PUBLISHED: 18:00 15 August 2020
Rendlesham in Suffolk has more than its fair share of strange stories, but this one concerns a mermaid rather than little green men
Britain’s most celebrated UFO encounter, Anglo-Saxon warrior kings, a bizarre creature called a Shug Monkey and now mermaids: is there anything Rendlesham Forest can’t offer when it comes to the strange and unusual?
When fans of the paranormal hear the name ‘Rendlesham’, the first thing that springs to mind is an incident that happened over three nights around Christmas 1980, when it was said that several spaceships visited the nearby airbase. In a memorandum to the Ministry of Defence released in 2002, the base’s then-deputy commander Lt Col Charles Halt described how two airmen, investigating strange lights in the forest, came across a “metallic glowing object” which “manoeuvred through the trees and disappeared”. To many, it seemed like an official endorsement of an extraterrestrial encounter – but it turns out that what it might have been is an out-of-this-world day trip to see a mermaid.
In a book called Two Suffolk Friends, published by William Blackwood and Sons, the memories of Robert Hindes Groome, Archdeacon of Suffolk (1810-1889) were contained, including the time he spent at Rendlesham between 1813 and 1815. He recalled: “There was a high sandbank not far from the house, through which the small roots of the bushes growing protruded.
“My brother and I never touched these. We believed that if we pulled one of them, a bell would ring and the devil would appear. So we never pulled them.
“In a ploughed field nearby was a large piece of ground at one end, with a pond in the middle of it, and with many wild cherry trees near it.
“I can remember now how pretty they were with their covering of white blossoms, and the grass below full of flowers…but the pond was no ordinary one.
“It was always called the ‘S pond,’ being shaped like that letter. I suspect, too, that it was a pond of ill repute—perhaps connected with heathen worship—for we were warned never to go near its edge, lest the Mermaid should come and crome us in. “Crome, as all East Anglians know, means ‘crook’.”
On Hidden East Anglia’s website, www.hiddenea.com there is a tale of a pond in Rendlesham which is said to be haunted by a ghostly woman in white who has been seen gliding on its surface or rising from its depths. Could this be the mermaid?
Over on the Griffmonster Walks website (griffmonster-walks.blogspot.com) the author speculates that the pond could be the same one found in the present day Cottage Wood, alongside the footpath that runs between Ivy Lodge Road and Ash Road. On an 1881 map, the pond is clearly shown to be ‘S’ shaped. Perhaps the ‘mermaid’ in question is actually a river hag, used by parents to frighten children into being good.
Peg Powler, a hag and water spirit in English folklore is said to inhabit the River Tees and, just like the Grindylow, Jenny Greenteeth and Nelly Longarms, is said to drag children into the water if they stray too close to the edge. Like a bogeywoman, the river hags lure their prey to a watery grave, although in some stories, Peg Powler is described as a beautiful young woman with green hair who seduces men and young boys that see her and then leads them astray and into the river.
The reference to “heathen worship” may be linked to the nearby bowl barrows, funerary monuments that date from the late Neolithic period to the late Bronze Age and which were used for either single or multiple burials. Rendlesham is thought to have been the site of the royal settlement of the Anglo-Saxon kings of East Anglia and was mentioned by historian the Venerable Bede in the 8th Century. Around five miles from the Sutton Hoo burial site, where a burial ship full of treasures was found under a burial mound believed to be that of King Raedwald, Rendlesham is now thought to be where the king and his people lived.
Whatever the draw of Rendlesham is to the curious and unexplained, do be careful if you go down to the woods today and don’t say we didn’t warn you there might be some big surprises.
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