Willy howe

Of golden cups and fairy hills........ the legend of Willy Howe.

I like it at Willy Howe. It's a lovely place to visit on a sunny summers day. And it has some lovely stories attatched to it too.
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willy howe in winter

First things first.......Willy Howe is a prehistoric barrow on the wolds about 10 miles south of Scarborough in north yorkshire, uk. Its not an enormous hill but it is quite prominent on the flat countryside around, and is a local landmark. It is what is known as a 'round barrow', and classed by the rather unimaginative officialdom of archaeology as a 'burial mound', although 'burial mounds' served as much more than places to bury the dead, being neolithic and bronze age temples where worship and rites took place. (Westminster abbey has burials inside it but it obviously wasn't built as a tomb. Besides which Willy howe apparently had no burials until long after it was built ).
Anyway, It's one of a group known as the 'Great Yorkshire Barrows', and as i said has some very nice legends attached.
The following 2 stories are taken from 'the modern antiquarian'.........
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"A countryman went to call on a friend staying in the next village. Late at night he started the return journey and he was rather drunk. Well, suddenly from a nearby mound (I have seen it often; it is about 1/4 m from the village) he heard the voices of people singing, like the members of a Festal banquet. Wondering who would break the silence of the dark night with ceremonial rejoicings in that place, he decided to investigate more closely into this mystery, and, seeing an open door in the side of the mound, he drew near and looked inside; he saw a spacious building, well lit, filled with people reclining at tables, as many men as women, apparently there for a ceremonial meal. Now one of the attendants seeing him standing at the entrance offered him a cup. Taking it, he deliberately refrained from drinking, but threw out the contents, kept the cup, and went off with it at top speed. Uproar broke out at the banquet over this theft of the goblet, and when the guests pursued him, it was through the speed of his beast that he escaped and took refuge in the village with his remarkable booty. In the end this goblet of unknown material, unusual colour, and unfamiliar shape, was bestowed on Henry the Elder, King of the English, and after him it was delivered over to the Queen's brother David of course King of the Scots. It was kept many years in the Treasury of Scotland, and some years ago (as I hear from a reliable source) was transferred to Henry II by William King of the Scots."
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one of the fairies who lived in Willy Howe had rather a crush on a local man. She wanted to help him, so she told him that if he came to the top of the Howe early every morning he would find a guinea waiting for him. However, he must never tell anyone where he got his money from. For some time he did exactly as she said, and as his money grew he was able to live comfortably (and finally maybe a bit too comfortably). His friends were surprised and suspicious at his new found wealth, and couldn't understand why he was so secretive about its source. Eventually one night the man could keep his secret no longer and told one of his friends. In the morning he took his friend to the hill to show him the guinea that would be there. Of course there was no money at all. He 'met with a severe punishment' and was beaten up by invisible fists. For ever after that he found he had lost his luck.
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A few miles south is Rudston Monolith. It's the tallest standing stone in Britain, and the church in whose cemetery it stands will tell you that the stone got here because it was thrown by the devil to destroy the church, but the devil missed, and there it is. This obviously conveniently tells people that the church was here first, another one of their lies, as the stone was erected around 3600 years ago.


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The early christians built their churches on sites already regarded as sacred to 'take over' the sites as places of worship. Rudston is an obvious example of this. There is another smaller standing stone in the churchyard which is usually over-looked by the casual visitor.
The whole area around Rudston is dotted with ancient remains, all of which have their stories..............(to be continued).
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Earth mysteries

of hags, worms, hollow hills, and meteorites.....................
Forge Valley is a beautiful wooded valley about 5 miles west of Scarborough, famous for its wild garlic in spring, and other wild flowers and ancient woodland, and the lovely River Derwent which flows right through the valley. Tourists flock here in summer and local people come here all year round to walk their dogs etc.
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Forge Valley(my photos)
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Old postcard.


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Forge Valley,by John Atkinson Grimshaw

Here are 2 stories......i dont try to explain them, just tell them as they happened.
Story no. 1.......
Two friends were travelling home to Scarborough by bus one evening just before christmas. It was about 6 p.m. and already quite dark. 5 miles outside Scarborough one of the 2 friends felt very travel sick so they decided to stop the bus and walk the rest of the way home. They decided to walk through forge valley, along the quiet country lane that winds along next to the river for a mile or so and then turns and skirts the woodland for a few miles before reaching the outskirts of Scarborough. By the time they had got to river it was completely dark, and almost impossible to see, but too late to turn back.
After about 10 minutes walking along the road down into the valley they saw a faint glow ahead. As they approached they noticed the glow was coming from the middle of the road up ahead, and as they got closer they saw the glow was surrounding a man, sitting on some kind of stool or chair, holding a fishing rod. They assumed it was someone fishing at night, with a lantern, even though to be sat in the middle of the road seemed quite dangerous, even on a quiet country road. And pointless, as the river just there was about 20 yards away. Anyway, as the 2 approached, they got to about 10 yards from the man when he simply vanished, and the glowing light disappeaed.
Feeling rather spooked to say the least, the 2 friends continued towards home, but about 20 / 30 minutes later, and one or two miles further on, they saw the same strange glow ahead. This time they approached much more carefully and as they neared they realized the glow was actually just off the road to their right, in a small clearing about 5 yards from the road. What they saw was the glowing figure of a man walking away from the road, but what really spooked them was that it was actually only half a man. It was a figure with the top half of his body moving at ground level, and no legs.
Needless to say they ran, and didnt stop running until they could run no further, and then continued home as fast as they could.
Now this may sound like something from Scoobydoo, but for those two people it was anything but funny at the time.
Was the man fishing where the line of the river had been at some time in the past ? Was the other figure walking at what used to be ground level ?

Story no. 2. (my favourite)
Four friends were travelling through forge valley late one night in a van. As they approached a corner the two friends in the front of the van both cried out together. They both told exactly the same story.......Directly in the beam from the headlights they had seen a small man about 2 feet high with curly brown hair, climbing up the grass bank at the side of the road. their descriptions matched each other perfectly. they were obviously both very surprised and certainly not lying about what they had seen. I was one of the people in the back.
This incident took place at exactly the spot where the 'half man' was seen in the story above.


The Old mans mouth.
just near the northern end of Forge Valley you can find the Old Man's Mouth, a beautiful spring where the water flows out of a carved opening into a pool below
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Old Man's Mouth (photo by Romany Soup)


I have no idea how old this is, but it looks fairly ancient. Between here and the river, amongst the trees, you can just find the remains of some old buildings among the trees. I was told this was the site of the old forge from which the valleys name originates. This makes sense as its very close to the crossroads where the road turns off to scarborough in the east and hackness to the north.
Forges were in ancient times traditionally located at crossroads, outside villages, as the smithy was regarded as an otheworldly place, where the smith worked his magic.
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Hagworm Hill.
On the eastern side of forge valley is Irton Moor.
Irton Moor is covered in ancient remains and has many local legends attatched to it. The most prominent part of the moor is the beacon hill, which can be seen from miles around in almost any direction. Hagworm Hill is its name, although the maps now mistakenly show a small barrow next to the beacon as Hagworm hill.
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Hagworm Hill (my photo)

Local children often call this 'the witches hill'.
Various signs of veneration can often still be found on Hagworm hill. A clay figure of a Mother Goddess, obviously made fairly recently, and coloured rags tied in the thorn tree on the summit of the hill. Painted egg shells, and a small stick carved with runes. All these and others have been noticed left on the hill by people who still regard this as a sacred place.


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Standing stone near Hagworm Hill (my photo)
I was also told by a local man that as a child he and his friends believed it was a flying saucer that had crashed many years before and become grown over with trees, and that the aliens still lived inside, though his parents told him this was not true, as it was fairies that lived inside the hill. Each generation has it's own little green men.
 Excavations have shown this hill to be a man-made structure, though they were only exploratory and didnt go very deep. It is most likely a large neolithic barrow, a sacred temple of the stone age people, so somewhere under the trees and soil there probably IS a doorway.


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More recently (victorian ? ) there was a round tower built on the summit called Baron Alberts Tower, which is now completely collapsed, but some signs of it can still be seen.
There are many other neolithic and bronze age remains on Irton Moor. There is also the Irton Moor government spy headqarters, an ugly mass of buildings and microwave towers etc, which spoil the view on a nice day, and add an air of menace on a foggy day.
Tom Graves in his book 'needles of stone' speculated many years ago about the frequent proximety of government installations to ancient sacred sites.
In the late 1960's what looked to observers like quite a large meteor(ite) landed here and started a fire among the trees. It was seen one night as a large ball of fire arcing across the sky and bursting into flames when it hit the ground amongst the nearby trees.


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Beech trees in Forge Valley (photo by Romany Soup)



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Amanita muscaria in forge valley (my photo)

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Tree Roots. Forge Valley (my photo)Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Cryptozoology and standing stones

................of bogles, bears, and cat troughs.

  The North York Moors is a huge area in the north east of england and one of the least populated areas in the country. It stretches from just north of Scarborough on the Yorkshire coast, inland about 40 miles to sutton bank and north approx 35 miles to Cleveland. Altogether that's about 1300 square miles, believe it or not.
  On a very lonely part of the moors, between Ravenscar and Robin Hoods Bay, is an area called Brow Moor / Fylingdales Moor. It can seem a very desolate place when it's covered in fog or mist but it has a definate atmosphere of mystery and a wonderful sense of the otherworld.
  "It was a country of rolling moors, lonely and dun coloured........in every direction upon these moors there were traces of some vanished race which had passed utterly away, and left as it's record strange monuments of stone".............'the adventure of the devils foot'.....(from 'Reminiscences of Sherlock Holmes', by Arthur ConanDoyle) .
   The events in 'The adventure of the devils foot' takes place in Cornwall, but the description would apply equally well to the North York Moors. Antiquities from many periods of the distant past abound here if you know where to look and the myths and stories from times long ago are plentiful and fascinating.
In one of the small wooded valleys which runs down to the sea nearby there's a place called Bogle Hole. A bogle is a kind of goblin from Northern England. Mischievous but not usually malevolent.
Here's a story told by two people i know very well about the bogle.
A few years ago they (a young lady and a young man) had set out to walk along the old disused railway line which runs along the coast from Scarborough to Whitby, and which passes along the edge of the moors and through Bogle Hole. The two friends intended to camp along the way and in the early evening ended up near a disused and deserted old quarry, which was now full of trees and which looked like a nice place to camp. On entering the quarry they were both filled with a strong feeling of disquiet, which as they went further in amongst the trees became a feeling of definate unease, to say the least. They felt they were definately not wanted there, so they quickly left and set off to find somewhere else to sleep. a couple of miles further on, as it was getting dark, they came to another nice wooded spot just below the moors (and, as it turned out, just south of Bogle Hole). So they put up their tent under some trees and about midnight, after sitting under the stars for a couple of hours, they decided to go to sleep. In the tent it was obviously very dark, and about 20 minutes after settling down one of the friends (the lady) woke the other in an agitated state. She said she had sat up intending to go outside for a minute, as you do, and sat in the tent was a small man like creature about 18 inches high, with a bald head and pointy ears, staring at her with a grin on his face. This may sound quite funny now but in the darkness, in the dead of night, on a lonely moor, it is not humourous in any way. Anyway, the little man vanished and wasn't seen again that night. The young man accompanied the young woman outside while she did what she needed to do and eventually they both went to sleep. In the morning, when they both went back outside in the dawn light, they noticed that about 5 feet from the side of the tent was a hole about 2 feet square and of indeterminate depth, but obviously very deep, covered with an old rotten piece of wood, which they had not noticed on the previous evening but which could have proved very nasty had they fallen into it. The couple were not particularly familiar with the area at that time and had no idea they were anywhere near the area known as Bogle Hole.
Anyway, here's a picture of a bogle, (from 'Fairies'... by Alan Lee and Brian Froud).
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Now, as it happens, another story was told to me by a man who worked in the area at the time doing archaeological work. It happened very close to the same spot, or within a half a mile or so at the most, a couple of years later. He was sitting in his van on the old disused railway line drinking a flask of tea, as a heavy fog had come down and a light drizzle was make life thoroughly miserable for him, when in the fog, about 20 yards ahead, he saw a moving shape, which appeared to be about 15 feet high and quite broad, slightly stooped, which the man described as looking somehing like a gigantic bear, or that was the nearest comparable shape that came to mind. He said it lumbered across his line of sight at a distance of about 20 yards, just a shape in the fog, from left to right down the hill in front of him. There was no sound, and the shape disappeared from sight and was not seen again. He left the place immediately, but again, he was at some point between the quarry and the woods of Bogle Hole. Neither he nor i offer any explanation, but if you visited the area mentioned, on a foggy day, you would understand something of the atmosphere the place can sometimes have.


 Among the many ancient remains on these moors are many carved stones which are currently believed to be around 5000 to 6000 years old. They are known by various names, such as as cup and ring stones, rock art, but my favourite local name is 'cat troughs'. Many theories have been suggested over the years as to the meaning / use of the carvings, from star maps, symbols of religious or magical significance etc. As usual the officially accepted 'expert' opinons are the most unimaginative (and least likely, in my view) such as maps showing the easiest route across the moor, avoiding bogs etc. The various symbols carved repeatedly, here and in other areas across britain, have been shown by various researchers to be similar (identical ?) to symbols known as entoptic images, seen in visions and trance states or when under the influence of hallucinogens / hallucinogenic plants (which are not hard to find in these areas, even today). It must also be remembered that this area was thought to be covered in forest at the time these rocks were carved.
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The moors are also scattered with ancient standing stones and stone circles dating from the neolithic era, around 5000 to 6000 years ago. Ancient ritual places of the people who lived here then.
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Standing stones Rigg (my photos). standing stones rigg 'druids circle'

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Ramsdale stone circle

Others are known to have been destroyed over the years, some relatively recently.
But things get found too.......
In the summer of 2003 a huge wildfire burned across the moors for days.
Terrible damage was caused to the animal and plantlife and a huge area was left with little but blackened ash. Many discoveries were made where the heather and peat, which had previously covered the moor, were burned away. One of the most inteesting was what is now called the 'Fylingdales stone' and it's companions, part of a circle including other carved decorative stones which is believed to be part of a ritual centre and obviously just one more part of the wider sacred ritual landscape of these moors...........

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Finally, another topic of interest relating to this area is the number of sightings of big cats (A,B,C's....or 'alien big cats'). The following exaples are all people personally known to me. There are many more.
(It should be noted here for anyone reading this from outside the u.k that there are no native big cats in the uk. the Scottish wild cat is the only one and is just like a large tabby cat, not even the size of a fox).
  A friend (the same one in the bogle incident above, only more recently) was walking at Ravenscar at about 8 a.m. one june morning in 1990 and saw a very large black cat, (about the size of an alsation dog) cross the path in front of him and disappear into the woods.
  Two friends with their 14 year old son saw a large black cat (again about Alsation dog size) in a field about 1 mile south of Ravenscar in october 2003.
  Two friends and their 11 year old were walking their dog in the forest about 3 miles west of Ravenscar in 2002. Their son went into the trees briefly to empty his bladder and came out very distressed because a large black cat had walked towards him through the undergrowth.
  But the most interesting tale is told by two friends who were walking home late one night on the outskirts of Scarborough, coincidentally on the same road which reaches Ravenscar 11 miles to the north, when they saw 2 animals which they at first thought were dogs, wandering around in some trees, on the edge of the main road (the A 171 to whitby). When the 2 animals became aware of the couple they casually ambled across the main road and jumped up on to a garden wall, which was about 4 feet high. The animals were not dogs, or foxes (they were in any case much too big to be foxes), but looked tawny colured in the light of the street lamps. Being a main road this was very well lit. They walked like cats, their long tails hung curled like the typical big cat tail, and when they jumped onto the wall and sat looking across the road they moved just like cats. Without doubt they were very large cats ! casually playing together and totally unafraid.
A village on the same main road, Cloughton, about halfway between Scarborough and Ravenscar, was noted by researchers as being a national hot spot for big cat sightings, and as i said, these stories are just the ones told by people i know personally.


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druids, eccentrics, and standing stones


..........of druids, follies, and hermits.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic  If youre travelling through Yorkshire and you happen to find yourself near the small town of Ripon, head to the north west and the winding lanes should take you gradually up into the hills somewhere near Leighton reservoir, nestled amongst the moors and forests of the yorkshire dales. If you have a good map, (or meet a local who will actually talk to you) you should be able to find your way to the druids temple.

   The druids temple is the best example of a Georgian folly ive ever seen. Wealthy land owners in the 1700's and 1800's had a bit of an obsession for building follies and many of them had a keen interest in antiquities too, which resulted in some fantastic creations, but none so interesting and atmospheric as this lovely place. Ive always had a keen interest in prehistory and megaliths in particular, but knowing this is a 200 year old 'fake' makes it no less fascinating, in fact it has far more atmosphere than many of the neolithic sites ive visited.
What is a fake anyway ? is it 'fake' simply because its not as old as the 'originals' it's meant to emulate ? If so, were neolithic temples fake when they were new ?

   All i know about the history of the druids temple is that it was built over a period of about 50 years between the 1780's and 1830's, and the story goes that it was built by the land owner William Danby to give work to local unemployed labourers. I dont know how true this is, but he was supposedly well liked by his tenants, and opened his land up to public access. Plenty of modern landowners could learn a thing or two from him then.
There is also a story that he agreed to pay an annual fee and food for life to anyone who could live in the temple for seven years, speak to no-one, and allow his hair and beard to grow, but the longest anyone lasted was four and a half years. this itself is fairly remarkable considering how wet and cold it can be up in the hills above Masham in winter (and summer).
The temple itself is obviously inspired by Stonehenge and other ancient neolithic temples, which were often thought of as 'druidic'. There are also quite a few smaller additions such as dolmens and standing stones dotted around the area and the whole place is set in and surrounded by mature and very atmospheric conifer forest.
It's not an easy place to find and that adds to the feel of the place. The journey is part of the adventure after all.

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A depiction of Merlin the druid, by Alan Lee.


Upon the hearth the fire is red,
Beneath the roof there is a bed;
But not yet weary are our feet,
Still round the corner we may meet
A sudden tree or standing stone
That none have seen but we alone.
Still round the corner there may wait

A new road or a secret gate,
And though we pass them by today,
Tomorrow we may come this way
And take the hidden paths that run
Towards the Moon or to the Sun.
(J.R.R.Tolkien)


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earth mysteries and fairies on the north york moors

of giants, mushrooms, and mordor. 



Wandering through the hills and forest of northern England, finding Blakey Topping isn't difficult, as it rises from the surrounding landscape like it's been dropped there, which according to legend it has, or rather thrown there.
The story goes like this.......
The great giant Wade was in dispute with another giant and scooped out a handful of earth to throw at his enemy. this great scooping of earth created the nearby gorge known as the Hole of Horcum. Anyway his throw missed and the hill known as Blakey Topping is where it landed.
There is a prehistoric trackway leading from the Hole of Horcum to Blakey Topping known as the Old Wives Way, so maybe thats a clue to what the dispute was about, or maybe he was actually throwing it at his old wife. there is also an ancient holy well / sacred spring not far away called the Old Wives Well, and another ancient trackway called Wades Causeway, so clearly Wade and his wife are inseperable from the local landscape.

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  Wades Causeway is a long stretch of ancient trackway between Malton and Whitby (about 25 miles) which, like so much else, is usually credited as a 'roman' road. this is due to the sad fact that most antiquarian scholars, and indeed most modern archaeologists, could not and cannot get past the idea that nobody could possibly have built such roads BEFORE the romans invaded our land, as it was full of ignorant barbarians. That the existance of ancient temples like those at Avebury and Stonehenge and elsewhere and feats of engineering such as Silbury Hill make a lie of this idea seems to pass most of them by. Anyway, the legend says that Wade built the trackway for his wife to cross the moors to milk her cows.
Wade is reckoned to represent Woden / Odin. Also possibly Wayland the smith from Germanic and Norse mythology. Wades wife is perhaps the ancient Great Goddess.
  The whole landscape around Blakey Topping is a place which emanates an atmosphere of magic and to camp here on a late summer night and watch the stars appear and the moon rise is a wonderful experience. There are the forest covered hills to the south and east and the heather moors rising to the north and west. it's only about 10 miles across the forest to the east before the cliffs fall away into the north sea.
Just below Blakey Topping the moss and lichen covered remains of the neolithic stone circle add to the magic.
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  A note for mycologists and space travellers, the fields around the stone circle produce the biggest crop of psilocybin semilanceata i've ever seen.


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So, the kettle's on the fire and it's time to watch the moon rise.
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On a less positive note, just about a mile and a half to the north, there is the Fylingdales early warning station. Looking like nothing so much as the dark tower of Mordor, it ruins the view for miles around. An intrusion from cold war days which should be dismantled as soon as possible.
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