The legend in question is the legend of the Handsel sisters. As the story goes in 1737 four Danish sisters moved to the Wilton area and unfortunately for them, their arrival coincided with an outbreak of smallpox which killed 132 people. The locals believing that the sisters where responsible for the outbreak and branding them as witches, took them to Grovely Wood and bludgeoned them to death. The sisters were supposedly buried in the woods in four separate graves and it is said that the graves were marked by four gnarled beech trees, the largest of which is said to have a hollow at the back in which people leave offerings.
Armed with my Ordnance Survey map showing a section of Grovely Wood labelled as "Four Sisters" I set off in search of the four trees. Sadly however the gnarled beech trees remained elusive, possibly hidden amongst the numerous pines.
Walking back along the old Roman road that runs through the wood I did however happen across a bunker on the edge of the tree line. As can be seen from the pictures below, the bunker was very conveniently labelled with the word "Bunker". Inside the bunker there is also some rather interesting graffiti. On the floor there was an arrow pointing to the far end of the bunker, with the words "Head Rush". Also on the far wall of the bunker there was a painted symbol which resembled a "W". All rather odd.
A quick look on the internet hints that the nearby farm (Oakley Farm) served as an RAF Ordnance Depot and Head Quarters during WW II and that Grovely Wood was used by the US Air Force as an ammunition depot. Grovely Wood was seemingly chosen for this purpose due to its proximity to main line rail stations such as Wylie. Apparently, bombs and shells were left stacked out in the open in the woods, and the less robust munitions (e.g. fuses) were stored in hundreds of small huts that were dotted around the wood. Given the military history of the site, presumably the bunker is related to this WW II heritage.
|The bunker seen from the Roman Road.|
|The entrance to the bunker.|
|I would never have guessed!|
|Looking into the bunker.|
|"Head Rush" - what does it mean?|
|"W" - what does it mean?|
|The "vent" at the far end of the bunker above the "W".|
Having stumbled across a bunker in Grovely Wood in February, I was again surprised to stumble across another bunker last week whilst out wandering near the village of Upper Chute in Wiltshire. This bunker, whilst of the same approximate size as that in Grovely Wood, seemed to be of a different design, with the only apparent access way being a padlocked hatch on the top, as opposed to an open doorway at one end. The “Chute” bunker as I will call it, is in a small patch of wooded land next to the road, apparently left and forgotten. The only discernible features of this bunker were the entrance hatch, a bent pipe on the top of the bunker (possibly a ventilation pipe) and a long straight pipe protruding near the base of the bunker. Searching the internet provided no obvious clues as to the nature and purpose of this particular bunker.
|The "Chute" bunker. The access hatch can be seen on the left end of the bunker, and the possible ventilation pipe can be seen on the right.|
|A pipe protruding from the bunker.|
|The entrance hatch and the possible ventilation pipe in the distance.|
So if any readers know the location of the Handsel sister’s beech trees or knows more about these two bunkers, please let me know via the comments section below.
Pictures, Wiltshire (February & March 2014).
*** Update October 2014 ***
Following some very welcome advice from reader Mr Hodder I took another trip into Grovely Wood to track down the Handsel trees. Following Mr Hodder's instructions I found the trees easily, as the below pictures show. Three of the tress still stand, and one of the tress has a small hollow at the back of it where people have placed offerings. From a quick look some of the offerings include small plastic toys, beaded necklaces, plastic coins and some fabric items. For those who want to see the trees for themselves, they are approximately located at 51.100393, -1.900126.
|The main avenue through Grovely Wood.|
|The first Handsel tree.|
|A rear view of the first Handsel tree, note the hollow at the base.|
|Peering into the hollow, numerous offerings can be seen.|
|Another Handsel tree. Sadly this one has fallen.|
|The third Handsel tree.|
|The fourth Handsel tree.|
Pictures, Wiltshire (October 2014).
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