Stonewylde is a fictional alternative community featured in the series of contemporary fiction by
Kit Berry, the first being " Magus of Stonewylde", the second, " Moondance of Stonewylde", and the third, " Solstice at Stonewylde". Stonewylde is a magical place hidden away in the heart of Dorset. Surrounded by high boundary walls on three of its borders, with the fourth being part of the Jurassiccoastline, security is tight and the gatehouse is manned with hi-tech equipment and security guards. But once inside, it feels as if one has stepped back into the past.
Stonewylde is a vast country estate, acres and acres of wild
Dorsetland. There are rolling hills that form a chalk ridgeway along the spine of the land, running parallel with the sea and known as Dragon's Back. There are huge areas of woodland, much of it managed by the woodsmen of Stonewylde, but also a great wildwood where it's believed wild boarstill roam. A great deal of the land at Stonewylde is farmed, on a co-operative basis, for the community are totally self-sufficient and of course, organic. All the meat, cereals, vegetables and fruit farmed here are nourished by the life-giving soil and very special earth energy that permeates Stonewylde. Flaxis grown extensively to provide fibre for clothing, hempfor rope, woolis sheared from the sheep, and leatherproduced in the tannery from the cattle skins. The inhabitants of Stonewylde make their own clothes from these raw materials, and most households in the Village boast a loomfor weaving cloth. All Villagers have extensive plots of land behind their cottages for growing their own fruit and vegetables, and most also have their own beehives for producing honey. A great deal of honey is needed to supply the Meadery, where all types of speciality meadare produced. There are extensive orchards and much of the harvest goes to the Cider House, for Stonewylde is famous for its cider.
Stonewylde has its own water supply, from a river that flows from a springhead in the hills. The water is exceptionally pure and other than simple filtering, is left untreated. There are also wells throughout the Village that supply everyone's needs during the summer when the river is low. A
windfarmhigh on the chalk hills creates a good supply of electricity, used mostly at the Hall where it is needed. Villagers use candles (beeswax and tallow) and wood for their lighting and heating. Bathing and clothes washing are done communally in the Bath House and Laundry House. Dry compost privies are used in the Village, and the Hall has its own sewage system that is managed carefully; all treated waste matter is returned to the land, thus ensuring a natural cycle with the soil.
Stone for building is quarried throughout the estate, where there are many areas of excellent grade
limestonesimilar to that found on the Isle of Portland. The largest of the quarries is to the north west of the estate and is known as Quarrycleave. This place has its own history, and there is evidence of neolithicworking, with many important archeological finds. Timber is used too, and many of the cottages are constructed from the old Saxon material wattle and daub. Thatching reeds are harvested from the river and surrounding wetlands, and some brick is made from the claybeds on the estate.
The largest building at Stonewylde is the Hall, which shows evidence of very early construction, possibly 10th Century or even earlier, in the flagstones of the great Galleried Hall.
Mediaevalinfluences are apparent in many parts of the vast stately home, especially in the plethora of representations of the green manand the motif of the three haresthat adorn so many of the ceiling bosses. Each era has contributed its own additions, notably a large Tudor wing, and the main part of the building was extensively renovated during the Victorian and Edwardian periods. Further modernisation was undertaken in the latter part of the twentieth century, when electricity was installed (supplied by the windfarm) and the plumbing system completely replaced. Today the Hall is a comfortable blend of the old and the new; inhabitants enjoy a state of the art computer network and all the latest modern technology, whilst living in an ancient building of immense wealth and comfort. Another enormous structure at Stonewylde is the Great Barn, very similar to the famous Tithe Barnat Abbotsbury although somewhat larger. This is situated in the heart of the Village overlooking the huge Village Green. The building is used on a daily basis by all the inhabitants of Stonewylde, but comes into its own during festival times when the community use it for feasting and dancing.
Stonewylde must be unique in the fact there is no church on the estate. Situated in the ancient kingdom of Wessex, it was never Christianised during the Anglo-Saxon period, repelled the advances of Viking marauders, and after the Norman invasion in 1066 the lord of the manor managed to avoid the influences of William the Conqueror's domination and subjugation of the country by judicious payments to the royal coffers. Stonewylde remained intact and self-governing to a great extent, although paying lip-service to the early attempts of government by representation in 1215 during the reign of King John I. During the scourges of the
Black Deathof 1348 and ensuing years, the great boundary walls were constructed to ensure that the inhabitants remained unscathed by the ravages of the dreaded plague. These boundary walls have been increased and well maintained during the centuries and completed the isolation from the outside world. By carefully managing the process, successive lords of the manor kept their lands and wealth free from the grasping clutches of the monarchy, and even achieved autonomy during the Civil War, despite attempts by both the Royalists and the Parliamentarians to seize the land and accompanying wealth. Today Stonewylde is unique in having preserved itself from all outside influences, including religion.
Stonewylde is home to many ancient stones and burial mounds. Due to the sympathetic, non-commercial farming methods, tumuli and earth barrows have not been ploughed up, nor sacred stones moved or smashed for building materials. It is believed that the henge to the south of the estate is contemporary with the later construction dates of the world-famous
Stonehengeon the Salisbury Plains in Wiltshire. The Stone Circle is perhaps more reminiscent of the stones at Aveburyin their scope, although the enclosed area is somewhat smaller and more intimate. It is inside the arena of this Stone Circle that the inhabitants of Stonewylde celebrate the eight pagan festivals of the year: Samhain, the Winter Solstice, Imbolc, the Spring Equinox, Beltane, the Summer Solstice, Lammasand the Autumn Equinox. Exact details of the rituals and ceremonies are not known as the community operate in isolation from the outside world, but it is believed that the entire population of Stonewylde participate fully in the ceremonies, which involve seasonal costume and head-dress, dancing and drumming, bonfires and a communion of mead and special cakes that possibly contain natural hallucogenic substances. It is known however that the stones of the circle are aligned astronomically to sunrise and sunset at different times of the year, and that earth energy of the type known to exist in ley lines is channelled by some of the participants.Another aspect of paganculture that still exists in this enclosed community is the honouring of the full moon. This custom can be seen in modern-day witchcraftand Wiccanrites, although at Stonewylde it is not a recent revival but a custom that has survived since pre-historic times. The twelve, and sometimes thirteen, full moons of the year each have titles (for example the full moon in May is known as Hare Moon) and again, exact practices are not known, but it is believed that they are linked to fertility rites and certain standing stones on the estate. Certain members of the community (notably female) are said to be moongazy, meaning that they are affected by the full moon and can channel energy during this time.
Stonewylde is classified as a religious community and as such manages to retain many of its ancient lore and customs, as well as being exempt from certain aspects of modern society. Children growing up on the estate are educated in the Village School whilst of primary school age, and then either trained in a craft or trade, or moved up to the school in the Hall. This is run on the lines of a public school, with exceptional grades being achieved in national exams. Many pupils go on to University in the outside world and adopt lucrative and successful careers, only returning to Stonewylde for various festivals throughout the year, but maintaining the ancient custom of tithing in order to support the community. It is believed that many of these graduates operate in high profile public offices today, although their backgrounds are not general knowledge. Stonewylde has only managed to ensure its survival in today's society by cloaking itself if not in secrecy, at least in discretion. A place as unique as this needs to do so if it is not to be destroyed by public scrutiny and invasion.
The Stonewylde Series of Books
Further details of the world of Stonewylde can be read in a series of five books written by local Dorset author
Kit Berry, who has meticulously researched the subject in order to write the novels. The first three titles are now in print: Magus of Stonewyldeand Moondance of Stonewylde, and Solstice at Stonewylde, all published by Moongazy Publishing.
* [http://www.stonewylde.com The Official Stonewylde site]
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