Thanks to those of you who have commented or sent in your own stories about supernatural hotspot The Goyt Valley. Most notable of contributions was this photo sent in by Chloe Drabble: A phantom interloper photobombs a shot of Errwood Hall at night, when Chloe’s parents visited. Intriguingly, the figure resembles the one that appeared in my film, shot nearby. It seems that the otherworldly residents of The Goyt are very keen to get in on the action! Click here for the original article.
The Goyt Valley is a wild and bleak place a few miles north of Buxton in the Peak District in the UK. The valley is a dip in the moorland that cradles the twin reservoirs of Errwood and Fernilee, which go on to nourish the nearby city of Stockport. Walking the network of trails that orbit the expanse of water can be pleasant in the warmer months. Only the hardiest of daytrippers brave the valley in the rest of the year; it seems to grip the cold and its unyielding silence breeds a strange melancholy. Like me, you may know a few peculiar tales which only encourage you to shun its paths during those quiet months.
Deep within the valley, situated off the old moorland Roman road known as The Street is a shrine to St. Joseph, the patron saint and protector of the Catholic Church. The Goyt Valley was once a prosperous and industrious community and the shrine was a popular destination for people seeking a peaceful place to pray. Now the villages, factories and farms of the valley are long gone and the monument seems somewhat isolated and forlorn amongst the pine trees.
It was in the woods near this location that I had a strange experience that still baffles me to this day. About fifteen years ago, I chose this spot to make a horror film called The Horror of the Legend of the Night of the Beast. The most chilling aspect of the film was unintentional. A ghostly visitor made a cameo in the background. The phantom only appears only for a few frames and I didn’t even notice it until a couple of months after filming. Looking back at the night of the shoot, there was an oppressive and irrational atmosphere; the camera equipment kept playing up and the actors were jumpy. In short, we were all glad to leave and go home. My blood turned to ice the first time I became aware of the wraith-like extra. I’m still at a loss to explain its presence; camera fault, trick of the light or aspiring actor from another world?
One of my friends (who does not wished to be named for fear of recrimination) became thrilled about the apparition when I showed it to him and he decided to visit the location and investigate in the light of day. He didn’t find the ghost but he did have an encounter that was equally as strange. When he tried to climb a fence into the woods, unseen dogs started to bark ferociously from within the trees, prompting him to withdraw and hesitate. As soon as he was back over the barrier, the commotion ceased. He decided to enter the woods from a different direction but every time he approached the spot, the dogs would start to bark and every time he stepped back over the fence, they would suddenly stop. He started to think that the hounds did not actually exist and that he was merely triggering a recording. Reflecting back on his peculiar day out, he suspects that someone had set up a very unconventional yet effective way of keeping strangers out. The question remains; who and why?
The focal point for the whole valley is Errwood Hall. Once the heart of a flourishing community, the Hall was demolished in 1934 By Stockport Water Corporation to make way for the reservoir, along with almost everything else in the valley. Quite why the company felt the need to knock down an impressive Victorian mansion that was nowhere near the water is a matter of dispute. The most likely explanation is that they did not have the funds for its maintenance. Now little more than a ruin in a sea of rhododendron, the Hall still gets thousands of visitors every year, drawn to the mystique of the mansion in the woods. Slowly but surely, the building is being reclaimed by the wilderness and may one day vanish completely.
Is Errwood haunted? This is a question that local man Carl Bothamley has already asked himself when recalling an odd experience:
When I was a child, we visited The Goyt Valley and Erwood Hall hundreds of times. Mum and Dad, myself and two brothers. I recall walking past a pipe that the river ran through and one time as I looked down, myself and brother saw a pair of legs lying in the water. It was wearing Wellington boots and the body lay inside the pipe. We ran back to our Dad and told him what we had seen.
That is what I recall. My parents, however tell it different…
They say that my brother and I had walked on ahead and had come running back with a look of fear upon our faces. They said how we told them that we had both seen a young boy walking in the river. He was wearing long trousers, a dirty shirt, long socks, big boots and a flat cap. The same kind of clothing they would have worn when Errwood Hall was up and running! We told my parents that we saw the boy walk into the pipe so my Dad ran ahead, jumped into the river and went into the pipe to look for this boy.
He never found anybody.
Now every time I pass the pipe with my children, I tell them of the time saw this little boy and still have a look to see if he is still there!
A lady called Nicola Sutton told me an equally chilling tale about the same place:
A friend and I decided it would be a dare to go for a midnight walk up to Errwood Hall but it was pitch black and I was frightened to death. On the path leading up to The Hall I felt like piercing eyes were all upon us from every direction so quickly I suggested we went back to the car. The reason my friend wanted to return to the site was because a few weeks prior to that, he and a pal went up the same path and were stopped in their tracks by an apparition of someone dressed as a butler. They fled and went back home. Weeks passed and we returned in the daylight where we made it to the graveyard to find that all the people who worked at the hall; all named and the position they held there. To the discovery of a Frank who happened to be the butler to the family. A very eerie feeling fell upon us.
If the restless spirits of the Goyt Valley are not enough to chill your blood then there are tales of more earthly exploits. Someone once told me that they witnessed two groups of shifty-looking men meeting up in one of the carparks. The men exchanged bags and went their separate ways. When you consider that the valley is a quiet and secluded spot adjacent to cities like Stockport and Manchester, it is perhaps no surprise that it would be used for an illicit rendezvous. Back in the 1980s, two youths were murdered here.
A man called Matt Finney got in touch with his own Goyt Valley experience:
I was out biking in the Goyt one morning and came across a sheep carcass. When I say sheep, there was not much left of it and it had been ripped apart. Definitely not a dog. Another episode up near Erwood Hall, late at night and four of us heard a roar. We all looked at each other in case it was someone joking only to hear it again. Never ran 200m in the dark quicker than we did then, straight in the car and off!
Although the presence of a wild predator might seem beyond belief, I recently spoke to an elderly gentleman who lived on a farm in the valley for many years before the reservoirs. He told me that he saw “the beast” on several locations. It never came near the farm or bothered anyone but he would see the four-legged black thing prowling the moors at a distance and sometimes hear its fierce and lonely cry at night, as Matt and his comrades had done on that fateful evening.
Given the ruins of a forgotten community, wild woods, endless moors and deep water, the valley is one of those places that stimulates the senses and it’s easy to dismiss such anecdotes as products of the imagination. I recommend that you take a walk down “The Goyt” yourself and I hope you find some peace in the tranquility, rather than the beasts or phantoms that seem to linger there.
If by any chance you have your own paranormal experience of the Goyt Valley or anywhere else, please get in touch.
My favourite book when I was a kid was The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, a fantasy adventure about two children who befriend a wizard and help him fight forces of evil. It was sort of like the Harry Potter of its day (except it was good). Like J.K. Rowling, the author, Alan Garner, chose to set his fictional tale firmly within the real world; specifically Alderley Edge in Cheshire. The wizards, witches, goblins, elves, dwarfs and other magical beings etch out an existence alongside society, albeit a secret one.
For a children’s story, it’s surprisingly bleak. The most memorable sequence is a prolonged chase underground where the children are pursued by monsters through the network of mines and caves underneath Alderley Edge. It scared me when I was a kid and haunts me as an adult. I decided to revisit The Edge and some of the other places where Garner set his stories to find out if the magic still lingers.
The mystical old man who chaperones the heroic youngsters in Weirdstone is based on the legend of Alderley Edge which goes something like this: A farmer from Mobberley is on his way to sell a white horse at Macclesfield market when he meets the fabled wizard who offers to buy the magnificent beast. He doesn’t offer enough and the farmer refuses. The wizard tells him that he will not sell the horse at the market and lo and behold, the farmer gets a peculiar lack of interest. He encounters the wizard again on the way home and gives in. The wily old sorcerer then opens a pair of iron gates that appear in the rock, revealing an entrance into a cave with a pile of jewels, inviting the farmer to help himself. It turns out the wizard cares for 140 knights who slumber deep within The Edge, waiting for the day when England needs them, and they are a short of a horse.
The legend is given more credibility by the existence of a carving of the wizard above an old well, just below Castle Rock; The Edge’s most notable landmark. Sadly, the carving has almost vanished, along with the rest of Garner’s Alderley Edge. Nowadays, the village is more famous for being the abode of millionaires although you can still find several commercial establishments named after The Wizard so the association is not completely lost. The Edge when I was young was a quiet and eerie place. Thirty years on, like most other well-known countryside walks, it is overcrowded and the elves and goblins have nowhere left to hide.
Mow Cop Castle
I was brought up in the shadow of Mow Cop Castle on the border of Cheshire and Staffordshire. It now seems to be called Mow Cop Folly, which doesn’t sound quite as impressive. I remember its foreboding outline on the horizon and the frequent visits to play there with my friends. Garner utilised the structure as the central location for his novel Red Shift. Unlike Weirdstone, I struggled to read this one when I was a kid; its multi-faceted and ambiguous themes were too much of a challenge. I tackled it as an adult instead. The castle seems smaller and less imposing to me now but it still cuts an impressive silhouette. It is cared for by the National Trust, ensuring that future generations will enjoy it, and probably breathe new life into Garner’s story.
The equally awesome sequel to Weirdstone exploits a gloomy ruin called Errwood Hall in Derbyshire for its climactic scene. Once the heart of a flourishing community, Errwood Hall was demolished in 1934 By Stockport Water Corporation to make way for nearby Fernilee Reservoir, along with almost everything else in The Goyt Valley. Quite why the company felt the need to knock down an impressive Victorian mansion that was nowhere near the water is a matter of dispute. The most likely explanation is that they did not have the funds for its maintenance. Now little more than a ruin in a sea of rhododendron, the Hall still gets thousands of visitors every year, drawn to the mystique of the mansion in the woods.
In Garner’s The Moon of Gomrath, Errwood Hall is returned to its former glory by sinister magic; a fanciful concept that becomes easier to believe in the presence of such a spooky place. Slowly but surely, the house is being reclaimed by the wilderness and may one day vanish completely. If I was a billionaire, I would buy it back and return it to its original splendour; probably using builders rather than sorcery.
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If you like Alan Garner’s stuff as much as I do and you have visited a place that he has written about, I would love to hear from you but feel free to get in touch about any weird and creepy bobbins.