When we were kids, we often used to get on our push bikes and roam far and wide, riding for miles over the moors and surrounding areas. One of our haunts was the Witch Tree on Otley Chevin.
It is an ancient, half burned out tree in a small, quiet glade, at the end of a short wooded path. But we always found it mysterious, and we believed it was once haunted by an old witch who lived in one of the little rock shelters nearby. We never stayed there for long, and never after dark. I remember when I was in the Cubs we went on a midnight hike once, and our Leader wouldn’t go past the Witch Tree as it was dark – even he knew about it and it’s sinister reputation!
The Chevin is a 925 ft. hill which dominates the market town of Otley, the town is tucked away at it’s bottom. It is ancient and contains lots of woodland and paths, perfect for families out for a walk. It’s name comes from the Celtic ‘Cefyn’, ‘Cefn’ or ‘Cefu’ meaning a ‘ridge’. There is evidence of a track along the ridge going back over 12000 years. Part of a Roman road also runs near the top.
Just below the summit ridge is a short path that borders an ancient wood. The path leads to the Witch Tree, and there are dozens of stones lining the side of the path and the wood. We called them the ‘Skeleton Teeth’, and a brochure I read recently suggested they are Bronze Age in origin – the author called them the ‘Megalithic Highway’.
Actually, it is part of a ‘Vaccary Wall’, once used as an enclosure for cattle – they are hundreds of years old (mostly 12th or 13th Century).
Where I now live, I see the Chevin every time I walk down our street and head to town, and visit it often – the views at the top are superb showing the moors to the North and West and Otley town below. It just shows what is on your doorstep – you only have to look!
I still won’t go past the Witch Tree on a night though….