British Folklore
Fairy Lore & Prehistoric Sites in Britain
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Canctonbury Ring

Canctonbury Ring

Along the ridge of the South Downs, on a high spot just east of the village of Washington is Chanctonbury.  The Iron Age hill fort that sits atop was originally given the name Chanctonbury Ring, it's barely noticeable earthworks overlook the steep northern face.  In 1760, a boy named Charles Goring, a son of the family whose estate included the hill, planted thick clumps of beech trees on the site.  It is these trees which now bear the sobriquet Chanctonbury Ring.

There are many tales surrounding the hill and the ring of trees, both relating to how they were laid down and what kinds of goings on happen there now.

It is often said that Charles Goring, when he walked up the hill, brought a bottle of water up with him to water his growing trees or, alternatively, he had a footman carry buckets of water up along after him.  Another tale is that when he was a little boy his father gave him a handful of seeds to do as he liked with, so he ran round and round the earthworks on the hill, scattering them as he went.  The story of the rich young landowner has disappeared for other storytellers and been replaced by 'a poor village boy' or even 'three little girls from the vicarage below the hill,' who labored to create the ring.

Because of the nature of the spot, there were all kinds of reports of 'feelings' in the area.  Some claimed that their dogs or horses would not get near the trees.  Some others made more specific claims that it was haunted by phantom horses that were heard but never seen, or 'a lady on a white horse', or a Druid, or a white-bearded Saxon killed at Hastings who buried treasure there before going into battle and is now looking for it. If you run three times sunwise around the ring, one of these spirits will appear to you.

Another particular ritual written down in 1909 by Arthur Beckett in Spirit of the Downs follows; 'If on a moonless night you walk seven times round the Ring without stopping, the Devil will come out of the wood and hand you a basin of soup.'

The current conditions that are told today are far more specific and taxing, how many circuits you need to do, what time of day, even a particular date is can be told. Interestingly, the tale of 'too many trees to be counted' applies to this site as well, instead of the usual stones for stone circles.  It is said that if one manages to actually count the correct number of trees, the ghosts of Julius Caesar and his legions would be seen marching across the Downs - which is entirely ridiculous because the Roman invasion never affected this part of Sussex.