All Land is Sacred – Silverhill

Silverhill gained its name from the silver birch forest which at one time, grew abundantly in the location. Now known as Silverhill Country Park – I am glad it retained its original name, despite not many silver birch remaining, sadly.

Silverhill sits on the edge of Teversal Village on the border between Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. Teversal is a small semi-rural farming village with connections to DH Lawrence,  Teversal Hall is reputedly the setting of Wragby Hall, in DH Lawrence’s novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

To the west of Silverhill, is Hardwick Hall and Hardwick Inn – just a few miles away through windy country lanes. Both these buildings are steeped in history. The Inn is mentioned in the Doomsday book and the Hall has connections to Mary Queen of Scots.

However, Silverhill has no such claim to fame, no beautiful old building stamping its mark upon the landscape, to forever remind us of the past. 

It isn’t even particularly pretty or remarkable in any way or at least, in any apparent way.

Around 1875 the site of Silverhill became a colliery. The trees were cleared and the shaft was sunk and for over 100 years the site was a coal mine.

The mine was closed in 1992 and a few years later the area was planted and paths laid out to make the scarred landscape a pleasant country park with bridle, cycling and walking paths, ponds, nature reserve and other points of interest, the main one being, the old coal heap, which now forms a very steep hill (The highest manmade hill in Nottinghamshire) on top of which is a stone circle and in the middle, a statue of a Miner (Testing for Gas)  

fast forward and its 2010. I have moved back to the area after a short time living in West Wales. I am looking for a suitable spot in nature to celebrate the summer solstice.

There are a lot of potential places in the area, to choose from yet somehow Silverhill ‘felt’ right. It isn’t immediately accessible, there is a 15/20-minute walk from the carpark and then, of course, the very steep incline of the hill but once up there the view is spectacular! 5 Counties can be observed from its summit on a clear day – a perfect vantage point to enjoy the Litha Sunset… Perhaps that is what drew me? Maybe it is the mining connections? I am the daughter and granddaughter of miners. The stone circle, albeit a very recent one of a placement of limestone rocks around the centre statue, was a good addition too.

For 10 years the Solstice gathering has been growing. It seems to take on a will of its own. 

I don’t really plan anything other than a short blessing, invite like-minded folk through Facebook groups and take some things to make a small altar… the rest, the ‘Magick’ just seems to happen. Weve had fully costumed Morris dancers turn up, instruments and all and entertain us. A whole drumming group turned up one year, including a huge ‘mother drum’ they managed to drag up the hill, a Handfasting party another year who supplied us all with a delicious buffet and mead! Last year, a Medieval Knight on Horseback! Our attendees think i organise all this – I don’t! I am just as surprised (and happy) as everyone else!

Its worth noting that the stone circle, as new and haphazard as it seems, is actually 8 stones placed with 4 main stones in the 4 quarters and 4 minor stones in the cross quarter points, although, no one really knows why as the whole commission was done by the council.

I felt i was missing something… there was something more to that old pit site… everyone who attends, feels it…. i set out to discover more…

I spoke to the local historian but he didn’t know anything. I spoke to the local council they couldn’t help much either as the man who had organised the statue and stones commission had passed on some years ago. I was looking in the wrong places.

Chatting away to a ex miner, one day in the local pub, I found out much more.

Many years before Silverhill was a colliery, it had been mined before… the old tunnels were found by the new miners. Apparently, it had been (as mines were then) a series of small, timber supported tunnels known as Hobb’s pit (The road leading to the Silverhill carpark is known as Hobb’s lane) The former miner went on to tell me some fascinating stories and facts he remembered about the mine and the site itself….

This is what ‘George’ told me…

In the 15thC when the site was a woodland of Silver Birch, It was a place all the old Soothsayers utilised because of the said presence of strong spiritual energies… a bonfire would be lit  on every 3rd week (and on the aligning of stars) and when the fire burned to a cinder, they would rake over the ashes and foretell the future, It is said that a curse was placed upon the ground when the church attempted to bring in the Witch Finders, under orders ordained by Parliament. When the Witch Finders were directed to the site, it is said, their horses were attacked by  ‘Dwarves’ or ‘Hobbs’ at the ‘crossing’ (Assumed to be a nearby crossroads upon which, now stands the Carnarvon Pub)  Moving forward (1922) there was an article in the free press, by a retired miner – he was awarded the old age pension and he said he had been employed at the old Hobbs pit, he also said “I could tell you a thing or two about that pit” But his remarks were censored and never made print. The old pit was actually called the ‘Wharkey’ but all the locals referred to it as ‘Hobbs’ and even the lane alongside the pit was (and still is) known as ‘Hobbs Lane’. Numerous accounts of strange/paranormal activity have been reported by the old miners… one miner heard men go past him shouting his name, he called out in reply, several times, the shift deputy came to see what he was shouting at and told him that it was impossible, there was no one else in the immediate vicinity.

Another happening was the earthquakes which began in the early 1920’s – one particular earthquake was so severe; they brought all the men out… That was the day the tomb of Tutankhamen was opened. The earthquakes stopped after that. in the 50’s a group of men were working on a new junction, trying to lift some very heavy girders with pull lifts when, what looked like small hobgoblins appeared and started to lift the heavy girders and throw them around! Things seemed to quieten down at the pit until in the 60’s an old crypt was opened in a nearby (Teversal) Church and supernatural events began to occur, once more. A ghost of a 20thC miner, wearing knee breeches and flat cap was seen on multiple occasions at different locations, underground… a new recruit, named Kevin, was working when he turned and saw the man, dressed in early 20C attire and flat cap – he asked Kevin for a drink of water and enquired “How the coaling was going” Kevin replied that he didn’t know because he was new there, the man smiled, thanked him for the water, turned and walked through a set of closed doors! Young Kevin was very distressed, had to be brought out of the pit and he never returned. ‘Flat Cap’ as he became known, even attracted the attention of the national press!

Another miner had to be brought out in shock, after seeing his friend smiling at him – the friend had died in a mining accident a few years before…

another tale is of carvings/drawings in the old ‘Hobbs’ part of the mine – drawings of creatures with short arms and legs and pig-like features…

My favourite tale of Silverhill, however is from the 1500’s and possibly the reason for the Witch Finders? The same old miner, George, after the mines closed, went on to study English Literature at a London University. He became quite close to one of his professors who gradually came to know of his passion for local history. One day, the professor took him into the (restricted access)archives and showed him an old parchment. In Olde English it described events witnessed by some locals…. It went something like – The Plague had come to the village of Teversal and as regularly happened, the soothsayer, along with some worried locals, had lit a bonfire in Silverhill wood, to consult the spirits on the dire situation of the Plague. As the embers died down and the soothsayer raked them over, scrying for wisdom a ‘creature’ appeared in the middle of the fire and shouted, angrily, at the soothsayer in an unfamiliar tongue. The soothsayer became very vexed and agitated, he stood, yelled back at the creature in the same tongue it had spoken to him, threw his staff at it and the creature, the staff and the bonfire all disappeared underground!

it was 10 years after my first visit to Silverhill, that these stories ‘found me’ having been mentally asking, for a few years, why there was such a pull to the place. We have attempted to use the hill for other Sabbats but they have never worked out – either the weather was too bad (its VERY exposed) or people just didn’t turn up… it almost feels like we only have the permission of the land, the spirits, the ancestors or the Hobbs… for our Litha gathering and that is always perfect!

Who knows what is true of the history of Silverhill? How much is fear induced by scared miners, tricks of the light and wind or just hearsay echoing through time from a much more superstitious era? Still, I purchased a couple of hobgoblin ornaments to put on our altar – just in case…. 

Around the same time as i learned some of the history of Silverhill, I met a lovely man, Scott. He told me about a time when he was a child, he and his cousin on a bike ride, coming through Teversal heading home for dinner, when suddenly, the atmosphere changed. It had been a quiet summer Sunday late afternoon with just the birds tweeting… next thing, he felt like time had slowed down, like peddling through treacle (he said) and instead of birdsong, he could here a party… happy voices, chattering, laughing, mingling… but he was on a country lane and almost completely out of earshot of any gardens or houses… then after (what seemed) a few seconds, everything reverted, except, they were 20 minutes forward in time?

I’m so glad I got to meet Scott and hear that tale because, shortly after, Scott passed away – it’s almost like he was meant to find me and share that, before it was lost forever….

I wish I could end this story with explanations, reasons or outcomes but there are not any.

There is ‘something’ at Silverhill, without a doubt but i don’t know what?

I thought i had picked just a old industrial site but my thinking wasn’t expansive enough. This is how i learned, All Land Is Sacred and now i am inclined to believe, it and the elementals and other dimensionals governs over us much more than we think… 

Maybe, when the time is right, when whatever rules there deems me worthy enough, i shall find out more.

As a Post Script, I have been keeping records of attendance of our gatherings, to eventually be handed to this project. Silverhill Stone Circle, maybe, for now, a new stone circle but one day in the distant future, it will be ancient and we shall be the ancestors and i hope we are all remembered with a little more accuracy than this story i have recounted.

Blessings always

Jo Alvey