JOURNEY INTO THE HELLFIRE CAVES

Posted in britain, Buckinghamshire, Celtic, England, film location, leylines, london, moods, mysterious, myths, pagan, photo, photoblog, Photography, quaint, secret societies, strange, supernatural, thriller, tourism, travel, unusual, village, walking, walks, writing on August 10th, 2014 by wabisabipix

Back in the 1970’s when I was a youngster I remember rushing excitedly to the local corner sweetshop to spend my pocket money on Hammer Horror movie bubblegum cards which at the time was all the rage.(http://wp.me/p1ZPuc-2Jx)

It gave a glimpse of risque movies that we were far to young to view and before the days of video and DVD, were not able to see anyhow except on the occasional late night black and white TV showings like “Dracula” and “Curse of the Werewolf”and “Quatermass and the pit”,which sent us running to the bedroom terrified.

Later as we grew up I watched with fascination as a TV series from the same film makers produced called the Hammer House of Horrors (http://www.hammerhouseofhorrortvseries.co.uk/) and looked forward to such horror instalments as “The House That Bled to Death” and”Guardian From The Abyss”.

Later in life I was lucky to meet Christopher Lee in the course of my work in Los Angeles and listened with fascination as this giant in the acting profession recalled prose from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, prior to his role in the film, during an interview in a Los Angeles hotel.

As the years passed I moved to London and rekindled my interest in filming that had taken place over the years.I became aware that many of the film locations from the classic films I had been a fan of were filmed in locations in the areas of Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and the High Wycombe area and I spent some time tracking down a few of these locations. The bulk of these films were made at Bray Studios in Bray,Berkshire, a giant in the film industry that diabolically has now fallen into decline despite the surge in British film making at nearby Shepperton and Pine Wood.Films Such as The Mummy(1959), Alien and The Rocky Horror Picture Show where also made here and it is facing its own horror story of being turned into a care home by developers.(https://www.facebook.com/savebraystudios) Incidentally the location of the Gothic Style hotel in the Rocky Horror Picture Show portrayed as Frankenfurters mansion was indeed the Oakley Court Hotel right across the road from the Bray Studios.(http://www.oakleycourtwindsor.com/) Indeed whole area around these studios supplied the film industry with hundreds of film locations for years and it is quite fascinating to find that a sleepy village where you are quietly munching your cream tea was indeed a film set for a Satanic horror movie chase or the stamping ground of one of the Mummy horrors that unwound on the silver screen. One such location was the Hellfire caverns in the village of West Wycombe,located just off the A40 road.As you approach the village you see a sinister looking Mausoleum perched on the hill overlooking the quaint English village below.The Mausoleum was in fact used as the setting for the 1976 Hammer film “To the Devil a Daughter” starring starring Christopher Lee, Nastaasja Kinski, and Richard Widmark.The nearby Hellfire cavern was probably the influence for the film”Taste the Blood Of Dracula”. West Wycombe and the Hellfire Caverns indeed are one of those places where reality indeed is stranger than fiction. West Wycombe Park, Caves,Mausoleum and St Lawrence’s Church with its mysterious golden globe on the spire were all constructed in the mid-18th century by Sir Francis Dashwood, founder of the Dilettanti Society and co-founder of the notorious Hellfire Club which met at the George and Vulture Inn in London. The Hellfire Club with its club motto, Fais ce que tu voudras ,(do what thou wilt), would certainly have raised eyebrows and the attention of the tabloids,had they existed at the time.It was a secret society in the 18th Century that allegedly included Benjamin Franklin among its many high profile visitors. Dashwood and other high-powered politicians and society members,originally formed a club then known as The Knights of St Francis of Wycombe. They first used Medmenham Abbey, eight miles away from West Wycombe. Later on,the rather more discrete caves were allegedly used for nefarious orgies and black magic that included the presence of female”guests”referred to as nuns. Entering the creepy church like entrance of the caves you wander into the darkness occasionally stumbling across strange carved rock skulls and phallic symbols ,the whole place has a creepy atmosphere that is enhanced by the knowledge that a lot of strange things are alleged to have happened here over the centuries.As you pass through the caverns you enter the Banqueting Hall,the Miner’s Cave and finally, across a subterranean river aptly named the Styx you enter the final cave, the Inner Temple, where the meetings of the Hellfire Club said to have been held.This final cave is said to lie 300 feet directly beneath the church on top of West Wycombe hill. According to Greek mythology, the River Styx separated the mortal world from Hades, and the Inner Temple directly beneath St Lawrence’s Church signifies Heaven and Hell.Indeed it seems that all the landmarks here are linked in a symbolic manner known only to the secret society and one cannot help but suspect that the caves open to the public are only the tip of the iceberg and that there are many more hidden away in this enormous hillside.There are even rumours that members would pass unscrutinised into the caves as the moon rose and night fell via connecting tunnels from the village inn the George and Dragon and that the caves and the Inn are haunted by a servant girl called Suki that walks the corridors and caverns. In all a truly spooky place and a great day out.

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Jack in the Green Hastings 2014

Posted in Battle of Hastings, beach, britain, Castles, Celtic, Christians, England, europe, feature, Festival, folk, fringe, gawain and the green knight, green man festival, hastings, Jack in the Green festival Hastings, jack-in-the-green, legends, may, mayday, medieval, myths, nature, news, Nikon, pagan, photo, photoblog, Photography, photojournalism, quaint, relax, retro, road trip, saxons, tourism, travel, Uncategorized, unusual, vintage, Wales, walking, walks, writing on May 6th, 2014 by wabisabipix

As the clock ticked over and the Sun rose over Great Britain on May 5th 2014, blowing away the cobwebs of winter, I revisited the Jack in the Green Festival on the south coast of England most famous for being the gateway for the Norman invasion in 1066.

It was a fantastic warm spring day of Morris Dancers and mayhem and quite a sight for the senses.It was held in a field next to Hastings castle and overlooked the splendid sight of the main town in all its glory.At its centre was a stage where performances of various kinds ranging from Morris dancing to belly dancing entertained the masses that descended upon the seaside town.

It starts with a procession around the town and culminates with the symbolic slaying of the Jack of the Green which symbolically frees the spirit and welcomes the transition of the Winter into the Summer.The tradition has many roots and I have another article on the subject earlier in this blog.

Needless to say,this festival never disappoints and is one of the best Green Man festivals in the UK and well worth a visit.

Here are a few shots shot on a Nikon D700 with a 17-35mm f2.8.

More Images can be viewed from previous years at www.surreypix.co.uk.KD_Green_Man_2014_Copyright_Kerry_Davies_45ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Images Copyright Kerry davies/No unauthorised usage .

 

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Sardines and the legend of Lefi Ganderson the Goat boy

Posted in britain, Celtic, England, english village, Festival, folk, legends, london, lumix lx7, may, mayday, medieval, myths, nature, pagan, photo, photoblog, Photography, quaint, relax, Relics, surrey, tourism, travel, Uncategorized, village, vintage, walking, walks, writing on May 4th, 2014 by wabisabipix

You never know what you will discover during a stroll in the West London area of Kingston,Surbiton and Richmond on May 4th. Today was one of such day. In the quiet town of Surbiton,a popular residential area for commuters working in central London, I was drawn to a large gathering of people in a small quiet park called Claremont Gardens.It transpired that it was the manifestation of the Seething Wells Sardine festival.It’s the second year for this event that celebrates the rich history of freshwater sardine fishing in Surbiton. A chance to remember when Seething was famous for its freshwater sardine fishing industry and held its annual festival to celebrate the first catch of the season.There was much merriment and dancing and live folk bands played at the event,a great gathering of the community.The smell of fresh Sardines filled the air and there were various amusements for the youngsters including face painting and magnetic fish catching,even a large number of fairy wing wearing adults.After several great musical performances the day culminated in the crowning of two members of the community who were designated as this years Seething Wells King and Queen of hats.To much applause last years King and Queen swapped hats with this years chosen nominees.Many of the local community was present and also there were banners representing the various ancient guilds in the area such as the ancient Guilds of Seething-The Cheesemakers, The Talcum Miners, The Taxonomists, The Water- Bearers, The Sardine Fishers and The Curriers and I spotted a Cyclists Guild too.Flying on flags were images of a horned rather legendary looking character who also had a prominent statue at the front of the stage. This was a character which I was not previously familiar with but research revealed to me the surprising legend of Lefi Ganderson the Goat Boy,a local half man,half goat character who had a rather cataclysmic clash with a legendary giant.A tale that probably never pops up on the radar of average Londoner but which just goes to show what interesting legends,many ancient,that lie below the surface of even the most quiet,unassuming of places along the banks of the ancient River Thames.They say that if your tired of London,your tired of life and this is an example that there is clearly always stones that remain unturned revealing interesting legends along the way.A thoroughly enjoyable afternoon in the spring sunshine. Picture Copyright  Kerry Davies The Seething Wells Sardine Festival.Lefi Ganderson The Goat Boy
Picture Copyright  Kerry Davies The Seething Wells Sardine Festival.

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The new King and Queen of hats. Image   Fresh Sardines served to order. Image   For more on the legend of Lefi Ganderson see this excellent portrayal of the tale here:

 

Pictures Copyright Kerry Davies

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THE GREEN MAN FESTIVAL

Posted in British Museum, Celtic, Christians, England, europe, Festival, folk, gawain and the green knight, green man festival, hastings, jack-in-the-green, king arthur, legends, medieval, moods, nature, pagan, photo, Photography, relax, Relics, renactment, saxons, travel, walks, william the conqueror, writing on June 19th, 2010 by wabisabipix

A pint of the local cider please I asked the man with green face paint behind the bar, the drum beat upon the castle hill in Hastings increased steadily to an all encompassing crescendo,something  rather sinister seemed imminent but clearly only the locals seemed to be in on the secret.My drink arrived,the third today of  this local beverage and the man bearing a vague resemblance to a tomato plant and something from childhood memories involving the Dr Who tv series and a half plant cactus man, leaned forward with my change wishing me a “happy Jack in the green day!” Turning around and heading back into the crowd I was confronted by another man in bizarre plant like leafery with the words RADIATOR emblazoned across his chest who stepped forward brandishing a green dripping sponge,”are you with us?” “errrr yes of course!” I muttered smiling inanely,oh good he said splattering my nose with green dye,oh well at least  I  looked like every one else now. I was a stranger in a strange land and yet I lived here.Rumour spread quickly,the drum beat increased constantly and a kind of concentrated frenzy and sense of purpose started to overcome the crowds ,it was time to kill Jack soon and quite who this Jack was remained quite a mystery.I was starting to feel like Edward Woodward in The Wickerman and glanced around to see if there were any looming wooden effigy figures in the immediate proximity of a few cans of petrol !!!

Soon however all was revealed as a green effigy bearing a face of a plant like mans face was transported into the center of the crowd and ceremonially executed in a flurry of sticks and leaves to the roar and cheers of the crowd.The frenzy dissipated and was replaced by merriment and an air of happiness.Everybody was good natured and headed back to town to enjoy the rest of the day, green noses held prominent and shown off proudly ,that was it for another year ,the spring had been welcomed,the ritual complete,bring on the summer.

What we had just witnessed was the culmination of several days of merriment and celebration that has become a yearly event lasting from April 30th to the 3rd of May in Hastings on the southern coast of England ,a small fishing town most famous for its famous history changing battle in 1066.

It is a ritual with largely pagan roots that predate christianity and is centered around the nature spirits and the “old ways” of  ancient Britain that still surge alive and well below the tapestry of  everyday British life occasionally surfacing on days such as this and in the rituals and dances of the May Pole and Morris Dancing .A tradition frequently seen as the leafy face adorning  sboards hanging over green man pubs it is an ancient way of welcoming the summer and spring time.Indeed  the Green man legend has also been linked to other myths including the Arthurian tale of Gawain and the Green Knight and even Robin Hood.The Christian church despite trying to stamp out paganism eventually adopted the legend into its dogma and the green mans face  is frequently seen adorning church buildings.The Arthurian writings in particular Gawain and the Green Knight appear full of symbolism and seem to portray a faith battle between Gawain (symbolic of Christian values) and the Green Knight(The old Pagan Ways).

The current manifestation of the jack-in-the-green festival in Hastings is largely based on a tradition from the 1830s which was snuffed out at the start of the 20th century and then revived again in 1979 by a Morris Dancers group.It is a very entertaining weekend of Morris Dancers and other performance groups from all over Europe and is very much a family event.

The Jack in the Green character,the manifestation of the spirits of the forest,leads a procession from the fishermans museum area of the old town and up to the castle perched overlooking the area.

Jack is accompanied by green clad locals known as Bogies that symbolise the incarnation of spirits along with a following of giants and appointed radiators who accompany the group splodging passers by on the nose with green dye to bring them into the fold.Its all very light humoured and a great day out.

At the culmination of the ceremony Jack is slain and the sticks that form the effigy are thrown into the crowds to be kept as a ward against spirits until the next winter solstice.

Below are some of the many spectacles from the day.They were photographed on a Nikon D700 with a 17-35mm f2.8 and a 70-200mm f2.8.

Pictures :Copyright Kerry Davies Strictly no Reproduction allowed.

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Avebury Ramblings.

Posted in Archaeology, Artifact, avebury, British Museum, Castles, Celtic, Christians, Churches, crop circles, leylines, medieval, Monument, Moors, pagan, photo, Photography, Relics, road trip, saxons, Stone Circle, stonehenge, sunday lunch, Treasure, ufo, Uncategorized, walks, wiltshire, writing on March 24th, 2010 by wabisabipix

A fantastic day out that stretches the legs and refreshes the spirits while clearing the head and providing plenty of time for inspiration and contemplation, why not try a springtime trip to the ancient town of Avebury in Wiltshire situated in the heart of the British countryside.With the wonderful rolling ‘big sky’ Wiltshire downs creating a stunning panorama and  the enigmatic Avebury Stone Circle and Silbury Hill ancient monument at its core. The area provides a superb escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and of course the chance to enjoy a well earned sunday lunch and perhaps drink a pint of cider while admiring the sunset raking across the ancient stones.You can enjoy the infinite silence of the ages past and trying to figure out  Why!!!!  did these ancient ancestors of ours go to such an unbelievable effort to arrange this apparent giant  game of  enormous stone Dominoes for our appreciation and contemplation.

We took a sunday afternoon trip through this well trodden path through an ancient land just as the buds  of springtime were starting to emerge and it was quite frankly delightful.

Our 7 mile ramble made use of the Explorer 157 map of the area and for added fun and accuracy I took a  Garmin etrex Legend GPS  with pre programmed grid references and my trusty Swiss Army knife Camera a 13.5 mega pixel Nikon P6000 compact.

After parking in the local car park on the A4361 we began our stroll by crossing the main road and heading along an aptly named White Horse Trail along the infant River Kennet just across from the stunning Silbury hill monument.You can but wonder who, if anyone, was buried in there.Excavations have so far failed to shed any light on the mystery.My imagination suggests to me that this platform could have been an epic position where very important ritual cremations or ceremonies could have taken place.The location could have drawn large gatherings of onlookers where the surrounding slopes would have given a grandstand view of the blazing spectacle or oration that would have been visible for miles.

A short walk further the trail met the A4 again which we crossed to a small gate on the opposite side affording great views of Silbury hill behind us.

At the sign post we took an uphill walk to the West Kennett long barrow ,the most complete example of an ancient burial tomb in Britain that you can actually go inside and have a look around.The stones outside probably blocked the entry way originally.

Retreating back down the rolling slopes we the headed eastbound along the path of the river Kennett and past Avebury manor before strolling through some spring snow drop covered pathways and following the designated White Horse trail.Along the way we stumbled across a random brown horse with a friendly attitude.

Heading left up a main road and then across the river Kennett bridge we then head  towards some ancient barrows on the top of  the slope before crossing the A4 and joining the Roman road known as The Ridgeway.

Looking back behind you can see the landscape dotted with ancient burial mounds.

Heading uphill on a steady incline on our left the sun raked across the ancient Roman Ridgeway trade route backlighting more eerie looking burial mounds known as The Enclosure, marked out by sinister deep black trees on our left that overlook the Silbury Hill,its peak oddly still visible at the pinacle of the slope between the barrows  in an almost intended fashion.

A little further up the Ridgeway our journeys leads us left at a sign pointing us back in the direction of Avebury village towards Manor Farm and across some breathtaking  sunlit downs landscape along  another ancient pathway trail.

Turning left at Manor Farm we follow the road into Avebury village famished and in need of lunch before exploring the amazing stone circle that surrounds the village.At the center of the village is the Red Lion pub where refreshment and meals are served.We tried out some delicious pear cider along with a tasty sunday lunch.

After lunch and in serious need of either a wheel barrow or a good stroll at least, we crossed the road to see the sunset catch the monuments on fire with light,a photographers dream and a moment of enlightenment that  leaves you feeling like you are observing the mechanism of some ancient clock as its mechanism whirs into life.

TICK! TOCK! STARDUST.

copyright Kerry Davies.Re-Use forbidden.

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