Pluckley Village, possibly the most haunted village in England A reporter from the Telegraph UK press visited Pluckley Village to see for herself what makes this the most haunted village in England. What follows is her reporting on eyewitnesses accounts. When I stop at the Mundy Bois country pub and ask in a casual manner
Pluckley Village, possibly the most haunted village in England
A reporter from the Telegraph UK press visited Pluckley Village to see for herself what makes this the most haunted village in England. What follows is her reporting on eyewitnesses accounts.
When I stop at the Mundy Bois country pub and ask in a casual manner for directions to Pinnock Bridge, the elderly local sizes me up from his barstool. “You’re looking for the ghost of the Watercress Woman, then?”
Sheepishly, I have to admit that that’s precisely what I’m doing; well, if not exactly for ghosts, I’m looking for their fabled haunting grounds. In the run-up to Hallowe’en, I’m in Pluckley in Kent because, depending on who you talk to, the village and surrounding area has between 12 and 16 ghosts. Guinness World Records, which in 1989 named Pluckley the most haunted village in England, puts the figure at 12.
Its paranormal portfolio includes a screaming man who may have worked at the village brickworks and fallen to his death, and a highwayman said to have been run through with a sword and pinned to a tree at aptly named Fright Corner, where he appears as a shadowy figure.
Other ghosts said to haunt the area include that of a schoolmaster found hanging by children and of an old woman who used to sit on a bridge, smoking her pipe, drinking gin and selling the watercress she had gathered from the stream.
This old woman, the Watercress Woman, is supposed to have burnt to death when, saturated in gin, she accidentally set herself alight on the lonely spot where she would sit each day with her pipe. What better place could there be to frighten oneself in the run-up to Halloween?
I set off for Pinnock Bridge on foot along a quiet country road that winds its way through pretty farmland. Besides its ghosts, the area is also known for its idyllic and unspoilt countryside, made famous by the television series The Darling Buds of May which was filmed here in the early 1990s. The land is a patchwork of fields, woodland and orchards. Traditional ousts, most now converted into homes, complete the scene.
Autumn it may be, but the sun is out and I can feel its warmth on my back; it is decidedly un-spooky.
Were it not for the sign, I would have missed Pinnock Bridge entirely. It is a low stone structure – perhaps just two-feet high – completely covered in ivy and partially obscured by the lower branches of trees. Now that I’m here, I’m not entirely sure what to do with myself.
I cross the road and sit on a wall, looking at the bridge and thinking of the Watercress Lady’s plight, perhaps trying to conjure some apparition, in my imagination at least. I see nothing, but feel a fleeting moment of melancholy; sad, lonely or grizzly endings are the foundations of most ghost stories, and to ponder them in this way seems macabre.
I take solace from the fact that although there may be truth in a portion of these stories, historical records to prove the existence of the events and characters that inspired many of them are thin on the ground.
Back at Elvey Farm where I’m staying, Simon, one of the owners, tells me that there have been numerous ghost sightings at the farmstead over the years. The oldest part of the farm was built in 1406, and there is also a collection of stables and outbuildings dating from the 16th to 18th centuries.
One of the ghosts is said to be that of Edward Brett, a resident farmer at Elvey in the 18th century.
Simon tells me that before the farmer shot himself in the dairy, his last words to his wife were “I will do it”. It is these words that have supposedly been heard repeated in a whisper around the farmstead.
Other ghosts at Elvey Farm include that of a man in military uniform who stands on the stairs that lead up to the attic bedrooms above the 16th-century barn that now houses a cosy bar. Despite these creepy tales, even though I am staying at the farm alone and, admittedly, have a fruitful imagination, I enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep in my comfortable room which is in the oldest part of the stable block and has delightful views over fields dotted with sheep. Besides, it is difficult to feel spooked at a place with a lolloping golden retriever called Scubie (nothing to do with Scooby Doo, apparently) and two cats – Martha and Arthur – who loiter around the farmyard.
Pluckley village is a 15-minute amble through fields and over stiles from the farm.
I set off towards this prime ghostly stomping ground with “Haunted Pluckley: Most Haunted Village in Kent”, by Dennis Chambers tucked furtively under my arm. According to this guide, which I picked up from behind the bar at Elvey Farm for £1.50, two ghosts haunt the Parish Church of St Nicholas in Pluckley: The Red Lady, who is said to wander the churchyard, and The White Lady whose restless soul is supposed to haunt the church itself.
Pluckley is the epitome of a traditional English village: pretty cottages, a small post-office, a butchers’ and a pub (also haunted, apparently) cluster around the main street. There is a timelessness about the place that must have made it appeal as the location for The Darling Buds of May which was set in the 1950s.
Fans of the TV series would certainly recognise the scene as I approach it today. I take a stroll around the churchyard but don’t see any phantom ladies, just a woman in an anorak walking her dog. The gravestones, their epitaphs eroded by time, sit wonkily among the trees and long grass. A gate at the back of the graveyard opens onto an orchard of apple trees, their branches heavy with rosy fruit. As far as churchyards go, this one isn’t particularly spooky.
Likewise, when I look inside the church, it is a hive of activity with preparations for the imminent Harvest Festival. Flowers are being arranged, decorations hung and boxes of food sorted. There is far too much pottering going on for ghosts and I slip out unnoticed.
Ghost hunting is beginning to make me feel a bit shifty, so I head to the Black Horse pub – itself possibly the haunt of a mischievous poltergeist – where I decide resolutely not to ask about its phantoms. Over a Bloody Mary, I ponder what set of rules the Guinness Book of Records might have used to determine Pluckley’s paranormal status.
When I call them to find out, they can’t tell me much about the criteria, but they do say that the England’s Most Haunted Village category has been “rested for some years now”. “Rested” means that they no longer monitor the category or recognise the record. When I ask why, I’m told it is because they try to make records more international nowadays, but I suspect it might also be because they try to make them at least a little bit empirically verifiable.
With or without proof, I find Pluckley far too pretty to be spooked, although those with a penchant for the paranormal may find that it fits the bill perfectly. If you do decide to visit at Hallowe’en, be on your best behaviour. Residents have been upset in previous years by marauding ghost hunters littering the graveyard and being boisterous after dark. Poor show in a village that is decidedly more Darling Buds of May than Blair Witch.
Full source:Telegraph UK