- Travel and Places
What are the Wyrde Woods?
The term ‘Wyrde Woods’ is used to denote what could best be called a distinctive district on the southern edge of the Sussex Weald. Part of today’s East Sussex though the native inhabitants of the Wyrde Woods still think of that county as being part of the Kingdom of Sussex. Just as Sussex used to be a world unto itself within England so the Wyrde Woods are a world unto itself within Sussex. A world within a world within the world as it were. Moreover, one that harbours further secret domains.
Most human habitation in the Wyrde Woods can be found in the Edgelands. Starting north, at the old Carfax Inn (Carfax is Broad Sussex for crossroads) the Edgelands sweep south in a wide circle, all farmland till the circle turns south at the market town of Odesby. From there the Edgelands circle onwards, turning north again at the village of Nickleby (home of the Earl’s Barrel pub) and then on to the village of Wolfden, the Manor of Huntersden and the hamlet of Mordrove before arriving back at the Carfax Inn.
The Outer Woods
Turning inwards one encounters the Outer Woods. Opposite the Carfax Inn is the Unfortunate Forest which is centred by the magnificent brick palace called Malheur Hall. To the west of Malheur Hall is ‘The Cottage’, the traditional home of the Malheur Hall Groundkeeper, and Devil’s Tarn, an eerily tranquil deep pool of water. South of the Unfortunate Forest, the boundary marked by the ancient Halfway Oak, are the Pale Woods. So-called because of the multitude of birch trees the Pale Woods stretch all the way south to Odesby. A notorious place in the Pale Woods is Gallows Hill which is crowned by the distinctive standing stone called the Blood Stone.
The southern area of the Outer Woods is marked by the expansive stretch of wetlands called the Water Meadows. The northern boundary of the Water Meadows is marked by Tuckersham, a village of which only a ruined church remains and the equally ruined St Lewinna’s Priory. To the west of the Water Meadows lie the High Woods, dominated by the hills Arthur’s Fort – and old iron age hillfort – and the Lusty Giants; twin hills, each bearing an explicit hill figure of old. The northern edge of the High Woods borders a series of woodlands commonly called Shim’s Copses. These circle north and then east till they encounter the edge of the Unfortunate Forest. The Shim’s Copses contain the relatively unknown shallow gorge called Willikin’s Drove and the ruins of a Roman Bloomery which a careless clerk once marked as ‘Flower Place’ on a map. Further north is Fool’s Hill, an elongated solitary hill which served the whole district as a quarry and is notable for the stone circle called Fool’s Folly.
The Inner Woods
Within the Outer Woods is a crescent shaped area known as the Inner Woods. The western tip of the crescent begins at the Whychwood. Turning eastwards we encounter an ancient cottage called The Owlery, Robin’s Gorge with its resplendent sandstone cliff walls and the ruined village of Roreford as well as the River Rore. Here too are The Falls; a waterfall where the Rore plunges into the Fey Pool. The next remarkable parts of the Inner Woods can be found on a perfect north-south alignment; the stone circle called the Shy Maidens to the north, a pond called St Lewinna’s pool in the middle and the rows of three times seven standing stones called the Guardians to the south. The crescent continues eastwards to encompass the hill bearing the Giant’s Grove and the spring of the Taunflow River which merges with the Rore River in the Water Meadows to the south. It is ancient oak woodland all the way to the eastern tip of the crescent which is marked by the Halfway Oak.
The Inner Woods are renown for the multiple points where the boundaries of our kingdom brush those of Pook Hall, the realm of the Faere Folk, or Farisee as locals call them.
The Wyrde Woods Chronicles
Though the stories incorporate the legends of a rich and chequered past the Wyrde Woods Chronicles start in 1887 and end in 2013. The different novels cover different periods within this century-and-then-some. Perspectives change from novel to novel though the more books a reader reads the more he or she is encouraged to be pleased at the sight of old friends or wary at the re-appearance of a foe.
The first set of novels (now in planning phase) take place in the late Victorian era and focus mostly on Oscar and Priscilla Malheur, Wilfred and Fred Maskall, as well as Alice and Sarah Whitfield.
The second set of novels (now halfway) takes place during the Second World War and focus mostly on Will Maskall, Joy Whitfield and Maisy Robbins, though Fred Maskall, Sarah Whitfield and Priscilla Malheur do make an appearance. There is also a somewhat mysterious character introduced as ‘Walking Tree’.
The third novel or set of novels takes place in the mid-eighties and focuses on Ashley Pilbeame, Nyle Twyner and Mad Judd Mack. Will, Joy and Maisy do make appearances.
The fourth set of two novels (completed) takes place in 2004 and the story here is told by Wendy Twyner. Apart from some familiar faces another new character is introduced in the form of a mysterious lad called Puck.
The last novel will be the story of Jay-Jay Malheur and Ellette Hornsby.