Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Fairies of Hackpen Hill, Wiltshire

On the way back to Northumberland, we stopped off at Avebury, somewhere I've always wanted to visit. I've not heard of any faery stories linked to Avebury itself, but nearby Hackpen Hill has had its share of mysterious happenings. Quoted from Jennier West's Albion (1985):
"In 1645, the antiquary John Aubrey got from an old man called Ambrose Browne the tale of 'a hinde goeing upon Hack-pin with corne' who was led a dance by the fairies to the village, '& so was a shepherd of Winterbourne Basset.' The shepherd reported that the ground opened and he was taken into 'strange places' underground, where music was being played on viols and lutes. The shepherd got no good of his visit to the fairy mound, for 'never any afterwards enjoy themselves'."
Interestingly, there were once two bronze age bowl barrows on the southern side of Hackpen Hill according to records on the Pastscape website, suggesting there may once have been ancient grassy mounds, like those often considered to be fairy hills by locals. Unfortunately according to the monument record, gravel workings have disturbed the site making identification difficult in the present day. The book continues with another account of fairies local to this area:
"In the seventeenth century, the fairies could also be seen on the downs near Chippenham, if we are to believe Mr Hart, who seems to have been Aubrey's schoolmaster at the grammar school at Yatton Keynel (ST 8676). According to an account thought to have been written by Aubrey, Mr Hart in 1633/4 told his pupils that, coming over the downs at twilight and happening on a fairy ring, he saw a number of fairies going round and round, and singing 'and making all maner of small odd noyses'. When they saw him they pinched him all over 'and made a sorte of quick humming noyse all the time'. 'This relation I had of him myselfe,' says Aubrey, 'a few days after he was so tormented ; but when I and my bedfellow Stump wente soon afterwards, at night time to the dances on the downes, we saw none of the elves or fairies.'"
In more recent times, Hackpen Hill has been noted as a popular location for crop circles, with intricate and mysterious circular patterns appearing over night. Some examples can be seen here and here on Lucy Pringle's Crop Circle Photography Library. Perhaps caused by galloping horses in fairy rades, trampling intricate patterns in the corn?

On a rather overcast and drizzly day we ventured up Hackpen Hill. Parking is nice and easy, with a car park on top of the hill itself, something my tired feet were very thankful for after all that walking in the New Forest! The exact location of the fairies in the stories above are unknown, and Hackpen Hill itself covers quite some distance, but the place that immediately stood out to me was the small wooded area at the top, so that's where I headed. It's strange that such a small wooded area remains when the rest of the hill has been put to crop, but it's a beautiful fae place indeed, with mossy green tree trunks and a beautiful circle of daffodils, perhaps left there by the fairies to mark the entrance to their fairy hill....

Sources & Further Information Albion, Jennifer West Pastscape Monument Record, Hackpen Hill The Modern Antiquarian, Hackpen Hill Lucy Pringle's Crop Circle Photography Library (Please bear with me, having problems getting the html to work for my links list!)

1 comment:

elfmother said...

Magic, magic, magic!!!