In a pretty churchyard in Woodplumpton, a village not far from Preston in Lancashire, is a mysterious old grave with many dark tales attached to it. A large boulder – terribly out of place among smart Victorian and Edwardian headstones – is said to cover the grave of a witch.
Oak trees loom large in English history. From the sacred oak groves of pre-Roman Britons and the oak wands used by Druids to the oak tree that sheltered the future King Charles II as he escaped from the forces of Oliver Cromwell and the countless oaks used to construct England’s proud navies and merchant ships, this tree – perhaps more than any other – is seen as the national tree of England. Many individual oaks up and down the country are revered and protected for their age, their size and shape or the stories attached to them. The oak we’re looking at today is famous not just for its huge size and distinctive shape, but also for its link to that most famous of English legends, Robin Hood.
I first came across the ruined chapel whilst on a wildlife trek – we had stopped near the little town of Salen to watch harbour porpoises in the Sound of Mull. Intrigued as I was by the ruined chapel and its surrounding burial ground, there wasn’t time to stop and explore and I had to return a few days later to get a good look around the site. My stay on the beautiful Scottish island of Mull had been blessed with warm sunshine, but on the final day of my trip – when I finally had time to visit the chapel and the burial ground surrounding it – the clouds had arrived.
This is Pennygown burial ground, and it is still used by the people of the Mull today.
Winchester, England’s ancient capital, is home to a great many fascinating old buildings. The area was originally settled in the Iron Age, then became the Roman town of Venta Belgarum and there has been a cathedral in the city since the 7th Century. King Alfred the Great was buried at Winchester and his links with the city are commemorated by an imposing Victorian statue of him in the city centre. Visitors to the city flock to the grand Gothic cathedral and its beautiful cathedral close , the medieval almshouses of St Cross and Winchester Castle’s Great Hall, which is the subject of today’s blog post.
Barnes Old Cemetery is elusive. There’s not much information about it to be found online, and it hides amongst the trees close to the tennis courts on Rocks Lane – most people using the courts or passing in the car or on the bus probably have no idea that it’s there.
Like many of the sites and objects detailed in this blog, it’s quite possible to walk past the London Stone and never realise that it is there. It’s easy to miss the grate pictured below, which is situated at street level on the front of a nondescript modern building on Cannon Street in the City of London.
The London Stone has a long and singularly odd history, with its origins shrouded in legends, fairytales and hearsay. Similar to the superstition surrounding the ravens of the Tower of London, a saying goes that “So long as the Stone of Brutus is safe, so will London flourish.” However, like the ravens, it is likely that this romantic myth dates from the Victorian period, although both superstitions still persist today.