Blenheim Park - SP 436164 - Woodstock near Oxford
Fair Rosamond's Well is found in the park surrounding Blenheim Palace (birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill). The park is open from 9am - 5pm daily, though an entrance fee is charged for entrance to the park. The water still flows strongly most of the time.
The well lies on the north bank of the lake. It was once called Everswell but was renamed for Fair Rosamond, the mistress of Henry II (1154 - 1189), whom he kept in a labyrinth to protect her from the jealousy of his wife, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. According to legend, Eleanor found her way through the labyrinth and killed Rosamond whose body was discovered by Henry.
“Wychwood Forest has recently been reopened after being closed to the public for over 300 years. It is an unspoilt ancient mixed woodland which used to be properly managed, but is now neglected and derelict in parts and has been acquired by Oxfordshire Naturalists Trust for long-term management and to ensure public access. The Friends of Wychwood organise events in and about the Forest and promote education about its history and function.
There are said to be local traditions of witchcraft in and around the Forest but how old the traditions might be, and what they actually refer to, is uncertain.”
Epwell - nr Banbury
On the wall left of the altar inside the church, there is a modern statue of the Virgin, who seems to be almost dancing, cast in black metal. Ean Begg in his book The Cult of the Black Virgin, a study of statues of the Virgin Mary mostly dating to the 10th - 13th centuries in which Mary is depicted as black or as near so as makes no odds, lists this image as being a modern continuation of that archaic tradition. Whether he is correct or not, the image is certainly unusual in terms of Madonna imagery. If God never laughs, at least Mary seems to dance.
There are a number of springs and wells in the village and the surrounding area including one at least one in the churchyard and at least two more along the main road through the village. Additionally a number of villagers have natural springs in their gardens.
Although the name of the village has been connected by some pagans with Epona, in practice it derives from an Anglo-Saxon landowner or chieftain named Eoppa.
Hoar Stone Long Barrow - Map 164 - SP 378236
Situated within 30 feet of the Enstone plantation junction of the Enstone-Ditchley road, just off the B4022. Although this structure was visible in the early 1800s only six large stones remain today. The tallest stone still standing is 2.7m (9 feet), but the cap stone now lies amongst others, prostrate on the ground. The chamber itself is estimated to date from 2500 to 3500 BCE. The stones are now hard to see from the road, but if you look on the opposite quarter of the junction to the community buildings you will find them.
Long Compton - (Rollright Stones) Map 151 - SP 206308
“The Rollright Stones properly comprises three elements – the well-known stone circle often called “The King's Men” and dating from the Bronze Age; the Whispering Knights, the remains of the burial chamber of a long-vanished Neolithic long-barrow; and, across the road in a field in Warwickshire (!), The King Stone which probably dates to the late Neolithic or very early Bronze Age.
The circle itself, about 32 metres in diameter, was partially excavated in 1982 by Oxford Archaeological Unit but little was found beyond some charcoal which allowed for carbon dating of the circle to around 1800BCE. 77 limestone blocks remain from what were originally around 20 uprights, the limestone used for the stones being easily broken. Folk tales tell that at midnight, on new years day, the stones process downhill to drink from the spring. Pressing one's naked breasts against the stones was said to bring fertility (does it work for men or just women?).
Virtual 360 degree view of the circle - QuickTime required.
During the height of the Satanic Panic of the late 1980s and early 1990s, a local evangelical nutter repeatedly tried to interest the police into digging the circle up, claiming that the circle is the site of regular "satanic" sacrifices and that dozens of babies are buried in its centre. The archaeological evidence that the ground in and around the circle had not been disturbed for a very long time failed to convince him of the implausibility of his claims. That's nutters for you.
The stone circle is now owned by a pagan-friendly charitable trust. The stones have suffered a handful of attacks by vandals in recent years, including the small hut used by the stones' guardian being broken into for the money tin and other contents, a substantial chunk of one of the stones being broken off (the fresh wound is clearly visible in the photograph opposite) and the stones being extensively dribbled with yellow paint amongst other incidents.
Long Compton village was the scene in the 1880s of a sensational "witchcraft" murder of a local woman, Anne Turner, by a young mentally subnormal man who claimed that she had bewitched him. The unfortunate Mrs Turner was pinned to the
ground with a pitchfork and her throat slashed with a billhook – supposedly a traditional local means of dealing with an alleged witch. The killer was subsequently hanged. Shortly after the murder, a 10-year old local boy called Charles Walton reported seeing a Black Dog in a lane in the village. For the end of this story see the entry for Meon Hill in Warwickshire!”
White Horse of Uffington - SU 302866
Probably Britain's most famous hill figure. This horse was long believed to date from around the 1st century bce and to have been the animal totem badge of a local tribe. However it has recently been shown to be at least 1,000 years older than this and therefore dates from the late Bronze Age.
The figure is 360ft long and up to 130ft high, its shape formed by the removal of the overlying turf to expose the chalk just below the surface. There is some evidence to suggest that the horse's shape is not entirely stable and that it changes slowly over the years. This is usually explained as being partly due to soil creep on the hillside and partly to gradual changes caused by the periodic scouring of the figure. There has been some dispute as to what it actually represents - although a horse is the most popular explanation, the idea that it actually represents a dragon is not without its supporters. In any case, its shape is very similar to the depictions of horses commonly found on pre-Roman and some Romano-British coinage, as well as on some surviving bits of pre-Roman metalwork.
Up until the last century, the scouring of the horse was an important social event for local people and the folklore and practices surrounding it were the setting for Thomas Hardy's short novel The Scouring of the White Horse.
Nearby, lies Dragon Hill (Photo taken from the Horse site). Legend has it that old Saint George killed the dragon atop this hill, and where the venomous dragon's magic blood spilled no grass can grow. Saint George is probably a christianisation of a much older pagan smith god who also slew dragons.
Wayland's Smithy - SU 281854 - Ashbury
Actually two longbarrows on the same site, one overlaid on the other. The earlier one, dated to approximately 2,850bce, measured 54 ft x 27 ft and 1.8m high and was found to contain the disordered skeletons of 14 individuals. This is believed to have been something like a ridged mortuary house, largely built of earth and chalk rubble, and to have collapsed in on itself. The later one, dating from around 2,500 bce and which is the one now visible, measures 180 ft x 18m x 1.3m high; it was excavated in 1919 - 1920 and was found to have an antechamber leading to three inner chambers with a cruciform layout, ie one side chamber leading from each side of the passage and a terminal chamber at the end. Some 8 skeletons were found in the chambers.
This is a particularly well-known site and is used as a ritual site by local pagans throughout the year. It is also a popular haunt for non-local pagans in summer or at popular festivals - which is reported to piss off the local pagans who are reported to be displeased about the amount of ritual rubbish (eg candlewax) left by the outsiders.