Mystery and Magic in the Woods

A brief history of the supernatural at Wytham

Have you ever been spooked in the Woods?

There is something about a wood, especially in the twilight, which can be unnerving. Is it the trees’ domineering height, or the sheer number of them crowding around you? Is it the fear of losing your way? Or could it be something else entirely…?

The Ghostly Monk:

Some years ago a Wytham resident was walking down the road from the Woods to the village, and encountered a figure heading the other way. Wishing them a good evening, it was only as the figure passed them that they noticed it was floating several inches above the floor. The hooded figure continued to float down the road until it vanished off towards the Walled Garden.  As recently as last month, one of the volunteers visiting Wytham saw a hooded figure cross the road in front of the car in which she was travelling. Unperturbed by its near-miss with the car, the figure again glided off towards the Walled Garden, where it disappeared.

The Singing Way:

You may have heard of the Singing Way, a long stretch of road through Wytham Woods, lined with beautiful beech trees. There are two theories behind its name. One suggests it arose because pilgrims making their way from Cirencester to Canterbury, travelling along the main road through Swinford, would come over the rise of the hill, see the view of the dreaming spires of Oxford and burst into song. However another theory says that in the eighteenth century, folk suffering from ‘melancholic insanity’ were brought to the Woods to listen to the singing trees, and thereby be cured. Soil from the Woods was even sold in Oxford and beyond as it was thought to have healing properties. (Annals of Berkshire, 1808)


We often remind folk that the Woods are also known as the Woods of Hazel, as the estate was left to the University by Colonel ffennell and his wife Hope in memory of their daughter Hazel. What is less well-known is that Hazel’s ghost is thought to run along the hillside, still enjoying the woodland she knew before her untimely death.

Witchery at Wytham:

Legend has it the last witch in Wytham, who was dunked in the Seacourt Stream, put a curse on the menfolk of Wytham so that they would all die before their wives. For all families in the village, bar one, the curse has come true…