Name: Kilminorth Woods
Location: West Looe to Watergate, South East Cornwall, England
Weather: Clear, still winter night. Temp: 02°C approx.
Investigators: Jonathan, Matt, George
Map Ref: See Kilminorth Woods on the OS Map.
The Giants Hedge, legends of witches and strange nocturnal inhuman screams drew us to Kilminorth Woods one late winters night. A pleasant moonlit stroll in the woods was expected, but we found Kilminorth had something nasty hidden among the birches and beeches. Read on….
I have upmost respect for the woods, and Caradon Council, and mean no disrespect with the following investigation and findings, but I do need to be utterly honest, and open in my findings. I have had many agreeable rambles along the well signposted walks, and waters edge. Daytime, the woods present a pretty backdrop for the Looe Valley, and West Looe River. Bolder walkers can wander from the paths, and marvel at how wild this small area remains, given that a major tourist town (and a 750 space carpark at its base!) surrounds it. Perhaps there is something about the woods, which deters the less confident visitor, as you can quickly find your self utterly alone within minutes of entering by the main gate.
In terms of history, the hillsides have been wooded from before 1600AD, and features include the pretty ford based Hamlet of Watergate, a plethora of birdlife (including peregrines and buzzards) and otters.
The Giants Hedge: This is a strange ancient monument, as it defies all attempts at classification and management. Fragments of this huge earthwork are found as far a field as Lerryn, some 15 miles to the west. Both the inclusion of this monument, and the fact that the area has been wooded for over 400 years, means Kilminorth is one of the oldest woodlands in England. That's quite an achievement, and you have to wonder what sights and events have happened within their green walls:
The Duel: I have heard, (usually in a pub environment nearing closing time), that a duel once took place between two highwaymen, with both the victor and the poor unfortunate casualty haunting the main trackway through the woods . Now, do tell me if I'm wrong, but do thieves really have duels? It all sounds terribly romantic, but a quick stabbing, or bludgeon would do the job among lowlifes. Also, prior to the creation of the in-road and Polperro Road, there wouldn't have been many highways to confirm their status. So, I am truly sorry to say that the jury is out on that one. Whereas, a fight, between two consenting criminals sounds far more likely, and probable. Sadly, my research on this matter has provided little in the way of facts, or fiction, so we shall have to put this tall tale down to enthusiastic late night storytelling. Now, what's wrong with that?
The Witches: This is far more interesting, plausible and fits with local findings even today. These woods, being as old as they undoubtedly are, are bursting with flora and fauna. From holly, yew and beech to rarities like Cyclamen and the wild woodland Daffodil. The knowledgeable witch, whether she is white or wicked, would look upon these acres as a venerable supermarket of goodies. I like the idea of the healers, or early chemists, exploring these woods with their baskets, seeking out medicinal herbs and sacred twigs. It's a good, solid, stereotypical image, and not one which I find particularly threatening. In hindsight, you could say I was led down the wooded path, as I was about to discover Kilminorth's inhabitants were far from fairytale….
The Investigation: We began our investigation in George's car, at the very top end of "The Millpool Carpark". There is a lay-by, overlooking a wide stretch of the West Looe River, which is popular with elder folk during the day, and late teens in the evening. All towns seem to have an area where these 'young adults' congregate in cars, and the relative darkness and seclusion means they can "make out", litter the verges, vandalise the car park furnishings and generally feel as if they are rebelling against the system. We spoke with a few members of this exclusive society, and they did have a few stories to tell:
Sticks and stones: A less brash teenager, lets call him 'Kevin', told us his car is often scratched after a night in the layby, and "the others" have heard stones hitting the roof of particular vehicles, and sticks have landed on the windscreens. I suggested it might be other groups of kids, but he was quite adamant that there's no-one brave enough to "mess with my motor". So, patient reader, I suggested to Kevin the overhanging trees may be the cause. I was told, in a matter of fact manner, it "wasn't the trees". Interesting stuff. I suppose.
Sadly, nothing else is worth repeating, as cheap Lambrusco and timidly smoked cannabis joints had done their job. By 23:00 the group departed in a blaze of bass driven musak, and glowing numberplates. When one of this group leave, they ALL seem to leave. It was quite amusing/interesting to observe the hierarchy on display.
It begins: So, that leaves myself, Matt and George sitting in the car alone, awaiting the "witching hour". I insisted it had to be midnight, not so much for technical reasons, but to add a little ghoulish fun to the proceedings. We were all in good, humorous moods (no alcohol was involved, sadly), and sat patiently chatting about previous investigations. Then, suddenly, at 23:45: "Thunk!". A lichen covered branch, approximately 40cms long, appeared on the windscreen. George, justifiably annoyed, got out of the car and yelled into the woods "Oi, do you want to try that again", in a voice which hid his shock to great effect. There was no answer from the woods. So, we decided to start there and then, and make our way through the gate and into the inky darkness of the Kilminorth Woods….
23:54 - I announce to the Dictaphone the time, the 'investigators' present, the location and the weather conditions. Before I can finish Matt whispers "What was that?" in a voice which stopped all of us in our tracks. Peering into the gloom, we all heard the sound of someone walking away from us, in a pace which suggested no urgency. I shone the torch along the wide tarmac path, but nothing was visible. We continued in silence.
00:03- By this point, we had reached the midpoint along the tarmac path, and had relaxed into a blissful open-mindedness. I was aware of feeling watched, but there was nothing too threatening about the sensation. Matt stops to take in the atmosphere, so we all stop.
00:12 approx- I sensed George was not a happy bunny, so whispered an enquiry. He's wondering why we haven't mentioned the footsteps behind us. I had heard the occasional sounds behind us, but thought it may have been the wildlife. Shining the torch back along the path revealed nothing, and nerves were calmed again. This did not last for long. The sound of footsteps in the woods to our left side was alarming to say the least. I am not talking about the casual rustle of leaves made by a hedgehog, nocturnal dog walker or playful teenager. It was a rapid scampering made by something/someone who didn't seem to need a torch, or any light for that matter! This was when it first occurred to me that we may be making a mistake.
00:15- A dry sounding branch is snapped somewhere to the right of us, more than 20 metres away (approx). George has had enough, and wants to return to the car. Call it false bravado, but I was having none of it. We moved on, further along the path. Matt asks if "any of us saw the flickering blue light up ahead?". We hadn't. Our party moved onwards.
00:30 approx- a series of rapid and very audible footsteps directly behind us. Swinging round we prepared to criticise the prankster, only to find nobody there.
(I know what you are thinking, I would think the same, it's a dark night, in a woodland full of wildlife. Anything could be making footstep sounds. Well, I can only state that it wasn't a hippity skippity bunny. The footsteps were definite, loud and with purpose).
00:30 to 00:35- The torch failed, and we had to rely on the camera flash for illumination, hence the photographs which illustrate this page (200+ photographs were taken). With each blinding flash, we were all too aware of something lurking just out of view, and stalking us along the path. Our chilly silence is very obvious when listening back to the recording, made by the Dictaphone. It is at 00:34 that I can hear George mumble that he is feeling a little sick, which I didn't notice at the time. Or ignored, sorry George.
00:35- George and myself sit on a bench along the path. Matt stands with his back to us, and remains silent. A few moments later he is very cross with us for touching the back of his neck. We hadn't. All standing, we hear someone scramble up the bank to our right. It was so loud and definite that it seemed to bolster our courage. There IS something in the woods with us. Out of view, and most definitely playing with us. I would love to fib, and say it was exciting, but I too began to feel sick. We continued along the path. Matt is taking a photograph every few seconds, and George begins to talk to our invisible host, rather sarcastically.
00:40 approx - I give the now ignored torch a last go, and to much appreciation it beams into life. This will sound ridiculous, but the light felt almost like a weapon. Sadly, it proved to be rather useless, because at 00:41 another lichen covered branch lands on the path behind us.
00:42 - A hurried, and whispered conversation, has us all certain that something is attempting to lead us deeper into the woods, and dissuade us from retreating back to the car, and our normal lives. To confirm this very thought, a twin set of running footsteps can be heard both behind and ahead of us. By this point, my state was shameful. I can honestly say that I was terrified. Sorry mum.
00:45 to 01:00 - Matt has either 'had enough', or thinks there is nothing to lose, and begins stating facts to the darkness. "We aren’t going, so you can stop trying to scare us". (Trying!!!??) This is rewarded with the snap of a fallen branch somewhere to our right, down by the site of the old Boat Yard. "Thank you", says Matt, "Can you do that again? We want to make sure there is definitely someone there". A rustle of leaves to our left, beyond the wooden fence and down the earthy bank. "Do you have anything to say to us?". "Do you want us to know something?". Silence, except for nervous fidgeting from myself and George. After 3-4 minutes we all decide that whatever was playing with us, has lost interest, and we proceed down to the waters edge. The open area was strangely comforting, after the tree lined corridor of the path. We begin to swap notes.
01:10 approx - A truly disgusting moan is heard by all, coming from the path we have left behind. We must walk that path to return to the car. It is impossible to guess the sex of the source, but it was definitely human in origin. I say "human", but it had a curious quality I have not heard before, or since. Guttural, feral and nauseating.
01:34 - By this point, we have become almost used to the occasional twig snap, rustle of feet and guttural moan from the woods to our right. And then it all stops. Not just the noises, the atmosphere is gone. It could have lots to do with the fact that the bright lights of Looe are now visiable in the distance, but we all feel much better, and bolder. Matt continues his communication with the darkness. "Are you trying to talk to us. We mean you no harm, but are just curious, and scared shitless". (Dear, oh dear, Matt, has it really come to that?!).
01:38 - George freaks out. Honestly. Something has touched his mouth, and he is fed up with "being played with". He will not be comforted, so we make haste towards the carpark.
01:43 - Matt states that he can no longer see light anomalies, and I agree. This new lull is far from comforting, as George is aware that something is directly behind us, back towards the carpark. I agree, there is a strong sensation of discomfort and I become conscious that I am sweating. Another branch is snapped nearby, and we stand very still. Something blows in my ear, and I can smell what I can only describe as rotten meat. A sickly, putrid and sour smell. I am not the only one. George is now stating he "is going to be sick". Slow footsteps are heard behind us again, which stop about 6 metres from our position. A throaty moan, which climaxes in a 'filthy' guffaw can be heard, and we run for our lives!
01:50 - Enough is enough. Sorry. The rapid, and frantic dash for the car results in George being slightly sick. A few comforting pats on the back are not enough to calm his mood, and he is furious with both the group, and the 'presence' in the woods. We get into the car, and leave the lay-by behind. There were no other cars in the lay-by and no-one in sight, nor sound.
In retrospect: We have rarely spoken of the Kilminorth investigation. It's rather embarrassing, and upsetting to think back to. It hasn't been particularly fun writing this page either. Having to listen to the recording is quite traumatic. Let me just say two things regarding Kilminorth Woods: I won't be going back anytime soon, and I strongly suggest newbie ghosthunters avoid the location, unless they have an experienced and confident medium/parental figure with them.
Witches? Ghost witches? I have no idea, I'm afraid. Why? Because I was afraid.
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