Tag Archives: Death

On investigating the Legend of the “Chained Oak”

The "Chained Oak" at Alton

The “Chained Oak” at Alton, showing its position overlooking Barbary Gutter, the stone steps leading up to it, and the huge limb that fell from it in 2007, still with the chains attached!

I love local legends and tales of old, and have heard a few in my time; most of them bastardized from urban legends that have spread throughout the world, with the residents of each country adapting the story to suit their own particular storytelling tradition.

Only recently, I became aware of a legend involving a very old oak tree and a member of the landed gentry that originated in the village of Alton, about ten miles from where I live. I hadn’t heard of it before, despite the fact that the UK’s most visited theme park and ninth most popular in the whole of Europe, Alton Towers had capitalized on it and created a ride called “Hex”, loosely based on this very legend!

Since I heard about it, I’ve been to visit the “Chained Oak” on two occasions. It’s very impressive, and it keeps drawing me back to it. And the surrounding woodland is stunning!

Woodlands surrounding the "Chained Oak"

Woodlands surrounding the “Chained Oak”

There are a couple of versions of the legend, so I’ll give both versions to you. The first version is as follows:

In between 1821 and 1846 (the date varies with the source of the telling of the legend) one autumn evening, the Earl of Shrewsbury was returning home (the Earl at that time would have been the owner of Alton Towers) along a route known as Barbary Gutter, a track that begins at Alton Abbey, winds its way through the woodland, passes over the River Churnet into Dimmingsdale, and leads eventually to St Giles’s Church (the interior of which was designed by the renowned architect Augustus Welby Pugin, as was Alton Towers itself) in the neighboring village of Cheadle. As the Earl’s coach approaches the spot where the oak tree looms over the now disused carriageway, an old woman bars the way and begs the Earl for a few pennies. The Earl pours scorn upon her, refuses her request, orders her off his land and tells the coach’s driver to carry on. As a result of this, the woman curses the Earl: “For every branch that falls from this old oak tree, a member of your family will die.”

Some time later (possibly the very same night), a storm rages, and a huge limb of the tree is torn off and falls crashing to the ground. In the morning, it becomes apparent that a member of the Earl’s family–supposedly his son—died suddenly and without any indication of a cause of death. Fearing that the old woman’s curse had come true, the Earl ordered his servants to chain up the remaining branches of the oak to prevent further members of his family befalling the same fate, and thus, the legend of “The Chained Oak” was born!

The second version of the story changes slightly, so that in this version of the legend, it becomes the Earl’s son who is the one who sees an old woman as he is out riding one day, though in this tale she is standing beneath the oak, and as he passes the spot where the old woman is standing a branch breaks off the tree and kills him.

Incidentally, a huge limb fell from the tree in 2007, but there have been no reports of a death within the present Earl of Shrewsbury’s family.

The limb that fell from the "Chained Oak" in 2007, still in chains!

The limb that fell from the “Chained Oak” in 2007, still in chains!

As there is no actual documentation relating to either version of the event, one can choose to believe whatever one wishes. It is more likely that the Earl simply chained up the oak after a storm to protect the remaining branches of the tree. Both the 16th Earl and his predecessor were very proud of their trees and had planted thousands of them, and a fine specimen such as the oak would have been something that the Earl would have wanted to protect and preserve.

The website altontowersheritage.com tells of a similar tale: “There is also a long-standing tale of the ‘Witch’s Oak Tree’ in Staffordshire. In this story, however, the curse is delivered not by a crone in the road, but by an old man who gatecrashes the opening ball of the Banqueting Hall, rebuffed when he offers to tell fortunes for a night’s shelter.”

Here is some actual footage of the tree on Youtube, uploaded by Tim P. Commentary by Tim P.

If you’re of a mind to visit Alton Towers, or just to see the “Chained Oak”, and walk the beautiful woodlands, you could do much worse than to stay at The Chained Oak B&B, only ten minutes’ walk from Alton Towers, and right opposite the tree and the woodlands themselves!

Enjoy some of the other photographs that I took during my two trips to see the “Chained Oak”. Just keep scrolling!

The disused gatehouse that sits to the right of the entrance to the woodlands and the "Chained Oak" B&B

The disused gatehouse that sits to the right of the entrance to the woodlands and the “Chained Oak” B&B

A side view of the gatehouse, showing the sign for the "Chained Oak" B&B

A side view of the gatehouse, showing the sign for the “Chained Oak” B&B

The public footpath with signpost that leads into the woodlands

The public footpath with signpost that leads into the woodlands

The way into the woodlands and the "Chained Oak", 400 yards away

The way into the woodlands and the “Chained Oak”, 400 yards away

Looking back from Barbary Gutter to the entrance and the gatehouse

Looking back from Barbary Gutter to the entrance and the gatehouse

A random shed in the woodlands, reminiscent of "The Evil Dead". Well it is to me!

A random shed in the woodlands, reminiscent of “The Evil Dead”. Well it is to me!

An atmospheric view of the "Chained Oak"

An atmospheric view of the “Chained Oak”

A brighter view of the huge fallen limb

A brighter, closer view of the huge limb that fell in 2007

The broken trunk and the end of the fallen limb

The broken trunk and the end of the fallen limb

A view from above the "Chained Oak", looking down into Barbary Gutter and the woodlands

A view from above the “Chained Oak”, looking down into Barbary Gutter and the woodlands

Standing above the tree, looking at the chains and major limbs. Note the broken section where the limb fell off in 2007

Standing above the tree, looking at the chains and major limbs. Note the broken section where the limb fell off in 2007

Standing at the base of the "Chained Oak", looking down at the masses of chains on the broken limb

Standing at the base of the “Chained Oak”, looking down at the masses of chains on the broken limb

In Barbary Gutter, below the "Chained Oak", looking at it through the woodland vegetation

In Barbary Gutter, below the “Chained Oak”, looking at it through the woodland vegetation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another submission accepted!

Serial Killers Tres Tria. Edited by James Ward Kirk and published by JWK

Serial Killers Tres Tria. Edited by James Ward Kirk and published by JWK

On the back of my short story Doing it for JRD (Justice, Revenge and Deliverance) being accepted for publication in Sex, Drugs & Horror, an anthology edited by the wonderful James Ward Kirk, I am pleased to announce that another of my short stories has been accepted for publication in another of James Ward Kirk’s anthologies; this time I am to be published in his third Serial Killers anthology, Serial Killers Tres Tria, available later this year. Check out the killer cover by William Cook! Isn’t it just awesome!

If you click on the cover image above, you’ll be taken to the submissions page for this particular anthology, and because submissions are still open, I suggest you all get writing and give it a go.

Better still, get on over to JWKfiction.com and see what other submissions are open, and while you’re at it, treat yourself to some wonderful books!

And before I forget — A huge thank you once more to the wonderful James Ward Kirk, and to all of you wonderful people who take the time to read my stories, especially the author and a good friend of mine, M.C. O’Neill, who does a great job beta-reading for me and pokes me with a huge barbed stick and tells me to submit my stuff. Thank you, Mark!

I wrote a story in honour of JRD

woohoo_fireworks

Time for celebration!

A few days ago, I had an idea burst free from my head and onto the virtual page. It was a short story in honour of James Roy Daley, an amazing author and the man behind BOOKSoftheDEADPRESS.

It featured mostly narration by a serial killer looking back on the first time he killed, and the circumstances surrounding it. It was nasty, graphic and featured very explicit sex and sexual swear words. I was very proud of it, and I sent it to JRD, who thought it was great. Incidentally, the story is entitled Doing it for JRD (Justice, Revenge and Deliverance).

Another friend of mine, author M.C. O’Neill read it too, thought it was awesome and suggested that I submit it to James Ward Kirk at http://jwkfiction.com/ to see if it would be accepted for his upcoming Serial Killers Tres Tria anthology. Following his advice, I submitted the story, taking care to read through all of the submission requirements, and then I left it at that, hoping that I might be lucky enough to be accepted, but quite content in the knowledge that even if it didn’t make the cut it wasn’t the end of the world, because there are thousands of places to submit to.

To cut a long story short: tonight I got a reply from James Ward Kirk who said he loved the story and that he wanted to use it in his Sex, Drugs & Horror anthology which is to be published during the first week of July. He actually said that if I preferred for it to feature instead in the Serial Killers Tres Tria anthology, he’d send over a different contract, but thinking about it now, there’s a lot of horror and a lot of sex in the story, and because it’s about a killer’s first kill, it would be more suited towards the Sex, Drugs & Horror anthology.

Needless to say, I’ve written a bio and the contract has been signed and returned to JWK by electronic carrier pigeon, so next month will see me as being a published author in at least one anthology, if not two, as i have another story coming out shortly in an anthology that has been written in collaboration with some of my friends and fellow writers from the Easter Bunny’s Apocalypse  collective.

Things are looking up for me, folks, and now i’ve got my foot on the first rung of the ladder there will be no stopping me!

Some Late Night Reading Material

To write, you must read!

To write, you must read!

I just finished a story that i hope you’ll like. It’s not too long, at just a little over 1,100 words. It’s something i called Eyes, and you can read it here. Any feedback by way of a comment would be greatly appreciated and gratefully received.

Truly Inspirational!

Ksenia Anske's USTREAM live novel editing experiment

Ksenia Anske, writing and streaming live with her beta readers, one of which is yours truly.

Yesterday, at the behest of some of her beta readers, wonderful YA urban fantasy writer Ksenia Anske announced on both Facebook and Twitter that she would be editing her first novel, Siren Suicides LIVE on USTREAM.

Inviting one and all to stop by to see just how she works, i did just that, because Ksenia is truly inspirational, constantly tweeting encouragement to others, and at time of writing, Ksenia has only just called it a day after spending numerous hours hard at work, hammering at the keyboard, honing her skills, shaping and crafting her novel, which i am certain will be a huge success upon publication (Siren Suicides will be released as 3 books).

For me, writing only happens when i have absolute solitude and silence, but for Ksenia, this is not the case. Music tracks from Cafe del Mar play in the background, and her beta readers (myself included) chat to her as she writes, offering support and encouragement every step of the way.

Fuelled by an apple and coffee (never more than 3; usually 2), she has edited 22 pages today, and at times it has not been easy–there have been emotional outbursts involving tears and tissues, there has been scratching of head and her face has contorted into so many different shapes as she figures out what her characters will do next. Ksenia even speaks lines of dialogue out aloud: If it sounds right when spoken, it’s right once it’s written.   . Watching her work and hearing her chat to the camera has been both fun and a useful experiment, but as it approaches midnight here in the UK, Ksenia informs us all from her home in Seattle that she feels she has been less productive than usual, probably because she’s spent quite some time chatting to her readers. She has also been conscious of people watching her and feels that she hasn’t been able to dig deep enough inside herself today to make her characters express themselves as strongly as they normally would. Upon review, Ksenia stated that she would consider live streaming again, but probably only once a month or so.

I applaud Ksenia’s decision to try this experiment, but i think it does show that writing is hard enough without the added distractions that other people bring, and that sometimes, we have to be quite selfish to produce the goods.

My thanks and heartfelt gratitude to Ksenia. I hope she doesn’t mind the screen capture i took of her earlier. At least it wasn’t a screenshot of her displaying the elbows (or lack of) in her sweater!

Ksenia Anske’s blog can be found at http://www.kseniaanske.com where you will find a wealth of information about writing and also details of how to contact her.

Gather Round, Children!

It’s that time again – and i do apologise if you’re not into my stories. I don’t mind. There’s probably things that you like or things that you do that i don’t like too!

It would be such a boring world if we all liked the same things, so i remain open-minded and am always willing to try out something new.

I’d love to waffle on, but it’s 03.35AM as i write this and i do need to sleep, so please enjoy this latest story: Jack & Jill (and Steve!)

Not the Post I Had Planned, But…This is Far Better!

I had every intention of uploading a story today, but the story that i finally wrote for your pleasure is not the one i had intended to write!

It just came to me out of the blue as i was mulling over a few ideas that had popped into my head while i was using my Twitter app, Janetter.

So, here for your enjoyment is Jeepers Creepers! Death is a Tweeter!

All comments and feedback gratefully received.