Hopwas Woods always draws me back, it’s the wild mysterious part of the Tamworth area. As Henry David Thoreau said in Walden ” Our village life would stagnate were it not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it.”
People in industrial estates produce objects whereas people in Hopwas produces myths and news stories. Hopwas legend estate! A couple of months back Hopwas was back in the local Tamworth Herald news. The front page stories ran for a couple of weeks on evidence unearthed for occult activities found in the form of engraved copper tablets and Egyptian style statues.
The first reaction from the scientific, rational community is usually one of dismissing it out of hand, sometimes angrily,calling them wild stories, children’s pranks to sell newspapers. Another reaction is to ridicule and belittle the stories and people with the resulting bitchiness on both sides. Take a look at the heated exchange on the Tamworth Herald article comments page for example. I think though it´s more interesting than that.
Hopwas Hayes as one of the most ancient woodlands in the area together with being on a prominent hill is a prime area for goings on. It´s literally an island of wildness surrounded by thousands if not hundreds of thousands people in largely urban space and productive agricultural land. Woodlands did once play an important economic role in the landscape, they provided fuel, building material, charcoal, hunting areas. Now it´s an anomaly, what the hell is it? where does it fit in the modern world, even the army don´t use it anymore?? A place for walking the dog or is more than that
? It´s a non productive space, there´s no museums, woodland trust initiatives, it´s truly a wild place. Maybe even an affront, insult or even frightening unproductive space to some people, but to others could be the ideal place to act out different non-conventional part of their lives from new age beliefs to tree hugging!
Myth becomes reality becomes Myth
My effort to describe the full circle story of the occult and Hopwas below:
prominent point, ancient woods, thought of as source of energy = pagan practitioners attracted and start performing in woods = witches are caught by local police = local media frenzy = gets lodged in local conciousness= mysterious wood becomes more mysterious = attracts, pagan practitioners, kids messing about, stories, ravers, writers = some people as result may avoid scary wood = current day news story, occult objects are found, firm solid ´archaeological type´evidence is found, Staffordshire hoard style.
The process has produced the situation today, a highly charged place full of rumours, attracting and likely to attract certain people from far and wide.
This is all good
This is not a bad thing though this means the wood has become a fascinating place full of meaning for an increasing number of people. Stories of the occult are extremely attractive they help sell a lot of books, films and as the Tamworth Herald has found out, newspapers. They also help though enquiring minds, people want to find out more. People want to know more about this mysterious place, they´ll add stories to the place. Also there will be people who want to debunk these mysteries by trying to proving them wrong and providing the evidence for the history of Hopwas, thus getting to know the history of Hopwas better. People like me will try to use the interest in the strange happenings in Hopwas as a launchpad for my discoveries and encourage exploration of the area. Others like the West Midlands Ghost club have their own research agenda and will keep adding mystery to the place. Witches and non-witches alike will keep dancing.
This is all good, this means Hopwas woods becomes alive with enquiry, exploration for all sorts of people with different approaches and views. This is not something to be scared of there´s enough for everyone, what we should be scared of is the places being ignored. By being ignored it could be condemned, the Woodhouse was a victim of being ignored and looked what happened to it.By being ignored, by not being talked about, and leaving it in the hands of a few, the council, English Heritage, Tarmac, whoever, a lot has been lost over the years and a singular view of history encouraged; all country houses, castles and churches!
Adding more to the witches brew
i) Egyptian occult objects in the Hopwas area, whatever, Tamworth´s used to them. 19th and early 20th century philanthropist Tamworth resident Reverend William Macgregor(nice link and research here) was also a highly respected Egyptologist, he also had one of the most important collections of Egyptian collections in the United Kingdom. He had the collection quartered in his residence at Bolehall Manor, Tamworth with solid rumours that there are Egyptian mummies buried beneath the Palace cinema, now Mcdonalds(this together with Rev William Macgregor warrants a post or blog of it´s own) ! Tutmania right there in Tamworth! Here´s a video of some strange Egyptian goings on from the great Sun Ra in a place in a forest space somewhere
ii. Mysterious ephermeral cottage in Hopwas woods.
This bit of historic map detective work on my part could add to that whole Blair witch theme going on in the woods, I´m justing putting out the material evidence, do with it what you will. Use it in novels, campfire stories,……
1924 Ordnance survey map showing the cottage and grounds next to the canal
Between around 1920 and 1940, the Woodman´s cottage appears on ordnance maps. It´s close to the canal and bridge and adjacent to a well trodden raised path parallel to the canal. After WWII it disappears, from maps and from any record, woooooooooooooooooo. (cue me wandering off in white blanket)
The cottage appears to have some type of enclosed land, haven´t inspected it in person, but on this Lidar image of Hopwas you can clearly make out the cleft out piece of land on the hillside where the cottage probably once stood, is there any more evidence on the ground? what´s the story behind this place?
Lidar image of Hopwas and canal, with cleft out piece of between path and canal