Saturday, July 20, 2013

Visiting East Anglia and then Avebury for the Solstice

Suffolk, Norfolk and Wiltshire
JUNE 2006
On a bit of a fortean hunt for Black Shuck, I went to visit friends visiting Bungay, where a famous event apparently occurred. Saw Rendlesham Forest and Sutton Hoo Anglo-Saxon Burial Site, Blythburgh Church, and Caister St Edmund's 'Venta Icenorum' Roman ruins. The day after I got home, we went to Avebury Stone Circle for Midsummer for the night.
jackdaw in forest
I have been to 3 counties in 6 days. First, I had a great weekend up with friends, then I came back to London, only to bus it off to Avebury stone circle for the Summer Solstice dawn.

Firstly, I got up on Friday and caught the train up to Norwich in Norfolk, and at 1pm, met up with my friends, and we had lunch in the park next to the Castle, then went into the Castle. We saw artefacts from Boudicca and the Iceni tribe of the Celts, also some Anglo-Saxon. Dave and I booked to go see the dungeon which was amazing - but really - seen one dungeon, seen them all - dark dingy, ghostly, and smells of musty air.

Norwich Castle

Outside Norwich Castle - its a strange castle - It's old with a newer façade. And mainly a museum now, with artefacts from local digs. Majority of the interior is modern with a central desk where you queue up for tours to the dungeon. The artefacts of Celts and Anglo-Saxons are plentiful. Then after the dungeon tour in which we heard about famous killers imprisoned there, we went up to the Keep, which was a lovely room.

Artefacts from East Anglian Celts - the Iceni
Celtic head

Watching an interaction of someone saving a tribe
from Romans by using a chariot
Dave in the Norwich Castle Dungeon

We walked into Norwich towards the old market, after meeting Dave's mother. This market was lovely and has been running for about 800 years. Dave and I head off to the bus stop to catch a bus to Bungay, while Sharn took everyone else home. When we arrived in Bungay, I could not believe how untouched the village was. I saw the Black Dog weather vane and then the bus stopped outside the back of St Mary's Church. We walked through the cemetery getting some great shots of the old Priory Church ruin out the rear part of the church. Dave told me where the black dog went, as he ran into the church in 1577.

'All down the church in the midst of fire,
The Hellish monster flew
And, passing onward to the choir
He many people slew...'

On Sunday August 4, 1577 in Bungay he tore through the congregation of St Mary's Church during a service. The fiery dog killed two and left another injured, shrivelled "like a drawn purse."

As the shocked townsfolk reeled from the tragedy, news came that not long before, Shuck had struck just a few miles away at Blythburgh where he had again attacked the church congregation. A man and boy were killed there and others left scorched and hysterical as the church spire crashed through the roof, breaking the font while the tower bells tumbled down.
St Mary's Churchyard
Now, Bungay and its black dog, is a favourite tale of cryptozoologists, folklorists and historians. But historical records tell of the two that died that were in the belfry (bell tower) as the church tower was struck by lightening. Nor is there mention of any black dog.

Blythburgh is about 12 miles away, so how did the Black dog appear there as well half an hour later. Shuck is quite a magical creature anyway, and can appear anywhere.

All that is left of St Mary's Priory
Front entrance of St Mary's

St Mary's, Bungay
View of the Church from the street.

There is a wide belief that the Black Dog is a spectral being, and is seen around East Anglia quite often. The East Anglian name for this spectral hound is 'Black Shuck'.

Old Shuck, Black Shuck, Shuck Dog, Shock, Old Shocks, Old Hucks - call him what you will. He's Shuck, the ghostly dog who has wandered the dark lanes and windswept coasts of East Anglia for centuries.

Thus is he often described in the literature: "He takes the form of a huge black dog, and prowls along dark lanes and lonesome field footpaths, where, although his howling makes the hearer's blood run cold, his footfalls make no sound. You may know him at once, should you see him, by his fiery eye; he has but one, and that, like the Cyclops', is in the middle of his head. But such an encounter might bring you the worst of luck: it is even said that to meet him is to be warned that your death will occur before the end of the year." (W. A. Dutt: 'Highways & Byways in East Anglia', 1901.)

Or from a more recent source: "He usually appears as a black shaggy dog of enormous size, with eyes like saucers that glow in the dark, but sometimes he is invisible, his presence only detected from the blast of his hot breath and his padding footsteps." (Jennifer Westwood: 'Albion', 1985.)
Dave and I then walked over to the Bungay Castle which is the most romantic setting I've ever seen. The ruin is covered in flowers and ivy, and when we passed by it the afternoon, the gate was shut.

Gatehouse Tower

Ivy on the wall, with summer flowers - this is
what you call 'Romanticism'

After arriving in Bungay and seeing some of the villages sites we went down the back streets to Dave's parents place.
The next day, we prepared to go down to Rendlesham Forest near Woodbridge. We drove south, towards Woodbridge, then to the east side of the forest and went for a walk down one of the tracks. Later we drove around and found the Rendlesham Forest camp and picnic site. This is what we were originally looking for. It was lunch time anyway, so we ate. We picked up the brochures we wanted too - the Forestry Commission had a leaflet called 'Rendlesham Forest UFO trail.'

In December 1980, several UFOs were seen around the USAF Woodbridge Airfield Base - a few of the personnel left the base field to follow lights they had seen in the forest.
Today, you can walk the site where the men saw the UFOs, the landing sites and whether or not it was the Orford Ness Lighthouse flashing in the distance, or stars in the sky, as some of the sceptics have said.

UFO Trail 3

UFO Trail 3
'At the clearing towards the edge of the forest the patrol were to report that they had spotted a conical object about the size of a car, floating on beams of light just 12 inches off the ground. There was a mist surrounding it and the craft appeared to be metallic with black markings on one side. They tried to approach the object - it was like walking in slow motion. Suddenly the craft rose rapidly in a flash of light and disappeared.

UFO Trail 3 again -
different angle
The next day the area was searched. Some of the trees in the clearing had broken tops and they found 3 small triangular depressions on the ground. Radiation levels were taken - they were 10 times the normal background level. This area has since been re-planted, however, the trees would not re-grow.'

UFO Trail 5
Here is a clearing where witnesses saw a UFO and also heard the sound of women screaming. Time was also cut in half, like everything was half speed. Local herds of animals were agitated on this night.

UFO Trail 5
All up, the walk was 3 miles long and took 2 hours, all in glorious sunshine. The tour was an interesting one, a very good one for the UFO buffs out there, sometimes I think it is catered for the tourists a little too much.

So that afternoon, we drove down the road from Rendlesham to Sutton, to the Anglo-Saxon burial mound, where a great boat was found in a burial, on a field near a farmhouse in 1939. It was getting late when we arrived, and the gift shop was shut, but we walked through the museum, which had some fantastic displays. In a dark room, on display, was the actual gold buckle they found in the diggings. This is one item of the burial that did not get to the British Museum.
A replica boat in the entrance near the gift shop

Entrance to the Museum

Replica grave in the museum

Replica helmet - original in British Museum

So that afternoon, we drove down the road from Rendlesham to Sutton, to the Anglo-Saxon burial mound, where a great boat was found in a burial, on a field near a farmhouse in 1939.
The Gold Buckle that did NOT go to the British Museum
After the museum, we only had perhaps 20-30 minutes to walk down to the fields where the ship burials are. So in the afternoon sun, we walked down there and saw where the diggings occurred in the 1939. It was a lovely area. Sheep were even grazing by the mounds.
A mound remains...
In the background, behind the sign is the mound where they
found the boat in the 1930's. Below are more mounds.
An image of the buckle with a
mound in the background
We left Sutton Hoo near 6pm. That night, after a cool shower, Dave and I walked the dark streets of Bungay, to see how it was at night, but also for a black dog hunt. We first went into St Mary's church.
St Mary's and the Priory at night..

St Mary's and the Priory

Thinking of Black Dogs appearing, but doubting it, due to people being all around going to and from pubs, we went onto Bungay Castle again.
It does not look like much, but this is a section
of Bungay Castle at night. As there is no
lighting, there is not much to see.
We both jumped the metal fence, I got horrible bruises doing this! But we snuck around in the dark - this being dangerous, as I have not been here during the day to see the site. We relied on lights glowing off the sky, the village was lit up enough to make our way around. Dave had been here before a few times, so knew the ground.

As we walked back to Bruce's house, we went via the back streets again, seeking black dogs, instead we managed to scare some girls scantily clad for the pubs I suppose, probably very drunk and as they turned the corner, saw us, screamed, turned and ran. I really wished we were in black hooded robes.

The next day, we were to relax a bit more than yesterday. Dave and I walked into Bungay, to see inside St Mary's and finally legally go into Bungay Castle.


St Mary's and a gargoyle

Proof that myth still runs strong in this
Suffolk village

Inside St Mary's. White washed walls like this often
have amazing medieval murals underneath them.
One example is at Pickering Church, Yorkshire

Bungay Castle, much brighter in the sunlight

Looking toward the Gatehouse

Inside the Keep

View of St Mary's from the Castle
After Lunch, Dave and I drove 12 miles away to Blythburgh to see the other church - the Holy Trinity - that the Black Dog attacked that same night, during the tempest, only about half an hour later.
We arrived to find people gathering at the large church for, what looked like a Christian concert of some sort - people were everywhere and we went around the north door to see the scorched claw marks on the door that were left there by the dog, as it tried to leave the church. The lady I spoke to was very suspicious about me entering the door to look behind it. But I was barely a minute.
Dave had told me about both the towns reactions to the 1577 Hound attacks - it was obvious today - While Bungay seems relaxed and enjoys its history, not minding about bringing up discussions regarding the Dog, Blythburgh seem to be in denial of it, like they seem to be more pious, and often believe that the Dog was the Devil himself. We had the strong feeling there was very sceptical Christian views present.
Lovely Holy Trinity church, Blythburgh

Holy Trinity

Now a picture of the famous scorched claw marks on the North door...
Claw marks of the Shuck??
'As the dreadful dog flew from the church, he is said to have left deep scorch marks on the door. The legend continued for centuries even though there were no signs of the marks on the original door. Then, in 1933, the door was cleaned and burn marks - some say they were the devil's own fingerprints - were there for all to see. They remain there today.'

Then we drove to Caistor St Edmunds - where Venta Icenorum, an old Roman ruin was. The only visible remains were the Roman wall, and the field which the old town was, is now a sheep pasture. It was a long walk and we took it up by scratching around in mole hills to try to find artefacts of any sort. Found lots of flint which is what the wall is made of anyway.

A Roman wall - up to 1800 years old
Monday - NORWICH
Hawthorn green man
On the Monday, I headed down to the Bungay book shop with Dave, then we parted ways - he had to go to Lowestoft for the week with the family, and I had to get to Norwich. I got into Norwich, had lunch and walked to Norwich Cathedral, to look for the gold leafed green man. After entering the east side of the cloisters I looked up to the ceiling and found the first roof bosse I saw was the very Green man I was looking for.

Near the cloisters

Norwich Cathedral

The Nave

I caught the 2.30pm train back to London, and taking my time to get home - which was about 5pm. I uploaded all my East Anglia photos, and when Gemma came home, we got ready for the next day, our trip to Avebury Stone Circle and village for the Midsummer Solstice of 2006.


We got to Uxbridge in good timing (10am) and caught a bus with 30 people - all these people we had met at the Beltane Bash and the Ealing pub moot - our new friends - including Ian who we met at the Pagan Pride March. A quick stop on the way, and then onto Wiltshire. It takes two hours to get there. Our bus had letters pinned on it spelling 'Druid Express.'

When we got there we had to go to the Red Lion pub to get off and lug our bags and tents to the campsite next to the National Trust car park. We helped Gina set up her tent, as we were going to use it too. Then we ate lunch and head into the village. Crowds had not really arrived yet - it was mid afternoon, and we spent the rest of the day going into the pub, going to souvenir shops that sold postcards, henge merchandise and lovely books and things about the surrounding wonders, like Uffington White horse and Stonehenge and places like that.
National Trust Café
We also found the National Trust Café as well. Then we walked the entire circle of Stones, and along the outer barrow dyke, visiting the copse of beech trees dotted around the site. We left Danae, who was bored, in the 'comfort' of a café or pub, while we went out in the sunshine.

Back at the site, we ate and then when it got dark, went back into the village to sit in the pub, but I left to go to the stones and found those drummers again that I had seen at the Beltane Bash. I found Ian straight away and watched the drummers. They were surrounded by a circle of torches and people of all ages were dancing. There was a Green Man Giant as well, and the energy was fantastic. When it finished, we all parted to go back to the camp site, maybe eat and rest. Our friends camping with us were drunk, therefore doing things like setting fire to the grass after burning all the hamburgers on the disposable BBQ then burning wood on it.

At dawn we all struggled up and went to the stone circle to watch the sunrise - the drunk, drugged-out hippies all paying no attention to the rise. We stood there for almost an hour waiting for the sun. When it came we all cheered. Down in the circle there was a huge circle and 3 druids were there talking about the past few days being the solstice, and that we were technically there too late. People were still sleeping under a tarp in the middle of the circle and there were laughs all round when one of them woke up.

It was 5-5.30 am and no pub or café was open yet, so we went back to camp and ate a bit, then I took the blankets and slept by myself for about 3-4 hours. I felt better.

The kinds of characters you get at a
pagan gathering
We all went to the National Trust café and had breakfast too. I had planned a walk to Silbury Hill, the Avenue and West Kennet Long Barrow. Gathering some friends, we walked the mile to the Hill, and Jerry and I walked up it.

Then we walked onto West Kennet Long Barrow. Gemma had a sore hip, so we went the short way home, missing seeing the Avenue. We rested at the camp site before we packed up and went to the village again. I spent more time at the Stones, as I did not know when I would see them again. Maybe not for years. Then at 5.30 we walked back to the car park and caught the bus home. Almost everyone was sleeping on the way back. We had an early night when we got home.
Avebury Stone Circle

The three Beech trees

Stone circles

The gathering of the people

Fire twirling and drumming in the evening

The midsummer dawn

Druids conduct a ceremony

Silbury Hill

View of West Kennett Barrow from Silbury Hill

West Kennett Barrow

Entrance of West Kennett

West Kennett

Silbury Hill from West Kennett

My farewell shot of the stones


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