Myths and Mysteries

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Link to information about the routes Myths and Mysteries Tour 2022 | Cycling UK

Myths and Mysteries Tales Ride Information

South Loop

1.White horse at Burnham Green

White Horse Lane is said to be haunted by the ghost of a headless horse. White Horse Lane sits more or less on the boundary between Danelaw and the Saxons and one story is that the haunting dates back to a battle which took place there between the Saxons and the Vikings in 1002 when a white horse was beheaded in battle and haunts the Lane to this day.

2.Clibbon’s Post

Hertford's Un-consecrated Burial

On a narrow country road that runs between Bramfield and Bulls Green, about 300 yards from the Tewin Hill turn off, you'll be able to find a small solitary wooden post by the side of the road, surrounded by encroaching forest. The post has the words "Clibbons Post" carved into it, together with the date Dec 28 1782.

The post, known as Clibbon's Post, marks the site where Walter Clibbon, certainly one of 18th-century Hertfordshire's most infamous villains, was once killed and, reputedly, lies buried.

3.Sally Rainbow’s Dell

Sally Rainbow (18th century) was an English woman, alleged to be a witch, who lived near the village of Bramfield, in Hertfordshire.

She was feared by the local population, being fed and placated by local farmers who feared her casting spells to ruin their crops. She made her home in a copse which has subsequently become known as Sally Rainbow's Dell. (grid reference TL 29156 16348). The dell was avoided by everyone in the area, which made it an ideal place for the highwayman Dick Turpin to hide after robbing the coaches travelling along the roads to and from London.

4.Lady Anne Grimston’s Grave

Lady Anne Grimston lay dying. She was a proud and obstinate woman who had enjoyed her wealth and lands as well as the society of her friends.

She believed that there was nothing else in this world except the life she had lived: her riches, her grand house, her friends, the fine dinners and elegant clothes she had enjoyed. After she passed away, there would be nothing, she claimed. There was no eternal life of the soul, no Heaven and Hell. Her friends tried to point out to her how terrible and impossible this was, how certain it was that she would live another life, just as the roses die back in the winter and then live again. Just as the trees and flowers in the field come to life again after their long sleep, so also, her friends told her, would she, Lady Anne Grimston, continue to live, and that the life that was in her would never end.

But Lady Anne Grimston was proud and unbelieving, and she said to her friends: “I shall not continue to live. It is as unlikely that I shall continue to live as that a tree will grow out of my body.” She went so far as to make a challenge to Heaven, saying “If, indeed, there is life hereafter, trees will render asunder my tomb.”

And today, growing right from the heart of Lady Anne Grimston’s grave in St. Peter’s churchyard in Herfordshire County is one of the largest trees in England, with four trees growing from one root. The trunk of the tree has grown fast through heavy iron railing, which cannot be moved. The marble masonry of the tomb has shattered to pieces, and today Lady Anne Grimston’s grave is a heap of broken stone and twisted iron bars.

For over 200 years the trunks have forced their way through the tomb to raise their branches in a silent but powerful triumph.

5.The Wicked Lady

Katherine Ferrers (4 May 1634 – c. 13 June 1660) was an English gentlewoman and heiress. According to popular legend, she was also the "Wicked Lady", a highwaywoman who terrorised the English county of Hertfordshire before dying from gunshot wounds sustained during a robbery.

The unknown circumstances of Katherine's early death have fuelled speculation. The persistent rumour is that she was shot as a highwayman on Nomansland Common on the edge of Wheathampstead, and died of her wounds while trying to ride back to a secret staircase entry at Markyate Cell. Her body was supposedly discovered wearing men's clothing before her servants recovered it and carried her home to be buried. Markyate Cell was built on the site of a 12th-century Benedictine Priory and takes its name from a cell, or smaller structure, that served the monastery. It was converted at great expense into a manor house in 1540, and then rebuilt in 1908 after a fire. When a secret chamber was discovered by workmen in the 1800s behind a false wall next to a chimney stack, it gave new life to the legend.

6.Wheathampstead witch stone

Wheathampstead ‘witch stone’ is relocated after almost 600 years Cricket players who have been tripping over a nearly 600-year-old boundary stone for two centuries have won their appeal for it to be moved off-pitch.

During the 15th century the monasteries of St Albans and Westminster both contested the common, literally no-mans-land for the warring sides, for their respective parish.

And in 1429, after years of disputes, a jury agreed that a boulder of Hertfordshire puddingstone should be used to divide the two parishes. It was believed that puddingstone could ward off evil, sometimes being called hagstones or in this case Witchstone. Small pieces were carried in pockets. Larger blocks were placed on doorsteps, gate posts, on village greens and in churchyards.

Wheathampstead Cricket Club had been caught between a rock and a hard place over a historic puddingstone dating back to the rule of Henry VI, which divides the parishes of Wheathampstead and Sandridge.

But because of health and safety fears, that tooth-shaped stone has now been relocated about 20 metres on the outfield.

7.Sally Deard’s Lane

Sally Deards was said to have been a witch in the 17th or 18th century who was chased by a gamekeeper and changed herself into a deer!

8.Roebuck Inn

By the 16th century Stevenage was becoming noted as a significant staging post on the Great North Road, with a growing number of inns beginning to cater for travellers.

The town appeared more commonly in public discourse as Charles I was led through Stevenage on his way to London while under arrest by Parliamentarian soldiers. Samuel Pepys also recorded a journey here on 5 August 1664 and again in 166. Charles Dickens also stayed here along with another writer, Daniel Defoe, who commented on the Great North Road as ‘a most frightful way’. This was partly due to the abundance of highway robbers in the area, indeed it is rumoured that Dick Turpin escaped through a secret passage at the Roebuck Inn to escape the local Justices of the Peace.

Long North Loop

1.Balloon Stone

This stone monument commemorates the daring first hot air balloon flight in England. It flew from Moorfield, briefly touched down at Welham Green and finally ended at Standon Green End.

Located at 2 New Cottages, Standon Green End, High Cross, Ware SG11 1BP.

This stone monument was built in c1784. It was put up for William Baker of Bayfordbury to commemorate the hot-air balloon flight by Vincent Lunardi in 1784. The inscribed plate on it was renewed in 1875 for Mr Giles Puller of Youngsbury. It has the inscription 'Let posterity know, and knowing be astonished, that on the 15th day of September 1784 Vincent Lunardi of Lucca in Tuscany, the first aerial traveller in Britain, mounting from the artillery ground in London and traversing the regions of the air for two hours and fifteen minutes, in this spot revisited the earth.'

2.Pudding Stone

It was believed that puddingstone could ward off evil, sometimes being called hagstones. Small pieces were carried in pockets. Larger blocks were placed on doorsteps, gate posts, on village greens and in churchyards. A parish record of 1662 records how a suspected witch was to be prevented from escaping from her grave, “A hagstone be placed on the coffin for her bodie within be bewitched.” I’ve seen this three times on the internet, but never a reference to which parish record, or even which parish. Other websites talk about putting puddingstones on top of coffins to protect the deceased, again to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck. They have been used as grave markers and coffin stones. Some large puddingstones still mark graves. Here it plays a role in Mayday celebrations.

3.Piers Shonks Burial

Sir Piers Shonks was a legendary figure in the village of Brent Pelham in Hertfordshire, England, whose tomb is within the north wall of the village's church. According to local legend, Shonks slew a dragon that was causing havoc in the district and later cheated the Devil from claiming his soul by being buried within the walls of the church.

4.The Blind Fiddler

One of many villages to the north-east of Buntingford, Anstey was evidently significant enough in mediaeval times to have had a castle. It also produced the curious legend of Blind George the fiddler and the Devil’s Hole.

The Devil’s Hole is a tunnel rumoured to run from a chalk pit called Cave Gate to the castle. It’s said that no-one had dared explore to find out the truth of the story until one night, at least two centuries ago. A blind fiddler called George was playing and drinking at the Chequers (now called The Blind Fiddler) in the village when talk turned to the Devil’s Hole. Having had a number of drinks and “grown quarrelsome and pot-valiant”, George declared that he, his fiddle and his dog would venture into the tunnel and find out the truth of the matter.

Followed by a large entourage, many of them begging him to abandon the challenge, George walked to Cave Gate and declared he’d follow the tunnel “though the Devil himself were at the end of it.” As he entered the cave, led by his dog, he called to the villagers to follow his progress above ground by the sound of his fiddle.

Then he vanished from sight, and the unearthly sound of an unknown fiddle tune rose from beneath. The villagers followed it across the fields until they were about halfway to the castle. At that point the fiddle rose to a nightmarish shriek and stopped. Only silence came from the tunnel.

The people rushed back to Cave Gate just in time to see the dog race out. His tail was gone and his hair singed off, and he ran off into the darkness howling as if all the devils in Hell were behind him, never to be seen again.

Blind George, too, was never seen again, and it was generally assumed that the Devil had indeed been there to meet him. No-one ventured in to find out, though, and soon afterwards the entrance was sealed up, both to deter the foolhardy and to prevent George’s ghost from escaping. It’s said, though, that when snow falls on Anstey the first to melt is always a straight line from Cave Gate to the castle.

5.Jack O’Legs Grave

According to local legend, Jack lived in a cave in a wood at Weston near the mediaeval town of Baldock. When one year there was a poor harvest the Baldock bakers raised the price of flour, so Jack ambushed the bakers and gave the flour to his friends in Weston. In revenge, the bakers caught and blinded him. They gave him a final wish. Jack asked to be pointed in the direction of Weston, so he could shoot an arrow with his bow. Where the arrow landed, he wished to be buried. The bakers gave him his huge bow which nobody else could pull. He shot his arrow three miles, into the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church, Weston, which is where he was buried.'%20Legs,of%20Holy%20Trinity%20Church%2C%20Weston.

6.Henry Trigg’s grave

Henry Trigg (c. 1667 – 6 October 1724) was an English grocer who became famous following his death for his eccentric will which had his body placed in a coffin in the rafters of his barn, which became a tourist attraction. Trigg later became the subject of a ghost story. Trigg's barn and his former home, was 37 High Street, Stevenage. His coffin is no longer to be seen.

7.Six Hills

Local legend holds that they were the work of the Devil, who, sitting one day looking down on the Great North Road, began to amuse himself by heaving clods of earth at the passers-by. He missed six times and in a temper threw a seventh clod over his shoulder, hitting the spire of Graveley church and knocking it askew. The spire is crooked to this day. The holes in Whomerley Wood show where the Devil dug out his missiles, and the six failed shots lie in a line alongside the road and form the Six Hills.,church%20and%20knocking%20it%20askew

Short North Route

On this route the myths and mysteries are the same as the above list but missing out numbers 3 and 4.

With special thanks to Andy Walker (for the original idea) and Jill Borcherds (for help with producing the mapping).

Tina Walker