Historically, Wessex was an area which encompassed much of central Southern England. Wilton was its ancient capital and remains steeped in history. Its market square remains a hive of activity as in bygone years and the town is picturesque with its famous Italianate 19th Century church and Georgian houses. Wilton is well known for its carpet factory, the foundations of the weaving shed dating back to 1655. The first Wilton loom was patented in 1741, and by 1767 up to 80 people was employed at the factory. Wilton is also known for its stately home - Wilton House, in which William Herbert, the 18th Earl of Pembroke, resides.
Grovely Wood is situated on the outskirts of Wilton. With a Roman road cutting straight through the woodland and prehistoric earthworks contained within the area, Grovely also has a historic story to tell. Grovely Woods has two specific and most interesting stories associated with its area.
The first story is that of the Handsel sisters. The four Handsel sisters were of Danish origin but they had moved to the Wilton area. Unfortunately for the sisters a strong outbreak of smallpox erupted in Wilton, claiming 136 lives. The local people became convinced that the Handsel sisters were responsible for these deaths and accused them of witchcraft and an alliance with the devil. Without an official hearing the sisters were taken to Grovely Wood and murdered by being bludgeoned over the head. The sisters were then buried in the woods a little way apart from each other so they could not conspire against their murderers. There are four incredibly ancient and gnarled beech trees which have two theories, one of which being that the trees were planted to mark the Handsel sisters' graves. The other theory is that the trees mysteriously grew on top of the unmarked graves to remind the locals of their dreadful deed. Since the atrocity sightings of the sisters have been reported over the years. There is a hollow at the back of the largest tree where people leave offerings for the Handsel sisters.
The second story associated with Grovely Wood tells the tale of the Burcombe Woodsman. He is thought to be a poacher who was hung from a tree for his 'crimes', or possibly an artist who painted in watercolour and was accidentally shot in the woods during a deer cull. It is said that he lodged in Burcombe thus earning him the title of the Burcombe Woodsman. Sightings of him have been reported, usually after hearing the cracking of a twig.
Grovely Wood is a place that I have always wanted to investigate. I have been fascinated by these woods ever since a small child as people used to talk about them. I had only visited the woods once when I took my dog for a walk one afternoon. I was with a friend and although I did feel as if I was being watched, the feeling was not sinister. However my friend was afraid and could not wait for the walk to be over.
Other people have also told me stories of their experiences. Recently one of my colleagues told me that she was walking through the woods with her child in a pushchair and her dog. She said that the atmosphere was so intense, she could not bear it. She also felt as if someone was watching her and she turned around and fled from the area as she felt so unsafe.
Two other people also approached me and told me they had been going to Grovely wood during the day. They had discovered the Handsel sisters' trees.
Paranormal Investigator, Vikki has also had many strange and frightening experiences in Grovely wood when she was younger.
On Sunday17th June 2007, the Twilight Shadows Paranormal team went for a night walk in Grovely Wood.
As we started off along the Roman road the atmosphere was charged and I must say quite scary. It may have been sensible to turn back at this point but being the intrepid paranormal investigators that we are, we continued forward. We were hoping (or not) to see some Roman soldiers marching along the road that they had constructed so many years ago.
We all felt a little spooked at this point. Vikki is usually one of our bravest investigators and she did not feel happy. But when Marian said that she was feeling uneasy, everyone's level of fear immediately increased as Marian never feels uneasy or afraid on location.
A little further down the road, Vikki stopped dead in her tracks. She turned around and said "Can you hear that?" I could hear a slight rhythmic sound and Vikki said it was drumming. It sounded like ancient drumming but every so often a note was out of the beat. Vikki could also hear murmuring. I could hear something but I could not discern the noise as voices.
We carried on walking and passed the trees where the Handsel sisters were allegedly murdered. My colleagues who have visited this area during the day say that gifts and offerings are left inside a hollow of one of these trees. They were right. There were a copious amount of little treasures left by people as offerings to the Handsel sisters.
We were wondering if we would see the 'Burcombe Woodsman' who is said to haunt the Grovely forest. James said that he kept thinking that he saw figures leaning on the trees. This happened four times throughout our time there.
Vikki kept hearing a sound which she described as a 'throaty cough.' She felt that it was someone trying to get our attention. It was difficult for everyone to hear noises clearly as it was raining quite hard and the sound of the raindrops was quite loud. We heard all the obvious animal noises but some noises just did not seem to be of a natural origin.
Suddenly as we were walking, I felt my jacket being tugged really hard, twice. I swung around quickly convinced that it was one of the team and was quite amazed and a little frightened that it was not. Vikki was the nearest person to me and at the same time that my jacket was pulled, she felt as if she had been shoved out of the way.
James kept seeing flashes of light in the trees. We wondered if it was lightning seeing as it was raining so hard. It was not torches and we were too far from any road for it to be car headlights. It did not seem to be thundering so we drew no conclusion as to what the lights could be.
We walked a long way into the woods. Sometimes the atmosphere was terrifying and then sometimes less so. (We did notice when walking back that the atmosphere tallied with certain areas). Eventually we decided that it was so late that maybe we should turn around and make our way back. We stood talking for a while and Vikki said nervously "Lets walk, I have to keep moving." As we started to walk (with James, Vikki and me bringing up the rear) we suddenly heard footsteps running behind us. They ran heavily and quickly and stopped just as they reached our backs. We both jumped and James quickly looked around. There was nobody there. At the same time I heard a scream (sounded like a female).
We had walked just a little way on and I heard a deep throaty sound like the clearing of a throat (a male). Vikki also heard it and she said that this was the noise that she had heard previously. I must admit that it really did sound like someone trying to get our attention.
We carried on walking. James, Vikki and I kept hearing footsteps on the road behind us. Every time we looked around, there was no sign of anybody or anything walking behind us. I was thinking about the feeling of the tugging of my coat which I experienced earlier when suddenly I felt my trouser leg (left) suddenly pulled up to my knee. I was really shocked as I could tell it had not been hooked up with a twig as I had felt the hands touching my leg. My trouser leg was then pulled back down. If the situation had not been so frightening I would have found this funny. Vikki and I discussed whether I should ask the perpetrator to pull down my hood but I thought I would either freak out or laugh hysterically if it happened.
We commenced our walk. I looked over to James and I saw a person walking by the side of him but just a couple of steps ahead. This person was hooded and was walking with his head bent down. I looked in front of me and saw the rest of the team; everyone was ahead except for me, Vikki and James. I looked back to the figure and it was gone. This was a split second and there was nobody within the vicinity. Vikki then said that at the same time she had also seen a shadowy figure walking beside James. If the ghost of the 'Woodsman' does exist, the apparition that Vikki and I witnessed fits that category perfectly. We heard chains and asked whether it was James jingling. He said that it was not.
We heard more voices murmuring, at least three male voices. We stopped and looked into the woods to where the voices were coming from. There was definitely nobody there. After a very long time of walking (with certain areas of the woodland having an absolute terrifying and oppressive atmosphere) we finally reached our cars. As I got into the passenger side of Vikki's car, she locked the car doors (or tried to as my lock suddenly did not work); this really is not like Vikki at all.
Our walk through Grovely Wood was an amazing and somewhat terrifying experience. We plan to go back and I think this is a location to which we will return frequently as our encounter at Grovely was so awesome. I would urge any paranormal group to investigate Grovely Woods. I am used to being in the woods at night to perform Sabbat rites. Dark woodlands do not usually faze me at all but Grovely Wood is an exception.
Written by: Maria Williams
We have captured some strange sounds in Grovely Wood. After careful analysis we have decided that only one of these sounds may possibly have a paranormal cause. We have captured what sounds like a woman crying, really sobbing.Unfortunately the team are talking at the same time and over the sound, so we will not be including this EVP on the website.
Throughout our walk in Grovely Wood, Matt walked at the front of us. He seemed to be walking quickly and we had to keep telling him to wait for the rest of us, as we did not want the team to separate on this occasion. Talking to Matt at a later date, he described that he was compelled to walk (almost march) on his own, ahead of the team. Matt appears to be a natural 'sensitive' to spirit so we are left to wonder if he was affected by a Roman Soldier as he was marching along a Roman road.
Upon returning to our cars after the investigation, Vikki quickly locked the car doors in a panic. I was sitting in the passenger side of the car and the lock on this side would not lock. Vikki said that there has never been a problem with her car-locking system previously. After leaving the area, the locking system returned to normal and a mechanic has informed Vikki that a place which has a high magnetic field would affect the locking systems of cars and so we think that this may be the reason that Vikki's car lock malfunctioned.
On the Monday 16th July 2007 the team decided to pay a second visit to Grovely Wood.
The team so enjoyed our first visit to Grovely that we could not wait to visit again. On our last visit the woods felt sinister and even our most intrepid paranormal investigators were anxious. We expected to encounter the same ominous atmosphere but we were surprised. The woodland felt friendly and we chatted happily as we walked along the Roman road. I suddenly became aware of a spirit, he was trying to affect me and make me laugh. I resisted this spirit as I knew that if I allowed him to laugh through me, the sound of the laughter would not be mine. I thought it may frighten the others if I started to laugh manically. I like to observe the team members and ensure that they are kept spiritually safe. I had a quiet word with this spirit and told him that I did not want him to laugh through me. But I felt full of mirth which was pleasant.
James and Matt pointed out a rather large and beautiful tree. We stopped to look at it.
This tree is one of the Handsel sisters' trees. It is the tree I call Handsel no. 3.The tree is magnificent and really looks as if it belongs in an enchanted wood.
As we turned away from the tree I heard a sound that we had heard before on our last visit. It was a male, deep, throaty clearing of the throat. The sound was right in my ear and there was nothing and nobody who could have made this noise. Although the noise startled me, it was not scary.
We carried on walking.
A little way along the road, Vikki suddenly jumped and grabbed my arm. I immediately asked her what was wrong and she said that she thought that someone had thrown a rock at us from behind. We were walking a little behind the others. We heard footsteps running to the right of us in the woods but it sounded like a deer or some other large animal. An owl was hooting in the trees.
Eventually we decided to turn around for the long walk back. Occasionally I thought I heard a gentle murmuring, something that Vikki experienced upon our last visit. James said something funny and made me laugh really loud. I fear that the naughty spirit who wanted to laugh through me earlier affected my laugh at that moment. The team looked round and gave me a strange look as the laugh really did not sound like mine.
The rest of our walk was uneventful but really pleasant. It is nice just to go for a 'spooky' walk together as a team, in comparison to conducting organised vigils. I think it is a pastime we will implement often in the future.
Written by: Maria Williams
On Saturday 16th September 2007 the Twilight Shadows Paranormal team made a third visit to Grovely Wood.
Most members of the team felt a degree of trepidation as the evening approached. This is a feeling that most of us only experience prior to a Grovely Wood investigation. We arrived at our destination in the dark and as we approached the woods, the atmosphere felt thick and the woodland looked dark, sinister and foreboding.
We entered the woods and started to walk the Roman road. As we walked along the road it often felt that many invisible eyes were watching our progress. We walked deeper into the woods.
We were all quite subdued but at the same time excited. We decided to keep walking until we felt drawn to stop at a particular area.
The owls in the trees were hooting and screeching loudly. They seemed to follow our progress for a while and their noises although beautiful were somewhat scary.
Suddenly Vikki stopped and said that she felt drawn to the right. She let her instincts guide her and we followed her off the path and into the woods.
We stayed in this area for a while, calling out to any spirit people that may be present. Although we heard no audible response, the feeling of being watched was incredible. Vikki took many photos within this area. It was an extremely scary place to be.
We eventually decided to rejoin the Roman road. We walked a very long way and tried to make contact with the Handsel sisters. The Handsel sisters were accused of witchcraft so I decided to chant an ancient witch's rhyme to see if it would invoke the Handsel sisters. I thought that they may react if they were witches as the rhyme includes many ancient rites and if they were not witches, they may react and let us know that these rumours were untrue.
Everyone walked silently as I chanted. The difference in the atmosphere was immense and we could feel many energies drawing close to us. Matt had decided to bring up the rear of the group as he was filming. Later when we stopped to discuss the situation he described his feelings of fear. Although he was only several metres from the rest of the team, he wanted to run to catch up but for some reason he could not increase his pace. When the team finally stopped walking and Matt caught up he was quite distressed, so we kept him in the middle of the team for the rest of the investigation.
We eventually decided to turn around and return back along the Roman road. No sooner as we had started walking, Vikki and Charles heard female laughter from the right hand side of the woodland; the laughter was emitted by more than one voice. They both described it as unpleasant laughter. We were aware of all the animal sounds within the woods but both Vikki and Charles said that the sound of laughter was human.
During our walk back along the Roman road, Charles suddenly swung around and shone his torch at two trees. He headed towards the trees and when questioned he said that he had seen a white shape that had looked like half an egg. It had now disappeared. Charles tried to find it but it was gone. I thought that the description of half an egg was strange. Charles then described it as neither the top nor the bottom half of an egg but the side of an egg. He then said that it resembled a figure wearing a white robe but who was bending down looking at something. Charles's description was very funny as he said "I could see the top of its leg and arse".
We eventually walked on; with myself and Charles bring up the rear. Suddenly, directly behind us we heard footsteps. We looked around and there was nobody there. The footsteps were strange as they sounded like a person walking with a very bad limp. The footsteps had a dragging sound to them. This was intermittent throughout our walk back but each time we looked behind us, there was nobody there. The footsteps were not only loud, they were right behind us. Eventually the footsteps ceased and nothing else was experienced on our walk back to the cars. We cannot wait to return to Grovely wood.
Written by:Maria Williams
On Wednesday 20th February 2008, the Twilight Shadows Paranormal team made a 4th visit to Grovely Wood.
Not only was this the night of a full moon - the Quickening Moon, it was also the night of a Total Eclipse of the Moon.
The first thing we noticed as we began our walk along the Roman road was how light it was. Usually, if you switch off your torch you are faced with a black void which is somewhat disconcerting. But on this visit, we did not really need torches at all as the moonlight was very bright, illuminating the road and the trees.
I am usually quite unnerved at Grovely Wood but upon this occasion I felt at ease and didn't feel spooked at all.
We started walking into the woods and Matt said that he heard a horn. He described the sound as an old fashioned horn and he could hear it playing quite distinctly.
We carried on walking and Matt said that he heard a man shout nearby. We all stopped to listen but heard nothing at all.
We resumed walking for quite a length of time. We then turned to walk back and stood having a chat. James was standing alone and he suddenly said that he could hear two women talking to the side of him. He could not distinguish what the women were saying. Reaching the end of the road, we walked to our cars, leaving Grovely Wood with its secrets.
Written by: Maria Williams
On Saturday 24th May 2008, Twilight Shadows Paranormal and Phoenix Paranormal went for a night-time walk through Grovely Wood.
Jacky from Phoenix Paranormal has wanted to go to Grovely Wood for a very long time. She was very excited as we made our way to the woodland to walk the Roman road. The atmosphere was charged as we entered the woodland and very scary. As usual it felt as if we were being watched. Looking ahead and behind presented us with a huge black void was extremely disconcerting. But we were brave and we walked forward into the black abyss.
Jacky kept feeling like someone was walking right behind her. Sharon said that she felt the same. This is a feeling that our team has experienced many times. Loretta looked for them and said "There is nobody behind you." However, Loretta's reassurance did nothing to diminish the foreboding feeling of being followed.
We walked deeper into the woods following the Roman road. I wanted to show Jacky and Sharon the trees associated with the Handsel sisters. So we left the Roman road and walked into the trees until we found the appropriate trees in which the Handsel sisters are said to lie beneath.
As we entered the clearing, we all felt the power of this area. The energy is immense. I feel it is a positive force but due to the intensity of the energy, it can overwhelm people and make them feel very uneasy. I showed Jacky and Sharonthe first tree with the little offerings left in the hollow at the back.
We then took Jacky and Sharonto the second tree.
Jacky did not think that this area was particularly active even though it is quite close to the other tree. She thought that "it seemed dead."
We approached the third tree. Sharonsaid that she felt that the 'Handsel no.3' tree held a positive energy. The team have previously commented on this during previous visits to Grovely. We stayed here for a while.
We went back to 'Handsel no. 1' tree. We gathered around its mighty trunk and tried to tune into the energies there. I felt a small gathering of people, all women. They came very close to us and the intensity of their presence seemed to fill the clearing. I think they wondered what our motives were.
I suggested that Jacky 'called out.' She did and shortly afterwards I tried. We heard the noise of the bats which had been flying around us all evening. Suddenly Sharonthought she heard a woman's voice. I called out again and again, requesting that any spirit made any noise for us. Some of us thought we heard a chiming sound which stopped us in our tracks. Shortly afterwards from the other side of the clearing some of us heard muttering. We stayed there for quite a while and the energy continued to get stronger. Jacky suggested that perhaps some of the energy we were feeling may be emerging from elementals within the area. It was strange that she should say this as when I had visited the woods earlier in the day with Loretta, we thought that the woodland possessed a strong elemental presence.
Eventually, we returned to the Roman road and started to walk back. I felt that walking the road was more frightening than being near the alleged resting place of the Handsel sisters. I felt completely protected there.
On leaving Grovely we noticed that as soon as we left the Roman road, the atmosphere returned to normal. We would like to thank Phoenix Paranormal for joining us on this visit to Grovely.
Written by: Maria Williams
On Friday 25th July 2008, the Twilight Shadows Paranormal team conducted a double location investigation night with Phoenix Paranormal and Wessex Paranormal. We started off at a private house in Wiltonand then re-located to Grovely Wood which is nearby.
Grovely Wood is probably my favourite place that we have investigated. I will never forget the foreboding atmosphere that greeted us, the very first time the team visited there in June 2007. Now having been there so many times, the woods seem to be friendlier although the atmosphere remains thick and you never feel alone.
Following our previous visit with Phoenix Paranormal, we showed Jacky and Sharon the three old and very gnarled trees associated with the Handsel Sisters. Jacky wanted to find the fourth tree. We decided that we had to go back and find it. The boys from Wessex Paranormal had not been to Grovely Wood before so that was also a very good reason for our return.
We arrived at the woodland and started our walk up the little track that leads to the Roman road. As usual the track felt pleasant but as soon as we reached the Roman road, the familiar eerie presence greeted us.
We walked down the track and eventually found the turning which leads to the Handsel Sisters trees. I had been asked to cast an urgent spell for someone who was having trouble and I had been busy preparing it with Loretta all day. We decided to cast a spell at the foot of tree no.1 and perform our spell-workings there. We asked the Handsel Sisters to assist us with our magick. Immediately we felt a presence drawing near and I could feel immense power as we worked. (The following day we received a phone-call informing us that the problem had been resolved and we hear that it has not re-occurred. I think I may do most of my magickal spell-working rites in this area from now on).
After 'closing down,' we decided that we would attempt to find the fourth tree. Marian and Caz stayed behind to watch over the candles and we set off through the woods. Strangely Jacky seemed to have personal satellite navigation and instinctively led us to the fourth tree. This was amazing as we had no idea which direction it would be. Jacky seemed to know instinctively which just proves that you should always follow your intuitive feelings. I loved this tree and felt a good energy emanating from it.
We all gathered around the tree, capturing the energy surrounding it. Before we left, we bestowed little offerings. On our previous visit we left offerings at the other three trees and upon discovering the fourth tree, we felt that we needed to do the same for the fourth sister.
We headed back to Marian and Caz and decided to finish this investigation. (It was not really an investigation as such but more of a visit). We returned back along the Roman road, feeling watched again but now also protected in some strange way.
Since this visit, we feel that we have made friends with the Handsel sisters. It is quite obvious that the spirit of one sister in particular is stronger than the others. I feel as if she is the oldest sister. We look forward to calling upon their assistance again. I feel that because they were personally treated in an unjust manner, they are happy to help innocent people who are victimised by others.
Twilight Shadows Paranormal would like to thank Phoenix Paranormal and Wessex Paranormal for joining us on this double location.
Written by: Maria Williams
On Sunday 27th September 2009, Twilight Shadows/ Phoenix of Wessex Paranormal took some of our new members to Grovely Wood. We parked our cars and walked up the small lane towards the woods. As usual when faced with the entrance to the woods, we experienced a feeling of foreboding. Some of us who know the woods started to feel sick but we didn't understand why. We eventually arrived at the turning to the Handsel Sisters trees. As we approached the trees something felt wrong. As we looked at tree number 1 and 2 we were horrified to see that tree number 2 had fallen down. I think it was probably rotten but it was so sad to see this majestic and ancient gnarled tree broken with its trunk split and branches lying on the floor.
I looked at the little hollow in the back of tree number 1. It is usually filled with various objects, some of which have been there for a very long time. It was empty so someone has obviously found it. There has been a beautifully painted arrow stuck into the earth since I first found the hollow. I was sorry to see its absence. Jacky, Dave, Loretta and I felt really sad about the situation. We left an offering there.
We gathered round and as usual it felt safer by the Hansel Sisters trees. However, some of us did hear some strange noises. As well as the usual noises of animals etc., Loretta heard a crowd noise clairvoyantly. We later wondered if she was linking in to the noise of the crowd when the poor sisters were bludgeoned to death.
Loretta, Faye and I heard a woman's voice and also a child crying out.
Some of us heard thumps which sounded like the ground was being struck or the base of a tree. They were regular thumps, in a sequence of three or four.
Loretta also heard the sound of marching which she thought was coming from near the road. This is a reported phenomenon and is reputed to be a Roman legion marching down the Roman road which runs straight though the forest. She was quite scared by this.
After gathering at the tree for a considerable time, we started to walk slowly back to the Roman road and then on to our cars. As soon as we reached the Roman road the oppressive feeling returned. This feeling left as usual when we left the Roman road and commenced along the small lane again.
As usual, Grovely Wood was a worthwhile location to visit. I'm sure we will return before too long.