Hugging trees and the site of a murder!


During this lockdown, I’ve yet again been exploring my local area of Wirksworth, Derbyshire just outside the Peak District National Park.

I am learning so much about the area and each walk reveals another interesting tale or unusual artefact or feature. Today was no exception and after a steep climb out of Wirksworth in the direction of the Derwent valley, I walked past a rather fine but isolated hall known as Wigwell Grange.

Wigwell Grange as seen from the footpath through the grounds

The Grange has quite a history and was once the scene of a brutal murder. George Victor Townley murdered 22 year old Elizabeth ( Betsy or Bessie ) Goodwin on 21st August 1863. She had moved into the family home of Wigwell Grange to help care for her 83 year old grandfather, Francis Green Goodwin. George and Elizabeth had met through her uncle and the couple became attached and then engaged. The relationship was not all wonderful however and Elizabeth broke off the engagement twice after apparently meeting and falling in love with a young clergyman in Wirksworth.

It was a passion and jealous filled murder where George fatally stabbed Elizabeth three times while visiting her one last time in the grounds of the Grange. After admitting to the murder, George was sentenced to life in prison. However, shortly after the conviction he committed suicide by throwing himself over a balustrade in the prison while returning from church. The Grange is a grade 2 listed building and is currently a private residence. It is difficult to imagine the horrific scene taking place in these tranquil and pleasant surroundings of today.

In the neighbouring fields and woodland areas of the Grange there is much to explore and I was delighted to find in a small plantation two trees that had bonded together in a way I had not seen before. The trees, an Ash and Beech had branches and roots that creatively intertwined together. I have called them the hugging trees. I couldn’t resist giving them a hug too which was uplifting as we are currently restricted to physical contact due to the Covid lockdown! Later on in the walk, I came across another set of trees that had joined together creating an intricate pathway of roots and seemed to be supporting each other through the years.

I have always viewed being amongst trees as a sanctuary. I love to touch them, listen to their sounds and play amongst their fallen leaves, to marvel at their colours, movement and watch the light streaming through the branches. A tree is our most intimate contact with nature!

With thanks to Sally Smith for the photo’s

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