by the steep sides of the gully. I tried several times to scramble up but each time was defeated. By now it was starting to get dark, so with regret I had to abandon my quest for that day.

I later picked up an old Victorian novel called "Jeannie o' Biggerdale" which was set in a mill house by the stream in Mulgrave woods. I realised with a start that the old building I had discovered was indeed the mill house mentioned in the book! And the gully that I had been sitting in was where the woman in the tale had committed suicide by casting herself down onto the rocks because she was unable to be with her love, all caused by the curse of Jeanie the Fairy. After reading about the genteel lifestyle of those dwelling in the manor house and how they would take walks in the grounds of the forest it also explained to me the mysterious paths I'd discovered and the old summerhouse. How odd that the place was now so abandoned and reverting back to it's more ancient and natural state. Perhaps Jeanie still jealously guarded her realm and put paid to any plans to develop the place by casting one of her renowned and much feared curses!


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

Friday 28 January 2011

Claymore Well and Wade's Stone

I was intrigued by a story from Kettleness, North Yorkshire of a spring known in folklore as Claymore Well where it was said that the sound of the fairies could be heard at night "beating their bittles and battledores". Research on the internet indicated that the well could no longer be found but I decided to visit the area and investigate some of the nearby springs and pools. If that failed then I could turn to the mysterious Wade's stone which sits nearby, which has associations with the mythical giant Wade and stories of strange supernatural phenomena.

I drove over the moors and parked in Goldsborough Lane just south of the small village of Goldsborough and was drawn to a spot on the map where five trackways seemed to meet. Perhaps this was an important crossroads in times gone by? I set off on foot down the edge of a cultivated field and the first thing I spotted was a couple of hares grazing on one of the grassy verges near the far hedge, they were the first of many hares that I spotted that day.

I continued on towards the crossroads and dropped down over an odd field boundary, like a low drystone wall that had been set into the ground, causing the field I had just crossed to appear like it was on a raised platform. I followed this boundary wall all the way to the crossroads but could not work out its significance, it seemed mysterious somehow, and very ancient.

I passed straight by the crossroads and came to large grove of alder trees on my right that was marked on the map as Stangoe Carr. The ancient, twisted, stunted trees looked somehow mystical and drew me to investigate them further. I knew that on the far side of the carr stood Wade's stone so perhaps I could make a shortcut somehow? I should have known better though, a carr is basically a swamp full of trees and this one was no exception, the ground was completely flooded!

Searching around though I did manage to find a narrow raised causeway heading into the centre of the swamp, so I decided to follow it. Perhaps the causeway had once been traversed by people in times gone by, but now it was completely overgrown with mature trees growing right through it. I had to climb under branches and over roots, scaring many a duck in process, who obviously wasn't used to clumsy humans crashing through the undergrowth!

Eventually I came to a point where the causeway sank down into the swamp and nothing lay ahead except open water dotted with trees.

I stopped there and stood in silence for a while, and noticed the intense sound of dozens of small birds chirruping all around me that I had failed to take note of while forcing my way down the causeway. The winter sun beamed brightly through the bare branches of the trees adding a magical aspect to this wild place as I took a closer look the swamp and some of the birds which darted from branch to twig all around me. I noticed that they were pretty, bright yellow little birds called siskins, so I took out my camera and tried to get a shot of some of them.

But as I did so a very strange thing happened! I heard a sudden whooshing sound all around me! Directly over my head, to my right and to my left, all at the same time, seeming to come from near and far: "Whoosh! Whoosh-whoosh!" It sounded like the wings of a glider, or a kite straining in a high wind, or a flock of geese flying past at high speed, except that the sound came from all directions at once! It went on for several seconds and then just as suddenly stopped. I was left feeling like invisible beings with batlike wings had just taken off whooshing into the air, disturbed from their secret tryst by my uninvited presence and intrusive camera. Visions of the film "Predator" came to my mind, strange indeed!

But I wasn't afraid, I stood there in silence, half-hoping that the sounds would return, but all I could hear were chirps of the siskins who were still hopping through the branches all around me, singing away as if nothing had happened. Undaunted I continued to photograph the birds, waited a little while longer, and then made my way back out of the mysterious swamp.

I couldn't get through the trees and so I followed the edge of the wood, all along its south side and then the east side until I came to the northern edge of the wood where I could see Wade's stone in the distance, standing alone in a field. It is not a huge and impressive stone, but it does look ancient and weathered, deep channels on its surface telling of the passage of thousands of years of wind and rain as it sat there exposed to all the elements.

As I neared the stone I thought I heard the strange whooshing sounds coming from the trees again! Could this be the sounds of "bittles and battledores" as told of in the folklore? In the olden days they would wrap newly-washed damp linen around a large rolling pin and sweep across it with a bittle or battledoor in a backwards and forwards motion until the linen was dried and flattened. The bittle was like a long flat piece of wood with a handle, sometimes elabourately carved. Could this produce a similar whooshing sound if passed back and forth fast enough? It was something I would have to try out later.

I walked around the stone several times and then sat down with my back to it, but I didn't experience any of the strange phenomena that other visitors to the stone have sometimes reported, I just got a sense that somehow this stone was drawing energy down into the land.

I headed westward now towards Brockrigg Farm to go looking for the fabled Claymore Well. As I passed by Brockrigg Farm a strange pool on my left drew my attention, but I continued on towards Claymoor House to see if there was any sign of a well around there. There was no-one around to ask so I searched all around the building and the field boundaries but could find nothing, so I decided to return to the pool I had spotted near Brockrigg Farm.

The pool looked semi-natural and there was a spring there issuing forth water, so perhaps this was it! I sat down there, closed my eyes and tuned in.

I sensed a presence in the water, and then the hideous face of a hag emerged from the depths! She had sharp, pointed teeth, and hair of matted pond weeds. I tried to talk with her but she was not forthcoming with any useful information. I decided to leave before she turned nasty.

I walked back past Claymoor House towards the sea cliffs and then followed a trackway and field boundary to an old burial mound called Butter Howe. I was intrigued by the name as there were stories of 'fairy butter' from this area.

There was an ancient spirit living there in the mound, but he didn't like to be disturbed and he didn't like people tramping over all over him! I assured him of my good intentions and then climbed the mound and planted my wand on the summit, drawing down energy into this sacred place.

I explored some more of the local landscape features and then returned to my car. What had I discovered today? The strange sounds of "bittles and battledores" I now believed came from the swamp and not from the well. The sound was said to have been heard for "miles around", so did it necessarily have to come from one particular spot? And was it the fairies making these sounds, or something more sinister? Weren't all strange supernatural beings at one time described as 'fairies' anyway? I truly believed that I had had a close encounter out there in the swamp, but with what? Well whatever they were they did not reveal themselves to me at this time so that, for now, would have to remain a mystery.


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

Monday 24 January 2011

Roulston Scar and the Devil's Parlour

Roulston Scar forms a headland of limestone cliffs on the southwestern edge of the North York Moors, a continuation of the Whitestone cliffs near Sutton Bank. To the eastern side lies the famous Kilburn white horse, carved into the hillside during the 19th century, while above the cliffs sits an airfield where gliders regularly cast off into the abyss between Roulston Scar and Hood Hill, and glide up on the thermal air currents that flow up the cliff face. But I was not here to watch the aerial displays, I was here to find a hidden cave in the cliff face that was known in local folklore as the Devil's Parlour. I had no idea however if the cave even existed.

The cliffs of Roulston scar are high and their base sits upon very steep wooded slopes which are inaccessible without climbing and scrambling. The cliffs run west from the white horse, and then curve around to the northeast as they head towards Sutton Bank to form a kind of a headland that projects out over a densely wooded valley towards Hood Hill.

I decided to start near the white horse and make my way along the cliff top, but I hadn't gone very far before I noticed strangely perforated rocks set into the steep hillside below me. I was intrigued and decided to give the rocks a closer inspection, so I scrambled down the hillside and climbed over them, inspecting the large cup-shaped depressions that seemed to have been gouged out of them.

I climbed further down and was amazed to see a whole row of these huge boulders that seemed to have cavities carved out of them everywhere so that they had the appearance of a giant Swiss cheese.

I shone my torch inside and could see a whole honeycomb of tiny caverns and passageways, like some subterranean world that had been carved out by mysterious small hands. I sat down there and tuned in, and suddenly I could see them! Tiny 'boggles' about 8 inches tall with brown furry skin and long, pointy drooping ears. They each wore rustic-looking breeches with braces passing over their shoulders.

At first they were afraid, peeking out from dark corners of their subterranean caverns, but again I surprised myself by starting to talk in rhyme. I spoke long with them, too much to recall this time, asking them to come out and sing and play and have no fear. Having gotten over their initial mistrust all of a sudden they did start to sing: "Hey-hey-yap! Hey-hey-yap!" and slowly they crept out into the light.

Soon they were dancing around and playing and climbing all over me. They knew then that I had come to liberate them! I planted my wand firmly in the ground and white light shone forth from it, illuminating all the dark places within the rocks.

I drew in energy and concentrated it into my hands which started to glow red. One by one the boggles leaped forward and touched my glowing hands, each one taking a little bit of the energy for itself before returning to the rock and carrying the energy to its own little cavern which then seemed to glow red also with the energy that had been brought back. It seemed then that every cavern turned into a little forge, where happy little boggles were beating away joyously forging magical weapons.

I could sense now that the whole ridge seemed to have come back to life and was filled with energy, life and light, and small boggles everywhere!

I edged further along the ridge, climbing through the undergrowth, and passed many more of these pock-marked rocks. 

Some of the holes looked truly bizarre, like dinosaur eggs that had just hatched, while others looked like they had been deliberately broken into, chipped at and mined. For what purpose? And by whom? Were the boggles mining for hidden treasures?

The whole ridge seemed to be buzzing with energy now, and I felt like my job had been done. I was about to leave the steep slope behind and scramble back up to the cliff top when I heard a woodpecker drumming at a tree in the forest below me and then saw a flash of red and black as he flew further down the slope. I had heard it was lucky to follow woodpeckers and they had served me well in the past so I decided that I had to follow this one too to see where he would lead me.

I scrambled down the steep muddy slope, past stunted ancient oak trees that had barely seen the passage of man and followed animal tracks through dense thorn bushes until eventually I came to clearing where there were rocks smothered in bright green ivy. I stopped and looked around. It was a magical place, untouched by the outside world which was so close by, but protected by its inaccessible location.

I had travelled west slightly, across the cliff face, and was now facing uphill towards an ivy-covered boulder. To the left of the boulder was a forked tree, and beyond it a small glade that seemed even more magical. I knew this was a special place. I closed my eyes and took a step through the forked tree, but a voice in my head told me to leave my backpack and coat behind. I dropped them to the ground and left an offering by the tree, and then continued on carrying only my wand.


Suddenly the scene darkened and a huge presence loomed over from the clifftop. A huge, powerful and terrifying spirit of the land. A hundred feet tall, dark and djinn-like. He was the spirit of the moors and demanded to meet with me. I opened my eyes with a start and found myself back in the clearing. I didn't know what the earth spirit wanted but I didn't feel like the time was right to confront such a being. 

I looked around and the place now seemed more magical than ever and was vibrant and buzzing with energy. Ivy climbed and cascaded over the rocks all around me. I continued on, heading further westward along the steep wooded slope until I came to a sheer cliff face. I climbed down to the base of the cliff and rested my back against it. As I sat down I tuned in to the energies of this secluded place.

I was met by a dark and sinister-looking elven commander wearing black armour and an intricate, tight-fitting black helmet. Was this the same dark elf I had met on Hood Hill? He seemed to have a similar energy. I didn't trust him and was slightly afraid of him. But I did trust my intuition... suddenly it was clear to me what I had to do! I was afraid of the consequences and performed the act in a kind of daze, but I found myself drawing my sword of light, my otherworldly weapon. The dark elf looked at me with a challenge in his eyes but before he had chance to say anything I struck him down!

I felt a surge of energy as the light overcame the darkness! A sudden shift to a higher state of being and awareness. I am the bringer of light! I am Aurvandil the luminous wanderer! I felt myself grow and it was if I had a huge pair of wings like an angel. I was filled with white light, and the light from my wand and my sword burned with an blinding brightness!

Feeling elated I opened my eyes and the evening sun was shining brightly into the clearing where I was standing. I walked towards a gap in the trees and soaked up the intensity of the sun's rays, absorbing its light and then casting it out in all directions like I was a star myself. What an exhilarating experience!

Coming back down to earth I realised that it was now getting late and would soon be dark, so I made my way back along the base of the cliff, back out through the forked tree and back into the mundane world. The Devil's Parlour would have to wait until the next day.


The following morning I decided to take a different approach. I walked through the wooded valley to northeast of Roulston Scar that is known as Happy Valley, and made my way to a small footpath that led up to the top of the cliffs. I followed the footpath until I could see the cliffs looming to my right and then headed off through the undergrowth towards the base of the cliffs where they met with the top of the steep wooded slope.

I then followed the base of the cliffs, scrambling up and down, climbing over trees and rocks. Progress was slow, but I checked every nook and cranny in the cliff face and I knew that if there were a cave here then I was eventually going to find it! A few promising looking holes and fissures led nowhere, but as I rounded a corner in the cliff I came to a fissure larger than any I had seen previously and I knew that this had to be it!

I climbed up to the entrance and squeezed inside, it was not a large cave by any means and the narrow crevice only led a few yards into the cliff, but it was a cave! And a cave with enough of a reputation to at some point have been given the name of the Devil's Parlour. But why? Perhaps that was what I was here to find out?

I crawled deep inside the crevice and once I reached the end I sat down and meditated.

I called upon any spirits here to show themselves. After a while I sensed the presence of a small humanlike creature. It was a hob, a hobgoblin like the one I had met at Hob Holes. He hid deep within the dark recesses of the cave and didn't want to come out.

I asked him why he was afraid and he told me that a priest had cast a spell upon him and banished him to the darkness, he couldn't leave his cave any longer and was trapped in this dark otherworld. I promised him that I could break the spell, that he longer had any need to be afraid, that the Christian priests did not hold power here any longer. So I took him by the hand and led him into the light...

He seemed so happy! He told me how long ago the druids used to come to his cave regularly to seek his aid. Druids and locals alike would leave offerings of food there for him; but then the Christians came and called him a devil! They forbade the local people to visit him anymore and they cast wards and spells and banished the poor hob.

But now he was free again! He jumped and leaped for joy, and then tumbled head over heels down the hillside and disappeared into the trees below.

Well now I know why it's called the Devil's Parlour, I thought! No doubt a similar cave I had found earlier called the Fairies Parlour had a similar story attached to it.

I decided to continue a little further around the base of the cliff and made some curious finds.

Firstly the imprint of a fossil ammonite.

Then a small rock shelter filled with feathers and snail shells.

And finally a mummified rat, which I decided to leave behind for future explorers to discover!

Clearly Roulston Scar has many more mysteries still to be uncovered!


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

Sunday 2 January 2011

Hecate and the Fairy Cross Plain

Earlier in the year I had met an old druidess who heard some of my story and informed me that I should be working with the goddess Hecate. I didn't feel entirely comfortable with that as I associated Hecate with the darker side of magic and witchcraft; but when Samhain came around I felt like it was an appropriate time to try to contact the goddess.

I cast a magic circle in my room and summoned the goddess by name. She wouldn't answer any of my questions directly but told me to meet her instead at the crossroads by "The Old Hell Way". I didn't sleep very well that night, wondering what else I might have summoned through the portal that I'd opened to another world.

The Old Hell Way I had already heard about, it was a spirit road on the North York Moors where in the past corpses were carried from Fryupdale, over Danby Rigg, to the old church in Danby. The crossroads she was referring to lay on the Fairy Cross Plain, an area steeped in fairy lore and surely a crossing place of old spirit roads in times gone by. I had read the folklore about these spirit roads, how the ghosts of the dead could be seen marching down them, and sometimes the fairies too. Were fairy paths the same as spirit roads? Did the fairies and the dead inhabit the same realm? Or was it all in fact just a big trick played by the fairies to fool people? Either way I intended to visit the Fairy Cross Plain and find out.


I arrived at the crossroads by the Old Hell Way late in the afternoon. The weather was freeziong cold and a light dusting of snow covered the land. I could see the Old Well Way snaking up the hillside to my left, but my attention was drawn to a curious looking rounded hill away to my right. As soon as I saw it I thought "That's a fairy hill!" It sat right in the middle of the Fairy Cross Plain.

I decided to explore the Old Hell Way first and started ploughing up through snow that was knee deep in places. As\I passed along the ancient trackway I imagined ghostly processions marching by, a land of the dead imprinted upon the earth, spectral forms from times gone by. It felt uncomfortable and I had read that spirit roads were places best avoided due to the unhealthy energies that passed along them. I wanted to see some of the standing stones that marked the path over the rigg but soon the snow was up to my thighs and I decided that to continue on was pointless. In any case dusk was falling as I made my way back down I could hear eerie voices coming from the moor and sudden sounds of red grouse crowing or flapping their wings in the failing light.

I arrived back at the crossroads and decided that I could put it off no longer, it was time to contact Hecate.I tuned in to the misty, dusk-laden landscape and there she appeared, looking tall, lithe and sensual in a long, flowing dress of midnight black. I welcomed her, the "dark goddess", but she corrected me instantly as, turning, she revealed her bright white side. Half black and half white was her face, but whether she represented good and evil, or winter and summer I could not say.

"Why did you want to meet me here?" I asked.

"It was not by your will that you came here but by the will of others," she replied.

I thought of the druidess who had led me down this path. Had it all been a mistake? Should I have been listening to my own intuition and not what others had been telling me?

"Your mission lies with the fairies of the cross plain," she said. "Climb the hill, place your crystal there, then all will be revealed!" and with that she disappeared.

As usual I was left with more questions than answers, and feeling no wiser than I had done before. By now it was dark so I decided that I would return to investigate the fairy hill in the morning.


The hill was indicated on local maps as "Round Hill" but it's prominent location, slap bang in the middle of the great basin known as the Fairy Cross Plain belied its prosaic name. Sure enough a little investigation soon revealed that it is indeed also known as "Fairy Hill"!

I approached this time from a different direction, which gave an even better view of the Fairy Cross Plain and the prominent location of the Fairy Hill. Away and to the right I could clearly make out the Old Hell Way winding its way up Danby Rigg.

I parked in a lane near the hill and climbed over a fence into the boggy field.

As I approached the slope of the hill I found an old spring that was being utilised by the local farmer.

I made a mental note of this important feature and continued on around the hill. I didn't walk straight to the top but spiralled around, checking out its slopes that seemed to be littered with a whole honeycomb of rabbit warrens, the rabbits scurrying away in all directions at my approach and disappearing inside the hill. It felt like the rabbit were guardians, but guardians of what? A grassy knoll in a widswept valley?

I reached the top of the hill and planted my wand firmly in its crown. Instantly I could see the crystal shining, and playful elfin spirits seemed to materialise from all around and started to dance a crazy carfefree dance around and around my wand. They were human sized creatures with naked, shiny brown skin, long black slanted eyes and sharply pointed ears. They seemed to be mindlessly playful and joyous, caring about nothing, strangely alien and incomprehensible.

The grinning face of a dancing elf approached me: "We dance around the fairy ring, but you shall not see our faery king!" he squawked.

They took hold of my hands and got me to dance with them, but I had to stop before I went crazy like them!

"I wish to meet your king!" I said. "I bring gifts from King Erowyn."

"We would know what you do bring, before you meet the fairy king!" he said in a most sarcasticly playful voice

I took the flourite eggs from my pouch, the same ones I had left on the faery mound in Lindsaylands to be energised by the fairies there. I felt like I must lay them out as if they were the pojnts of a twelve pointed star, with 6 outer crystals forming a larger star, and 6 inner crystals insterspersed between them, forming a smaller star inside.

It was then that I realised my mistake! I had only 10 eggs!

At that moment the king appeared, an old sagelike man with white hair and a bushy beard. He wore a long, richly decorated cloak and carried a long staff in one hand.

"I bring some beryls, shiny green, fit for faery king or queen!" I said.

Had I made another mistake? These were not beryls! In any case the king looked jovial enough and greeted me warmly. I apologised to him for the missing two gems:

"My lord I do not mean thee ill, take these stoned for my goodwill!"

I promised him that I would leave these 10 stones here, and return with the other 2 as soon as I may. I found a suitable abandoned rabbit hole nearby and placed the stones deep inside, away from prying eyes.

I bid goodbye to the king and stepped off down the hill. I saw more rabbits scurrying away and started to wonder about them some more. I knelt by one of the rabbit holes and decided to take a spirit journey inside.

Deeper and deeper I went into the maze of warrens inside the hill until I reached the very centre, and there in the middle was the most enormous crystal I had ever seen, a quartz point as tall as a building! So this was the secret that the rabbits were guarding! It was almost as if the whole hill had been built in ancient times, just to hide this crystal. Truly this was a place of hidden power!

It would take me a couple of months before I could organise more flourite crystals and go to Scotland to get them energised, but I would return...


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

Saturday 1 January 2011

Baysdale - Fairies Butter Wasing

Folklore states that in Baysdale in the North York Moors there is a spring where the fairies wash their 'fairy butter'. I did some research on the internet and found out that fairy butter is a kind of fungus, it gets it's name from the fact that it seems to appear miraculously overnight on gate posts and fences and looks like a blob of butter that the fairies have been throwing at each other during the hours of darkness.

Baysdale lies in a forgotten corner of the North York Moors, it is accessible only by a farm track and it is all private land, there are no public facilities, not even a layby to park in. I realised that my presence there would arouse suspicion from the local farmers so I tried to make myself as inconspicuous as possible, parking behind a low mound on the entrance road that led down into the hidden valley.

I walked down the hill and headed for the cover of the nearest forest and soon found myself in a magical birch wood. It felt like a very high energy place, almost untouched by the outside world. I stood in a clearing in the birch forest and communed with the birch spirits there; tall, thin, sticklike beings that peeked out from behind the trees. I sent them healing with my wand but also soaked up some the magical energy of this place for myself too. The birch people thanked me and said that if I ever needed their help, all I had to do was find a birch tree!

I walked up onto the moor behind the forest and found some boggy springs seeping out of the ground there. I had no clue as to where to go but I knew that this wasn't the right place, the spring I was looking for would probably be gushing out of the rocks, not seeping out of the hillside. It would be the kind of spring that people in the past could visit and fetch water.

I continued walking around the edge of the dale until I reached the far end, and then headed back down into the dale through a conifer plantation. Soon I could hear the unmistakable sound of trickling water. I followed the sound through fallen trees and low-hanging branches and eventually found its source, bubbling forth from between some rocks.

Although it was heavily clogged with fallen leaves I instinctively knew that this was the place! The withered trees growing out of the rocks nearby and the odd birch tree still clinging on to life gave clues as to what this place must have looked like in the past before the conifer plantation grew up; and despite the darkness created by those suffocating trees looming overhead it still held some of its ancient magic.

Immediately above the spring I could see tiny caverns sheltered under overhanging boulders. I was drawn to go and inspect them closer and then sat down by one of the entrances and meditated. I took out my wand and pointed the crystal into the hole and send healing rays deep down inside.

After a while small, shy faces peeked out of the holes. They belonged to tiny creatures about 8-10 inches tall with brown skin, long pointy slanted eyes, and long pointy brown ears. They stood on two legs and wore simple rustic clothing.

I planted my wand into the ground before me and the crystal on its tip glowed. Cautiously the little 'boggles' crept out and formed a circle all around me. Then they linked hands and formed two concentric circles facing me in the centre and started to dance; one circle dancing clockwise while the other circle danced anti-clockwise. They sang:

"HEY LEE lap-ehay!"
"HEY LEE lap-ehay!"

They seemed to be performing some kind of festive ritual or celebration. I felt like it was time to reveal my true form as Aurvandil, the faery lord in glowing white. They stopped dancing and stepped forward, they seemed to want to touch me in awe, like I was some kind of living god.

I told them that they didn't need to hide anymore, their time was come, they could spread out now and meet with others of their kind. Once they'd all touched me they slowly melted away into the rocks and undergrowth from where they'd come.

I picked up my wand and wandered back down to the spring. I peered into the water and there it was, fungus! Fairy butter!

I had never seen fungus under water before, I didn't even know such a thing was possible! I picked up the fungus, it wasn't attached to anything. Had the fairies been washing their fairy butter? For what strange purpose did they perform this task? That would have to remain a mystery, but I was more than happy to find this confirmation of my quest.


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