The Mystery of Brown Edge Woods

Those of you who have been following my blog will be familiar with my reports on occult activity in Buxton in the 1990s. If you haven’t read these troubling tales, then I recommend starting with my encounter here and the update here.

It’s easy to blame the dodgy stuff that was going on in the woods around Buxton 25 years ago on groups of bored hippies exploring alternative religions. However, accounts of mutilated animals and a sighting of a goatman suggest there was something more substantial going on and you can read about that here.

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Up to date? Good. We can get on with The Mystery of Brown Edge Woods or a more apt title might be The Mystery of Brown Trouser Woods.

A man called Graeme Howarth has an addition to the whole saga. Like myself and Kenny Robertson, he innocently explored the hills, woods and fields that fringe Buxton as a young man in the 90s and ended up getting a lot more than he bargained for.

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Brown Edge Woods occupy a lofty and lonely corner of the Peak District town, punctuated by a communications mast and overlooking what was Lightwood Reservoir. When Graeme and his childhood friends decided to go there, they were already aware of the rumours that the place was used for devil worship. Imagine their shock when they found that the woods were occupied by a large group of peculiar and aggressive people who dropped out of the trees and promptly chased them away. The tree dwellers came to a halt at the edge of the woods but continued to stare at Graeme and his friends until they had vanished from view. Graeme remembers the confrontation in his own words:

It was quite bizarre. Though we had heard rumours, we didn’t expect to find anything but these people appeared almost immediately when we entered the woods; each one coming down from a different tree. We didn’t dare hang around and just ran.
There definitely was some strange things going on back then, it is an interesting subject and something I’ve not thought about for a long time. Though I’ve lived in Buxton all my life, I don’t know anyone who was involved in it.

What’s intriguing about Graeme’s encounter is that it doesn’t involve any ghosts or UFOs or any paranormal activity; just a bunch of people involved in a very strange activity. Why were they all sitting around in trees in a secluded wood? Why mount a quick and coordinated assault on a group of curious young men? What were they trying to hide? If somebody somewhere knows the answer to these questions, please get in touch. Otherwise, the mystery of Brown Edge Woods will become just another chapter in a perplexing parade of odd behaviour.

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Visiting for myself, I found Brown Edge Woods to be a very quiet place that’s difficult to access. The ascent from Lightwood is wild and steep and the woods are fenced off. There was not a soul to be seen and I found it easy to imagine that if you were up to no good, this would be an ideal spot. There’s some sort of farm or station to accompany the communications mast on the far side of the trees but I don’t know if this was inhabited 25 years ago at the time of the incident.

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I’ve been told by older Peak District residents that “there was a lot of this sort of monkey business going on at one time”. Nowadays, with most people carrying a camera phone and instant access to the World Wide Web, running a group that performs secret rites and rituals would be virtually impossible. The likelihood is that most of this so-called Satanism amounted to harmless nonsense but such outlandish stunts still haunt the memories of people who were witness to it.

Keep following World of Wolfson for terrifying tales of The Goyt Valley and get in touch if you would like to comment or contribute.

D.W.

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Mystery Beasts of the Peak part two

In part one, I revealed sightings of big cats, phantom dogs, werewolves and …erm… wallabies in and around the Peak District. Think it couldn’t get any more disturbing? Think again!

Since my last post, a few people have got in touch to tell me about their own alarming encounters in Britain’s oldest national park. A lady called Gladys was shocked to read my account of a black panther sighting in King Sterndale because she had seen a similar creature near the same village around the same time. It seems that King Sterndale is the prime place to go beast spotting. Take a job lot of Felix with you.

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Lion skull from Buxton Museum

Even more hair-raising was an account sent in by someone who got too close for comfort with a monstrous moggy twenty years ago. Witnesses usually glimpse these creatures from a distance in the countryside but this was a face-to-face encounter in suburbia. The person in question came home from school to find a huge sand-coloured cat “like a cougar or a lioness” relaxing in his garden. The RSPCA arrived later to remove the unwelcome visitor from the home of the family, who were understandably frightened and upset. He mentioned how odd it was that the men from the RSPCA seemed remarkably blasé about the incident, like it was something they were used to dealing with, and had very little to say. I contacted the RSPCA to discover what became of the creature but they replied to say they currently had no staff to consult their archives; two decades on and still suspiciously little to say on the matter.

When you start digging around, the Peak’s unknown menagerie gets even more flamboyant than panthers and lions. Local musician Kenny Robertson told me about a series of incidents when he was a young man in Buxton. It is a strange tale that ends with the most frightening beast that I have heard about so far.

Whilst walking around on a summer’s night in the mid-90s, Kenny and his friends were perturbed to hear a chorus of chanting from a disused quarry round the back of Lightwood and Corbar Road. Normally a quiet and respectable part of town, Kenny told me that he felt compelled to investigate the cacophony. However, every time he and his pals got close, the peculiar choir would cease chanting and play salsa music on a ghetto blaster, as if to mask their weird commotion.

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Kenny

Little did Kenny and his peers suspect that this was merely the start to a sequence of troubling events. Over the coming months, they would stumble upon the scene of three ritualised sheep killings in the same area. The first carcass had been torn open and filled with manure. Then they discovered three lambs hung and left to die on a barbed-wire fence and finally Kenny witnessed his neighbour cutting down another animal from a tree in his back garden.

Kenny’s upbringing was not as trouble free as you might expect from a peaceful town like Buxton. However, as I have already established, other people have stumbled across occult activity in these parts in the 1990s, including myself.

The sequence of gruesome discoveries came to a culmination at Lightwood reservoir. Kenny and his friends were shocked to see an unearthly creature running up an old track. It looked like a goat but it moved abnormally quick on two legs. Kenny suppressed a shudder as he recalled the scene; he can still picture the goatman silhouetted against a dusky sky. He told me that they didn’t have the courage to follow the fiend in the failing light but they returned the next day and found hoof marks in the mud, eventually disappearing into the tall grass.

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Lightwood

Could the group responsible for the ritual chanting and sheep mutilation have managed to summon a demon?

The Lightwood reservoir monster fits the archetypal image of The Devil or the Greek God Pan. A few local places have an established association with Satan. Peak Cavern in Castleton is also named The Devil’s Arse, due to its vast cave entrance where you can sometimes hear flatulent noises caused by water draining away inside. Eldon Hole near Peak Forest is the deepest pothole in the Peak and was once believed to descend all the way down into Hell. Both places are only a few miles apart and were thought to be linked underground but more recent explorations have yet to reveal a connection, nor the flaming abode of Beelzebub.

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Taking a stroll: Old Nick

I asked Kenny if he thought he had seen the Devil on that fateful night but he laughed and said “if it was Big D himself, I would have expected something a little more. It was probably a minion of some kind.”

Are there monsters in this part of the world? Not only is the answer yes but it actually seems overcrowded with horned, fanged and clawed villains. Prehistoric remains tell us that the Peak District was once the domain of bears, wolves and lions. Although it might be stretching your imagination too much to believe that these critters still linger, it is a scientific fact that they thrived here thousands of years ago. The last wolf in England was purportedly killed in the Peak village of Wormhill only as far back as the 15th century.

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Wolf skull from Buxton Museum

I wonder if there is part of the human psyche that still clings to the distant past; something in our DNA that echoes back to a time when having your throat torn out by a wild animal was a realistic threat? When you are walking out in the countryside and you see that dark shape dart away out of the corner of your eye, is there really something there or is it some funny old part of the brain still dealing with survival? I’m sure we have all experienced the irrational feeling of being watched. Although I never doubt anyone who has seen, heard or felt something peculiar, I am aware that the human brain has its own internal landscape designated “here be monsters.” Best not to be complacent; it might be a very long time since anyone was devoured by a beast of the Peak but can you be 100% sure there’s nothing out there?

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Wolfson and the wolf at Chatsworth House

I currently have no material for a Mystery Beasts of the Peak part 3 but I would be very surprised if there are not a few more tales out there yet to be told. If you have an experience you would like to share, please get in touch.

D.W.