Saturday, 14 February 2009
Big Belly Oak, Savernake Forest
A Tree Council Press release states:
"According to legend, the devil appears to anyone who dances naked at midnight twelve times anticlockwise around the Big Belly or Decanter Oak in Savernake Forest. "
The tree is reached by a short walk down a busy and quite dangerous road, the A346. Savernake Forest itself is wonderful; it is full of sleepy hollow style trees. There are so many ancient trees here it is amazing. I have walked through most of it, and it is the sort of place where you might expect to meet a werewolf or see vampire bats. The National Trust Shop in nearby Avebury does sell a book about British Wolves, and the forest is a reminder that much of Britain was once covered in forest like this. A recent TV programme, Britain from Above, found an iron age temple in the forest.
Savernake Forest is said to have many ghosts. When walking through it, sometimes you are startled by a deer crashing through the undergrowth. This can make you jump. The forest is on long term lease to the Forestry Commission, although is is owned by the Seymour family (as in Jane Seymour).
Andrew Green says in his book Our Haunted Kingdom (1973) "the lichen-covered twisted curves of the old beech trees and the wrinkled, gnarled branches of the oaks must on moonlit nights present a weird ghostly atmosphere for any visitor. Imagination could really run riot in the creepy cluster of clawing arms, albeit wooden ones"
Mr Green says the 2000 acre forest which has been left largely untouched, has ghosts which are seen both at night and during the day. Apparently the most well known of these is a spectral headless lady on a white horse, who was last seen in 1969. She is possibly a member of a royal hunting party who died after her horse bolted into the woods.