It’s said that every man has his day. If this is true, Wild Edric has had more than his fair share, and continues to on a fairly regular basis. Unsuspecting locals still witness his spectral appearance whenever his lands around the Stiperstones are threatened.

Edric wasn’t always wild. In the days before the Norman Conquest the Saxon lord led a quiet and uncomplicated life. It was only when William sent his men to take Edric’s riches and property that Edric let rip.

He seems to have been amazingly successful at keeping his hands on his wealth. It’s difficult to find any evidence of a single defeat meted out to him by the Norman invaders.

In fact William came to some sort of truce with Edric. By 1070 Edric appears to have been aiding the Conqueror in his attempt to defeat the Scots.

But these two great men didn’t enter into a long-term relationship of trust. We know that only a few years later William enlisted Ralf de Mortimer to bring Edric under his control.

Edric kept all his lands while he was alive as far as we can tell, but they didn’t pass into the hands of his kin.

No one knows how he died. Some say he passed away in prison, others that he was killed in battle, still more that he lived to a fine old age before dying a natural death. Most romantic is the story that he died mourning the disappearance of his fairy bride, Godda.

During his lifetime he definitely guarded his lands well from any Norman or renegade Welsh marauder that dared attempt a raid. He burnt his foes in heather fires and drowned other enemies in treacherous peat bogs.

All the people you meet who know his name will tell you he is still there waiting should anyone dare attack the Stiperstones.

The villagers around those windswept hills know they can sleep easy in their beds with Wild Edric always present, ready to protect them.

en français

Edric, l’Eternel Cavalier

On dit que chacun a son moment de gloire. Si cela est vrai, Edric l’Impétueux en eut plus que sa part, et cela dure encore de façon assez régulière. Les gens crédules d’ici peuvent encore voir son apparition spectrale lorsque ses terres autour des Stiperstones sont menacées.

Edric ne fut pas toujours impétueux. A l’époque précédant la conquête normande, le seigneur saxon menait une vie simple et tranquille. Ce ne fut que lorsque Guillaume, le conquérant normand, envoya ses hommes pour prendre à Edric ses richesses et ses biens qu’Edric se mit en colère.

Il semble avoir réussi de façon assez surprenante à garder les mains sur ses richesses. Il est difficile de trouver une preuve quelconque d’une seule défaite que lui auraient infligée les envahisseurs normands.

En fait, Guillaume en arriva à une sorte de trêve avec Edric. Vers 1070, Edric semble avoir aidé le Conquérant dans sa tentative de vaincre les Ecossais.

Mais ces deux grands hommes n’entretinrent pas des relations de confiance à long terme. Nous savons que seulement quelques années plus tard, Guillaume enrôla Ralf de Mortimer pour amener Edric sous son contrôle.

Selon nos connaissances, Edric conserva toutes ses terres tant qu’il fut vivant mais elles ne passèrent pas dans les mains de ses héritiers.

Nul ne sait comment il mourut. Certains disent qu’il mourut en prison, d’autres qu’il fut tué au cours d’une bataille, d’autres encore qu’il vécut jusqu’à un âge avancé avant de connaître une mort naturelle. Une légende des plus romantiques raconte qu’il mourut de chagrin à la disparition de son enchanteresse épouse, Godda.

Tout au long de sa vie, il protégea résolument ses terres de tout Normand ou de tout hors-la-loi ou maraudeur gallois osant tenter une attaque. Il brûla ses ennemis dans le feu de la bruyère et noya ses autres ennemis dans les tourbières traîtresses.

Tous les gens qui connaissent son nom vous diront qu’il est toujours là et guette au cas où quelqu’un s’aventurerait à attaquer les Stiperstones.

Les villageois aux alentours de ces collines balayées par les vents savent qu’ils peuvent dormir sur leurs deux oreilles grâce à la présence continuelle d’Edric l’Impétueux, prêt à les protéger.

Translation: Euro Langues Assistance & Tradufrance funded by

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Below you can hear three local people talking about Wild Edric. The recordings were made by photographer Rachel Hicken during Mythstories’ “Edric Still Rides” project 2000 funded by the Regional Arts Lottery Programme – West Midlands of Arts Council England.

Below you can watch an edited version of Xanthe Gresham’s performance of the story of Edric and his fairy bride Godda with the Storyscape created by Louise Frances Evans in 2008 which was commissioned as part of an Arts Council England lottery funded project.

copyright Xanthe Gresham

Background facts

The Stiperstones

The Stiperstones is one of Shropshire’s wildest places. Its bleak white tors of quartzite are swept by chill winds even in the summer.

copyright Gordon Dickins

In the winter with snow and driving, icy rain it can be a very uncomfortable place. Despite this it has a natural beauty all of its own and it has been designated a National Nature Reserve covering over 1 000 acres.

Stiperstones Geology

The rocky quartzite outcrops represent the baked sands of the beach of a returning sea about 500 million years ago. The hills have been eroded away by wind and rain, but the most dramatic sculptural work took place when ice sheets rolled over this area 15 000 years ago during the last ice age.

Not quite as noticeable as the crags but, some would say more influential in the human history of these hills are the Mytton and Tankerville Flags, rock formations containing veins of minerals. We know the Romans mined for the lead contained in these rocks and the mining industry has been shaping the hills ever since.

The remains of mine workings can be found all over the Stiperstones. Most shafts have been capped but care should be taken when walking the hills. Around the little village of Snailbeach many buildings from the lead mines survive including the remains of a railway and a very impressive tall chimney, “Old Tom”.

Flora and Fauna

The heather and bracken-clad hills make a natural habitat for the Grouse, the Raven and the Meadow Pipit. Small ground hugging berries thrive around the crags. You can find the whinberry or bilberry, the crowberry and the cowberry all in profusion. Even though one of the crags is called ‘Cranberry Rock’, you won’t find any cranberries there, ‘cranberry’ is probably a local name for the crowberry.

In the interest of managing the moorland, areas of heather are burnt during the winter. This is to burn away old woody growth and encourage new shoots to make healthy young plants. This is very carefully controlled with small areas being burnt each year. The process is called “Rotational Burning” and is a traditional way of maintaining grouse moors.

However, fires at other times can be extremely dangerous. In the dry summer a discarded cigarette or the ember from a fire can catch light to large areas of the heather and burn uncontrollably across the slopes in the variable winds. This not only causes much damage to the plant life, which can only recover from this untimely burning in a matter of six or more years, but also can be disastrous for the bird and animal life.

Stiperstories

Many writers and poets have been encouraged to put pen to paper when surveying the Stiperstones. The most notable of which is probably Mary Webb whose novel “Gone To Earth” uses the hills as its setting.

Local people have many tales to tell of witches, devils and ghosts who haunt these hills. It’s said when mist hangs around the Devil’s Chair (one of the crags) Satan and a coven of witches are meeting and bad deeds are afoot.

There are many other tales of Wild Edric and his fairy bride Lady Godda. Local people explain away rumbles from mine shafts saying that Edric is imprisoned in the lead mines for making peace with William the Conqueror.

There are many legends of how the Devil’s Chair came to be there. The devil was carrying rocks in his apron to fill a valley called “Hell’s Gutter” but the weather was too hot, even for him. He sat down for a rest and when he got back to his feet the strings on his apron broke and the rocks fell in a pile on the ground. He swore and cursed the rocks and went home leaving them where they had fallen.

Another legend says a giantess came stealing rocks. She heaped piles of rocks into her apron and tried to take them away to her home. Up popped the devil and rushed after her cutting her apron strings with his talons. The rocks fell to earth and the giantess ran away never to return. Since that day the devil returns there to sit on the rocks and survey the world about for evil he can do. Be that as it may it is said that the rocks in the Devil’s Chair all smell of Brimstone!

en français

Les Stiperstones

Les Stiperstones est l’un des endroits les plus sauvages du Shropshire. Ses pics de quartzite blancs et lugubres sont battus par des vents glaciaux même pendant l’été.

copyright Gordon Dickins

En hiver, avec la neige et la pluie froide et pénétrante, l’endroit peut être très inconfortable. En dépit de cela, il est pourvu d’une beauté naturelle très particulière et il a été désigné Réserve Naturelle Nationale sur plus de 400 hectares.

La géologie des Stiperstones

Les saillies de roche de quartzite témoignent des sables brûlés de la plage d’une mer remontant à environ 500 millions d’années. Les collines ont été érodées par le vent et la pluie mais le travail sculptural le plus spectaculaire eut lieu lorsque des plaques de glace roulèrent sur cette région, il y a 15 000 ans, pendant la dernière ère glaciaire.

Pas aussi remarquables que les rochers mais, comme certains le diraient, ayant exercé une plus grande influence dans l’histoire des hommes de ces collines, il y a les Mytton et Tankerville Flags (flag signifie dalle – ndt), qui sont des formations rocheuses contenant des veines de minéraux. Nous savons que les Romains exploitaient le plomb contenu dans ces roches et depuis lors, l’industrie minière a toujours façonné les collines.

Dans les Stiperstones, on peut trouver des vestiges de l’exploitation minière partout. La plupart des puits ont été bouchés mais il faut faire attention lorsqu’on marche dans les collines. Autour du petit village de Snailbeach, de nombreux bâtiments datant des mines de plomb subsistent, comprenant les vestiges d’une ligne de chemin de fer et une cheminée d’une hauteur impressionnante, ‘Old Tom’ (Vieux Tom).

Flore et Faune

Les collines recouvertes de bruyère et de fougères constituent un habitat naturel pour les tétras, les corbeaux et les pipits des prés. De petits groseilliers rampants prospèrent autour des rochers. On peut trouver à profusion des ajoncs ou des myrtilles, des mûres et des airelles. Bien que l’un des rochers soit appelé le ‘Cranberry Rock’ (Rocher de Canneberge), vous n’y trouverez pas de canneberges, ‘canneberge’ est probablement une appellation locale pour les myrtilles.

Pour faciliter l’entretien de la lande, des zones de bruyère sont brûlées en hiver. L’objectif est de brûler les vieilles pousses ligneuses et d’encourager de nouvelles pousses à devenir de jeunes plantes saines. Ceci est très étroitement surveillé, avec de petites zones brûlées chaque année. Le procédé est appelé ‘Brûlage par rotation’ et est une manière traditionnelle d’entretenir les terrains de chasse.

Cependant, les feux en d’autres périodes peuvent être extrêmement dangereux. Par un été sec, une cigarette jetée ou la braise d’un feu peut s’enflammer et se propager à de vastes étendues de bruyère et embraser de façon incontrôlée les pentes, sous l’action des vents variables. Ceci non seulement cause de gros dommages à la flore, qui peut mettre six ans ou plus à réparer les effets d’un incendie intempestif, mais peut également être catastrophique pour les oiseaux et les animaux.

Les légendes des Stiperstones

Maints écrivains et poètes furent inspirés de saisir leur plume lorsqu’ils visitèrent les Stiperstones. Le plus remarquable d’entre eux est probablement Mary Webb dont le roman ‘Gone To Earth’ utilise les collines comme toile de fond.

Les gens de là-bas connaissent de nombreux contes parlant de sorcières, de démons et de fantômes qui hantent ces collines. On dit que lorsque la brume est tenace autour de la Devil’s Chair (Chaise du Diable) (l’un des rochers), Satan et un groupe de sorcières se rencontrent et fomentent de mauvaises actions.

Il existe beaucoup d’autres légendes d’Edric l’Impétueux et de sa merveilleuse épouse, Lady Godda. Les gens d’ici expliquent les grondements provenant des puits miniers en racontant qu’Edric est emprisonné dans les mines de plomb pour avoir fait la paix avec Guillaume le Conquérant.

Il y a de nombreuses légendes qui racontent comment la Chaise du Diable est arrivée là. Le Diable portait des rochers dans son tablier pour remplir une vallée appelée ‘Hell’s Gutter’ (Ruisseau de l’Enfer) mais il faisait trop chaud, même pour lui. Il s’assit pour se reposer et lorsqu’il se remit sur ses pieds, les cordes de son tablier se rompirent et les rochers tombèrent en pile sur le sol. Il jura et maudit les rochers, puis s’en retourna chez lui en laissant les rochers là où ils étaient tombés.

Une autre légende dit qu’une géante vint voler les rochers. Elle amassa des piles de rochers dans son tablier et essaya de les rapporter chez elle. Mais surgit le Diable qui se rua sur elle et coupa les cordons de son tablier avec ses griffes. Les rochers tombèrent à terre et la géante s’enfuit pour ne jamais revenir. Depuis ce jour, le Diable revient ici pour s’asseoir sur les rochers et surveiller les environs, en quête du mal qu’il pourrait faire. Véridique ou non, on dit que les rochers de la Chaise du Diable sentent le soufre!

Translation: Euro Langues Assistance & Tradufrance

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Key Stage 2 Activities

What Lives There?

The Stiperstones can be a bleak cold and windy place but some birds and animals still find it a suitable place to set up home. See if you can find out which birds and animals live on the Stiperstones, and why they’ve chosen it above anywhere else. There is some information on the ‘about the picture’ page, but try searching the net to see if you can find any more. In the stories of Wild Edric people say he lives in the old lead mines. The Stiperstones area was a centre of lead mining from Roman times.

Go here if you want to know more about mining in the area and look at the Snailbeach Site Feature.

Ghost Stories

The Wild Edric in the painting is a ghostly spectre made from clouds of mist. Try to write your own ghost story. You could e-mail it to a friend.

Who Were These People?

The story tells us that the Normans came and wanted to take Edric’s land. But who were they, and where did they come from? Search and see what you can find out about them.

Misty Pictures

Mist is simply condensed water vapour. Breathe on cold glass or a mirror and a thin mist will form on the surface. Draw pictures of ghosts or spectres in the misted glass with your fingers and watch them disappear before your eyes. Don’t breathe all over the monitor though!

Stories

There is something special about wild places like the Stiperstones which encourages people to compose stories of heroes, ghosts, devils and giants. Plenty of tales have been told about the Stiperstones. Try composing your own or tae a look at the old Stiperstones poems that follow.

Old Stiperstones poems

LADY GODDA

On the top of Mytton Dingle
Lady Godda hunts her hounds
There she rides over heath and shingle
With the pack, on midnight rounds.

The winds moan softly in the heather,
Dark it is in the gorges below.
Hush, here they come altogether
Listen to that cry of woe.

It’s the doom of a wilful word
Said many more times than seven.
For the reckless lady swore she preferred
To hunt, than to dwell in heaven.

Do you see they are spirit horses
Which race on the Stiperstones?
Behold they are livid corpses,
Can you hear their creaking bones?

So for ever she at midnight
Hunts the Dingle all around
Beware of her ghost and the black sprite
For the place in haunted ground.

One night on that Stiperstones track
I saw by the light of the moon
Right before me a spirit black
Fallen down flat in a swoon
He’d heard me bawling and was taken aback
Hearing an old Shropshire tune.

Peggy Moses’ Well

High on the Stiperstones is Peggy Moses’ Well.
The memories it brings to me are more than I can tell
For round it clings the times we spent in Pennerley
Such happy times alas, can never come again to me.

We went to Pennerley in youthful days sublime
And drank the limpid water many a time.
We learned to know the people, what they were
And since have learned their characters are rare.

But what about the well of Peggy Moses?
High up among the heather it reposes,
Amid the cranberries red; where the world is always clean,
Above the foggy valley, in healthful air serene.

Above the jealousies and bickerings of human spite
It was a new existence, our hearts were always light.
It is not wealth we want, something far better is
A life in higher regions; that bringeth Heaven’s bliss.

When other wells were dry; this will be going strong.
Keeps flowing just the same, all though the summer long.
In hottest weather it will be as cold as ice
And if you have drunk once, you’ll want to drink there twice.

The water is as soft, I’ll say, as soft as milk
And clear as if it had been strained through finest silk.
When feeling thirsty, of that cool limpid stream
Away in London city, I often used to dream.

Some boast of wines, of brandies and champagne,
And if you mentioned water, you’d hear their high disdain.
But all these costly liquors just ruin their inside
Yet none were ruined by the water which this well supplied

For I assert that all the health men
That lived at Pennerley, and I’ll say it o’er again
They owe their healthy life to Peggy Moses’ well
And if you don’t believe it; then let the Doctor tell.

And I can well believe that it was once a shrine
The ancient folk sincerely thought the well divine
And after all that Pennerley means to me, if I speak true,
I verily accept their creed for I could worship, too.

Slashrags The Tailor and the Devil

He was a tailor by profession
But that was not his chief obsession.
By trade he was a swindler born
And worked hard at it, night and morn.
He did no sewing, using no thread
Together gummed his suits instead
Which saved his labour and his time
But what the wearer said don’t rhyme.
No one had dealings with him twice
Once badly burnt will oft suffice
And Law is a rapacious beast
The Honest man is often fleeced.

Alas, it fills my heart with woe
To think how vile the wicked grow
To know how much they are believed
How much th’electorate is deceived
Even members of Parliament
Are not above so much per cent.
They live for ever on the make
And honest principles forsake
Becoming rich, and what care they
For God, or man, or Judgment Day.
Such bribery and corruption
No prophet dares its interruption.

Slashrags looked innocent and suave
Although he knew himself a knave
But in the end he was found out
And I tell how it came about.

There was a place not far away
Called the Bog Reckoning, in his day
Amongst the mountains wild, it lay.
Well to this place the rascal went
What time the miners freely spent
Their wages ordering suits of clothes.
That no one knew him we’ll suppose.
He knew the way to capture trade
And all the tricks that business made.
It’s not the goods that always matter
Sometimes it is the talk, and chatter.

He mixed their drinks till they were fuddled
Then sold his clothes while they were muddled
He took some money on account
But added it to the amount
And used the law to make them pay
For the bad bargain made that day

Now comes the hour when he must hence
And ride along dark Flenny’s fence
Cross Ritton’s swamps; and Grithill’s dykes
And not disturb Shelve’s bulls and tykes,
And what is worse the Red Barn ghost
Which frightens travellers the most.

Along the ground Dick saw it creep
Then o’er the gate beheld it leap
Which bounded at him like a dog
My word, it gave his heart a jog
So it would yours or any one
In such a case, it’s wise to run.
And if you can, swift as a gun.

At midnight down in those dark lanes
Is heard the clang of iron chains.
Wild shrieks and screams of souls in woe
Driven by demons down below,
There is a place most woeful drear
Which now the wretched man draws near.
A haunted spot it is, I know:
Haunted by a big Boogebo,
Here to his horror he espied
A tall dark man the hedge beside.
He dared not run, he could not hide
With fear he stood still, petrified
And now was feeling very blue
When out the dark man came in view
And said ‘Slashrags. How do you do?’
He wondered why his name was known
But every devil knows his own.

A strong sulphurious smell about
Made the poor tailor want to shout
For it seems strange when bad men meet
Their Lord, you’d think they’d friendly greet.
Instead of which they’re scared to death
Dithering and trembling, short of breath.
Slashrags was in an awful mess
Beyond description you can guess.
For he beheld Nick’s switching tail
That sight did Slashrags quite upkail.
At last he knew his end had come
The Devil meant to fetch him home.

Old Nick could see that he was queer
But to abate somewhat his fear
And calm him down so I suppose
He ordered quick a suit of clothes
At this the pony cocked his ears
And Slashrags quickly lost his fears
No swifter cure I know ’tis funny
Than the mere chance of making money.
For money is a potent drug
It changes many a scoundrel thug
Into a bloated agitator
And makes him a blackguard orator
It makes physicians use the knife.
For fees more precious are than life
It makes some parsons crawl and creep
About a Patron cunning deep.
It makes a jackass of the Law
Much gold, yet more, to fill its maw.

It worked wonders on Slashrags
He quickly tethered his old nag,
And measured Satan for the clothes
Until he came down to his toes
To his horror there he found
With cloven hoofs he stood on ground.
To see such feet and swishing tail
Made him set up a dismal wail.
Meanwhile Old Nick was badly blinking
And trying much to do some thinking,
How best to end the tailor’s woe
In his dominions down below.

Satan is never in a hurry
Only good Christians hurry scurry
To fix upon his destination
He gave a week’s consideration
The end of Slashrags sure he knows
Meanwhile he could be making clothes
For Nick is not a wily fellow
Any lawyer MP could turn him yellow
One foolish thing he did, I trow
He let the scoundrel tailor go.

That night his wife advised him much
How to escape the devil’s clutch.
Urged him his wicked ways to mend
And make the Church his guide and friend,
Go in the morn to Middleton
Confess his failings every one.
To Middleton, the tailor went
And there a tearful morning spent
Returned, resolved his ways to mend
The parson was henceforth his friend,
And would be with him to the end.
The two went out as they agreed,
The good old parson took the lead.

When they saw Nick was there indeed
The tailor he became knock-kneed
But Brewster kept him on his way
Then jumped the hedge beside, to pray.
The Devil grinned and paid his bill
Then set the Tailor for the kill,
But saw will horror in his look
That parson reading his Prayer Book
He dropped the clothes with an awful yell
And in a jiffy took his hook
And hid himself in the lowest hell.

The Lads In Their Hundreds

Here is a song about the men of the area around the Stiperstones going off to war.

Read the lyric of ‘The Lads In Their Hundreds’ and listen to the music file. See if you can sing along.

The lyric was written as a poem by A E Housman as part of his work A Shropshire Lad. It is about the men who went to fight in the Boer War. The poem was set to music by George Butterworth, a composer who fought and died in the First World War.

See Lyric…

A SHROPSHIRE LAD – XXIII – The Lads in their Hundreds

The lads in their hundreds to Ludlow come in for the fair
There’s men from the barn and the forge and the mill and the fold,
The lads for the girls and the lads for the liquor are there.
And there with the rest are the lads that will never be old.

There’s chaps from the town and the field and the till and the cart,
And many to count are the stalwart, and many the brave,
And many the handsome of face and the handsome of heart,
And few that will carry their looks or their truth to the grave.

I wish one could know them, I wish there were tokens to tell
The fortunate fellows that now you can never discern:
And then one could talk with them friendly and wish them farewell
And watch them depart on the way that they will not return.

But now you may stare as you like and there’s nothing to scan;
And brushing your elbow unguessed-at and not to be told.
They carry back bright to the coiner the mintage of man,
The lads that will die in their glory and never be old.


Permission for the use of this poem was obtained from The Society of Authors as the literary representative of the Estate of A E Housman.

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