IT'S not surprising that Berkshrie is one of Britain's most haunted counties. It was once almost entirely forest - there are still large expanses to be seen and explored. Below are just some of the ghsots that remain despite the arrival of 21st century society with its motorways, internet and all things digital.
Arborfield used to be haunted by the ghost of a witch. She would be seen walking the lanes before disappearing beneath the surface of the village pond. The pond was filled in some years ago but used to on the grass area opposite The Bull pub. When the pond was drained in preparation for filling in a large stone slab was uncovered. Workmen were going to lift it until villagers stopped them, frightened that they would release the witch in the process. An exorcism was conducted on the stone slab and this seems to have laid the spirit to rest for good.
Such tales of ghosts and witches connected with pond or wells are common and might be just tales told by parents to keep their children away from potentially dangers spots. However there may be more scientific causes. Springs and ponds often indicate spots were there are faults in the underlying ground - spots that also create "earthlights". These earthlights are naturally forming balls of plasma which can be misinterpreted as ghosts or UFOs.
The ghostly figure of a young bride can reportedly be seen at midnight on January 1 under the larger yew tree next to St Bartholomew's church. Legend tells how she was to marry the gardener of Arborfield Hall but was murdered by a jealous butler.
Before its demolition Arborfield Hall was a grand mansion and, according to author Jeff Nicholls in his book Our Mysterious Shire (ISBN 0 946681 04 X) was haunted by a grey lady who walked down the main staircase carrying a child in her arms.
Barkham: A headless soldier, the so-called "phantom of Barkham" is said to haunt the Barkham Road.
Bracknell: Quelm Lane is haunted by a man riding a white horse who grabs small children. Quelm is an old english word for death or hangman. Caesar's Camp, an iron age fort outside the town, is reputedly haunted with the marching of soldiers still heard on still nights.
Hurst: Unusual sounds have been heard in the historic Castle Inn built by the church.
Warfield: A ghostly procession is said to march each year on October 28th along Forest Road. This is the anniversary of an event that apparently took place in 1874. Jeff Nicholls in his book Our Mysterious Shire writes:
"It is recorded that a large group of villagers was displeased with the ill-treatment that the lord of Warfield Park, Lord Ormathwaite, was meting out to his wife. The lady of the house, formerly Lady Emily Somerset, was very sympathetic and charitable towards the villagers in their times of hardship, so when they heard of this cruelty they took the law into their own hands, in the way of a tin-canning."
Tin-canning was an old English punishment whereby villagers would arm themselves with cans, tin pots and anything else that made a noise and descend on the wrong-doers home.
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