Sunday, September 23

A New Forest Mystery - Wild Places and Witchcraft

A return to another part of the New Forest, currently another area of exploration for me.

I'd spotted this section to the north of Wilverly Plain earlier in the summer and have been slowly using various dog walking sorties as an excuse to wander further across the area searching out those quieter corners I appreciate so much.

An August Bank holiday circular trip of 4-5 hours had left me aware of many areas along the way that seemed to have little sign of regular human activity. Indeed on that hot sunny afternoon during one of the busiest times of the New Forest year, I had a chance to quietly observe stags and does by a forest stream, safe in their solitude far from the teeming masses. Possibly the same herd I'd spotted during an an earlier outing.

Even the extended demonstration of the infamous John Hee Bog Dance, as witnessed earlier in the year when out with Weird Darren, hadn't dampened my interest in this area's potential.

But it has a certain strangeness about it at times as this shot indicates ............

One eye (as ever) out for wildcamp possibilities I wandered off track to root around a copse, and came across an extraordinary set-up.

The mobile telephone picture doesn't really capture the strangeness of this spot. So some description may help.

Amongst a small copse of mixed woodland, with some sign of long ago coppicing, an area of cleared ground. Totally flat, always a rarity amongst heathland woodland. And surrounded by a low wall of branch and old heather, intertwined with a wall of what looked like old brown twine which totally sourrounded the area without a break. Completely preventing deer/horse entry, and also deterring my own access for a closer peek without breaking the defence wall.

In the centre a vertical branch placed in the ground. A small shelf part way on the upright with what looked like a number of tea candle lights, which on closer examination were small shaped pieces of wood. And at the base of the post a flat log, with items on it, as if an altar.

The only certainty is that the area was a deliberate human construction. I have come across a variety of bivvi shelters before whilst on my walkabouts. They're quite common across the forest area, especially nearer the visitor hot spots or scout camps. But this is not constructed for that purpose. And the only point of reference for this position was a nearby stream and small bridge.

In the past I've heard tales of Witchcraft and Wicca activity practice locally. Indeed the New Forest village of Burley, less than 5 miles away, has a thriving tourist trade in witchcraft related paraphernalia. But despite relatively recent reports of an operating coven and vague references to naked nocturnal escapades, especially around Halloween, I've no direct experiential evidence to support the thought that instantly popped into my head at the time, and one that my wife similarly voiced when I showed her this shot.


Spooky. But not a threatening feeling in this spot. Merely a strangeness (and an intriguing place for an overnight stay)

And later, sat enjoying my lunch alongside a quiet backwater, I listened to Cameron McNeish's podcast on Wild Places A reflection that a wild place is not necessarily one on a remote hilltop in Scotland. But can equally be found in a Cambridge shire fenland. Or possibly on a hidden spot amongst New Forest heathland?

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Intriguing. Yes, almost certainly a Wiccan circle & altar, probably used very recently to celebrate the autumnal equinox (see my posts on this). Wood is the normal material for an altar & the candles would be for candle magic rituals.
Sounds interesting - any good links that would let me dig a little more?
Nothing specially internet-wise you couldn't find yourself... My own popular book on the subject is THE BOOK OF WICCA by Lucy Summers -but this is a general, non-specialist gift-type book with pretty pix etc
thanks anyway SW
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