Hellsborough & The Dark Peak

Discovering the unexplored parallel world of Sheffield, S6 -- Hellsborough and The Dark Peak


Pip's Hellsborough Diary

« Return to Index


I was up on Wadsley common last weekend, walking through the bracken dunes, my bare legs scratched by the course bracken, the gorse and the briars. I got to thinking about change, and the way seasons bring on so much variation in the landscape -- it is the vernal equinox after all, and this season is my favourite. You call in Autumn. Here in The Dark Peak they call it Windstrom -- the time of the howling, the vicious, biting wind that infects the murk and drives folk crazy with its high pitched whistle.

It is easy to see how legends come about, here's an extract from Hellsborough Chronicles Book 1, where Van is trapped in the Wisewood:

And my mind that night, it played the worstest of tricks on me. Many a time I thought I'd be eaten alive by that beast in the shadows. I was awake and could hear everything, yet my body could do nowt to escape, or even move. I'm sure I might have died of fright only to be resurrected as some revenant, to forever stalk the Wisewood. I imagined mesen with my arms of twisted sharp briars, with legs of bandy Ash and a scream in me throat.

And this monster - this me of my murknightmare - carried a big old knife in its bloodied and broken hand of thorns.

I'm listening to Van telling me this, and my first thought is of an ancient poem: "Brackenman of Wadsley Common". The common is not so far distant from the Wisewood as the corvid flies, and Van's description certainly bares a distinct resemblance to the creature of the poem -- a cryptid from here or hereabouts:

"Bracken Man of Wadsley Common". I researched it in Hellsborough library. Decide for yourself, but to me, it sounds very similar to what Van is talking about:

The Common at Wadsley was ever dark, ancient and sinister.
Its man of bramble, thorn, bracken and briar;
And no one scrambles over the sliding gannister
Bowed legs of ash, four arms of yew and perishing juniper
Down the precipices of its sides, with tangled roots
Swirling fronds of green and purple heather shoots.

So the old poem goes. "Witnesses" of the creature, according to the ancient legends, at least had the Brackenman of Wadsley Common with his half dozen arms and legs made from twisted and bendy tree stalks with his body as a tangle of bramble and briar.

In an account that I read doing my research, a middle aged chap -- he'd been quite wealthy and of high standing, something of an engineer by all accounts, so a trustworthy type; not some fly-by-night who was likely to profit from some sort of supernatural tale. This engineer had been out for a few beers (and, if he's like me and Van, likely several more after that) at the Star Inn on Fox lane and had taken the Coal Pit lane back across the common, heading for his home somewhere off the Stubbing.

It is extremely dark up there on the common, and this was a late Windstrom evening, so it had been dark for some time that night. The murk hung low and heavy, making it hard for this chap to keep to the path and avoid the rocky outcrops, of which there are many. He had fallen several times, bruising shins and other limbs, but had still managed to get as far as the standing stone circle, at which he paused for a while to catch his breath; he'd ascended to quite some height by that time.

The legend has it that whilst resting against one of the great stones of the circle, he was attacked by a beast that came forth from the centre of the circle.

The beast had a body of a thistles and thorns, legs of bandy ash and arms formed of twisted briars. Its head was a gorse bush. Its eyes were the orange of burning coals.

The bracken man beast enveloped the exhausted engineer where he stood and encased him in those spiky arms of briar.

The engineer's skin was punctured many times, causing him to almost to bleed to death.

He was found sometime after dawn by a passing knife grinder. The engineer lay in the undergrowth in a sorry state, barely alive. His body -- but not yet his corpse -- had been picked over by scavenging slyfluffs and grizzlers through the night, and corvids during murkrise.

But that's just a legend.

Free eBooks, or read online