The Landwights


Somerset is awash with mystical, historical & just plain weird places, with Myths & legends, spirits & inexplicable traditions: the ghosts of the Battle of Sedgemoor & of Shepton gaol, the witch of Wookey Hole, castles aplenty, phantom horsemen & the stone circles of Stanton Drew.

All are worthy of their own guardian spirits - indeed, they probably already have them - but for my project I chose three others. For these sites I embroidered a section of the Ordnance Survey map & wrapped it, scroll-like, around a vintage spool topped with an animal-headed figure. The relevance of each creature will become clear...


The Marquess's Goat

Cheddar Gorge is a 450' deep slash through the limestone of the Mendip Hills, & home to dormice, slowworms, blue butterflies, Soay sheep & the Marquess of Bath's goats.

Human remains found in one of the caves are the oldest in Britain, dating from the 9th millenium BCE.

Bones of other people more recently analysed show clear evidence of stone tools being used to butcher the bodies in exactly the same manner as prey animals.  Whether ritual or crisis cannibalism may never be known, but what is certain is that Cheddar Gorge was once home to generations of cannibals.


The contour map shows the landscape from the Gorge to Velvet Bottom.


The Swan of Avalon


The River Brue rises on the eastern border of Somerset & flows for 30 miles west to the Bristol Channel.  Much of its course crosses the Levels where it has for millenia contributed to the ancient reed-swamps, a landscape inhabited since Neolithic times - the world's oldest surviving timber trackway was built here in the 3800s BCE.

In the 13th century, monks from Glastonbury Abbey re-routed parts of the river to allow better access to their out-lying estates - the beginning of a drainage scheme continued by the Dutch in the 17th century, & still functioning today.

Before this, however, the River Brue formed a lake at the foot of Glastonbury Tor, & legend has it that this was home to the Lady of the Lake, source & final resting place of the sword Excalibur when Sir Bedevere flung it from Pomparler Bridge upon the death of King Arthur.

The map traces the course of the Brue & tributaries across Somerset.



The Bullbeggar of Creech Hill


Creech Hill lies but a stone's throw from my home village of Evercreech (enjoyably spelled Evrecryz in the Domesday Book of 1086)

Atop the hill lies an Iron Age fort alongside a Romano-Celtic temple & a medieval cemetery - quite the busy spot.

Perhaps it is the latter feature which is the source of the legendary bullbeggar: excavations in the 1880s disturbed two burial sites & thereafter the area has been haunted by a rather terrifying boggart.  In one encounter, a farmer heading home after dark saw a body lying across the path - but as he approached, it leapt up, grew to an enormous height & chased him all the way home.  Many others have told of an uncanny black shape, mysterious footsteps, & wild laughter echoing around the hill even to this day.

The contour map shows a section of the Mendips including Creech Hill.