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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ALL ABOARD THE CRAB AND WINKLE LINE:A DAY OUT IN WHITSTABLE.

Posted in art, beach, classic, England, english village, Kent, lumix lx7, nature, news, photo, photoblog, Photography, photojournalism, quaint, railway, relax, retro, road trip, rustic, steam locomotive, sunday lunch, tourism, train, travel, unusual, village, vintage, walking, walks, Whitstable, writing on July 6th, 2014 by wabisabipix

A short drive out of London, on the Kent coast,lies a gem of a town that still retains the flavour of an old English seaside resort of the kind that is much missed these days on this sceptred isle. Whitstable is a perfect family destination for those in the know,where time hasn’t moved along in a hurry and families can still enjoy that beach experience very much relegated to the halcyon days of nostalgia. An afternoon spent wandering along the sea walls, meandering among the multicoloured beach huts, breathing deeply of the sea air and exploring the old fishing village and harbour with its fresh seafood,Oysters,Cockles and Winkles.Exploring the old alleys filled with boutique shops or simply savouring the peace and quiet and recharging ones batteries here,the traveller is left with the feeling of time well spent. Originally built in 1832 by the Canterbury and Whitstable railway company, the harbour was created to serve what was called the Crab and Winkle line ,which linked Canterbury and London by a steam ship and also helped carry coal and timber as well as providing a thriving sea food industry. By 1849 the town had turned into a bit of a boom town and played its part during the war transporting munitions and grain. Sadly the town fell into a downward spiral after the Crab and Winkle line closed in 1952. As time passed,the town became more of a traveller destination,preserving much of its original character for being quiet,reserved and far enough off the beaten path to feel like a haven away from the big smoke of London. A great plan for visiting Whitstable is to start in the harbour with its seafood markets and walk up the sea front, stopping at leisure and absorbing the atmosphere along the sea walls. Children will be in their element as there is so much to do. The Old Neptune Pub,a famous landmark that has often been seen in films made in the area,would be a great place for refreshments. Why not head into the quaint town centre and its delightful boutique shops and restaurants where you cannot help but feel that there must be a reason this town attracts a lot of artists. After lunch, perhaps a stroll back up the hill visiting Whitstable Castle and dropping back down to the beach to enjoy the beautiful light of the sunset over the Isle of Sheppey while rounding off the day cooking a fish supper over a beach barbecue.

 

See more images here:http://www.surreypix.co.uk/p31361888 All images copyright Kerry Davies/All rights reserved.

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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 EAGLE HAS LANDED

Posted in Anthony Quail, britain, camera, Donald Pleasence, Donald Sutherland, drama, England, english village, falschirmjager, film location, Film set, german, hollywood, Jenny Agutter, kidnap, Larry Hagman, lumix lx7, mapledurham, michael caine, paratrooper, photoblog, Photography, quaint, Robert duvall, soldier, star trek, studley constable, The Eagle has landed, thriller, travel, Uncategorized, village, walking, winston churchill, world war 2 on October 22nd, 2013 by wabisabipix

“StarTrek to Mapledurham” read the notice board on the wall of the Medieval Church in the quaint English Village of Mapledurham  a few miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city of Reading.This yellowing old press cutting on the church wall was giving a glimpse into the glamourous past that this sleepy hamlet indeed had that few may be aware of.In fact this classic olde worlde village with its alms houses ,village church,Mapledurham House and village watermill  has had quite a blast so to speak and is quite a location in film mythology and well worth a visit.

One would be quite forgiven asking for the local pub known as the” Spyglass and kettle”, well known from its famous past, for it along with its row of shops in fact never existed, other than as part of a grand film set built in 1976 for that classic World War 2 film known as THE EAGLE HAS LANDED written by Jack Higgins.

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A fan of the book and the film I set out with a newly aquired travel camera the Lumix LX7  with a 24mm f1.4 lens to take a look at what remains today.

A classic film from the golden age of all star cinema ,THE EAGLE HAS LANDED,starred Michael Caine as the leader of a renegade German Paratrooper special forces team tasked with kidnapping Winston Churchill in a Norfolk village known as Studley Constable disguised as Polish soldiers on a training exercise.Based on the many myths that arose after the war it derives its legend from the famous military unit that rescued Mussolini from his mountain top prison after a glider assault by the newly developed Fallschirmjager paratrooper unit that blazed a trail during the war.

The all star cast included Donald Sutherland,Larry Hagman,Robert Duvall,Jenny Agutter,Donald Pleasence  and Anthony Quail among many others.

During the film the locals discover the real identity of the disguised paratroopers after one of them meets a gory end when trying to save a young child after it falls into the water near the waterwheel and culminates in a huge shootout when American Rangers led by Larry Hagman roll into town. During the firefight a Jeep ends up crashing into the river near the water wheel and a rolling firefight spreads through the town to its ultimate climax at the local church.

Mapledurham Watermill

Mapledurham Watermill

Mapledurham Watermill

Its a film full of intrigue and action and in my opinion one of the best from the 70’s.

Today the village has returned to its quaint former self and you are more likely to have a pleasant cream tea at the nearby  Mapledurham House than dodge bullets and hand grenades.

Mapledurham watermill

Mapledurham Church

Mapledurham Church

Mapledurham Church

Mapledurham Church

The Church notice board

The Church noticeboardThe” Spyglass and Kettle” was in a position just in front of the church along with a row of shops in the position of the car park opposite the church.A false front was built on the front of the water mill and in fact blown up during the filming.

Mapledurham House

All in it makes a great afternoon out especially if you watch the film first and let your imagination run wild.

I’m still trying to find the secret passage way in the church.

There are film stills here as well:http://www.reelstreets.com/index.php?option=com_films&task=view&id=270&film_ref=eagle_has_landed&limitstart=10

enjoy.

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