Folklore

Facts and Fiction of Skirrid Fawr

Skirrid landslip©

Extraordinary features of landscape whether natural or man made are often described as the work of supernatural beings. There are numerous stories which put such features down to accident rather than design and Skirrid Fawr has plenty of these. Many legends are either religious based or feature mythical characters, often giants, and here are some. Fiction: The fissure on the side of the Skirrid which leaves that part of the Skirrid precipitous has been said to have been caused at the time of the Crucifixion of Our Saviour when the 'rocks were rent' and thus the Skirrid is called 'The Holy Mountain'. Fact: The landslip occurred at the end of the Ice Age.

Facts

Sion Dafydd

Spitfire Crash

Rudolph Hess

Major Herbert

Legends

Jack o'Kent and the Devil

Jack o'Kent a well-known character around Herefordshire/Monmouthshire. In some legends he is described as a cleric whilst others refer to him as a giant. One such story is that Jack o'Kent, a local cleric, bet the Devil that the Sugar Loaf was higher than the Malvern Hills. When Jack was proved to be right, the Devil, in disgust, tried to raise the level of the Malvern Hills by dumping an apron full of soil on their tops, but over the Skirrid his apron string broke and the soil fell out forming the tump at the northern end, known as 'Little Billy'. Jack was also said to be responsible for the three tall stones in the village of Trellech. The stones are set in a field close to Monmouth-to-Chepstow road, standing in a line 12m (39ft) long. There are many tales about the Trellech stones and one such is that Jack flung the stones from the Skirrid Mountain, which is 14 miles from Trellech. There is a variation to this legend concerning the Devil. One day the Devil was testing his strength by throwing stones from the Skirrid towards the Wye Valley. They fell close to each other at Trellech but as the Devil went to cast the fourth stone his foot slipped and formed a deep hollow in the Skirrid leaving the gash in the side of the Skirrid. He lost his balance and the fourth stone fell short of its mark.

Jack o'Kent appears to have liked stones as yet another legend has it that while he and the Devil were trying to dam the weir to make a fishpond at Orcrop Hill in nearby Herefordshire they accidentally dropped their stones on Garway Hill; those stones are known as the White Rocks. Jack o'Kent reputedly lived around Kentchurch and is buried in nearby Grosmont churchyard. One day, legend claims, Jack persuaded the Devil to help him build a bridge across the River Monnow, between Kentchurch and Grosmont, by agreeing that the Devil could have the soul of the first person to cross the bridge. As soon as the bridge was built, Jack threw a bone over the river. This enticed a hungry dog and the Devil found himself its new owner. At Kentchurch Court, a private house that dates in part from the 14th century, there is a cellar where Jack is supposed to have stabled his magic horse and a bedroom where his ghost still walks on stormy nights. It may be that his soul is eternally damned, for on his deathbed he ordered that his liver and lights (eyes) should be impaled on Kentchurch (or perhaps Grosmont) church steeple. He said that a dove and a raven would come to fight over them and that his soul would only be saved if the dove won., however, there is no story as to how that battle ended.

The Devil's Table

The Skirrid has a distinctive toadstool shaped rock known as 'The Devil's Table' which can be seen if you look up when walking through the landslide.

It is said that here that the Devil sat having tea when Jack o'Kent (yet another variation on the landslide feature) leapt across the valley from the Sugar Loaf to leave his huge heel-print on the side of the Skirrid.

back to top

Devils Table©

Sion Dafydd

Long ago a man called Sion Dafydd, who lived in the hills above Abergavenny, was in league with the Devil. He had arranged with the Devil that his soul was safe as long as he was touching something rooted in the earth and many times Satan tried to catch him and failed. In the end, because he was too evil to go to heaven but too clever to be trapped by the Devil, he became a Will-o'-the-Wisp.

back to top

Facts

Spitfire crash

In March 1942 a Spitfire came down in heavy cloud and crashed. The plane was on a training flight and the pilot died instantly. The crash site, in private woodland, is no longer visible.

back to top

Major J A Herbert MP

Major Herbert gave the whole of the mountain above the hill fence, Caer Wood and the green lane leading from the small car park on the B4521 to the National Trust in 1939.

back to top

Rudolph Hess

Rudolph Hess often walked Skirrid Fawr and the surrounding area whilst held as a prisoner of war during the Second World War at nearby Maindiff Court.

If you have found this web page via a 'word search' click on www.llanddewiskirrid.co.uk to view this website in full.
Click to top of page