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Norfolk Broads: Myths and spooky tales from the waterways

PUBLISHED: 11:00 19 April 2018 | UPDATED: 11:16 19 April 2018

St Benet's Abbey. Photo: David Harper.

St Benet's Abbey. Photo: David Harper.

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Ghost hunters, legend lovers and anyone who appreciates a good tale that may, or may not, possibly be true, have a feast of myths and spooky tales to enjoy in the Broads.
We start to explore…

Acle Straight near Halvergate.
Picture: Nick ButcherAcle Straight near Halvergate. Picture: Nick Butcher

A dragon at Ludham, a huge dog at Bungay, ley lines passing through haunted churchyards and a screaming monk at St Benet’s Abbey.

Anyone who has felt the blackness of a dark night on the Broads, watched eerie wisps of fog swiftly wrapping whatever it can reach or noticed their neck prickling as they drive along Broadland country roads will know there’s no shortage of weird and wonderful tales about the Broads.

Let’s meet some of them:

BLACK SHUCK OF BUNGAY

Coltishall Bridge.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLYColtishall Bridge. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

The congregation of St Mary’s Church, Bungay were quietly deep in prayer on August 4, 1577, when a great big, shaggy, fiery-eyed black dog appeared by the old church door.

It moved so quickly that candles were blown out as it dashed through the church, and the black hound mauled many churchgoers as they knelt.

It left as quickly as it appeared, leaving the marks of its claws on the north door.

Now the dog is said to appear before lone walkers, particularly those walking along Bigots Way, passing Bungay Castle.

Potter Heigham bridge. Photo: Nick Butcher.Potter Heigham bridge. Photo: Nick Butcher.

The big black beast is even said to guard buried treasure at the ruined St Benet’s abbey, and watch out for it on dark, misty nights at Coltishall Bridge at the upper reaches of the Bure.

It hasn’t attacked anyone else since the day it appeared in St Mary’s Church, but it terrifies all who catch a glimpse of it.

THE SHRIEKING MONK OF ST BENET’S ABBEY

Listen out for a foggy night scream across the fields of Ludham.

The ruined gate-house of St Benet’s Abbey is where you may see – and hear – history repeat itself.

Essri was a monk who betrayed the abbey to its enemies in exchange for the title of abbot.

Once the church had been seized he was made abbot, before being sentenced to death as an example to all informers.

It’s said his ghost swings, crying out, in the Abbey archway.

ANNE BOLEYN AT BLICKLING HALL

The sound of gravel crunched beneath carriage wheels has been heard at the National Trust’s Blickling Hall near Aylsham on May 19, the anniversary of Anne Boleyn’s death.

It’s said a spectral carriage draws up, with headless horses, a headless coachman and a headless Anne Boleyn descending from the carriage, holding her own severed head in her hands.

She’s said to walk the rooms of Blickling Hall all night, disappearing at daybreak.

CAPTIVE NEW BRIDE LADY EVELYN

Stand silent on Potter Heigham Bridge at midnight on May 31 and you may hear the clatter of a coach racing past you to its doom.

Driven by a skeleton, it tumbles over the bridge, taking Lady Evelyn to her death on her wedding night.

Her mother Lady Carew had asked a witch to create a potion to secure the heart of a wealthy bachelor for her daughter.

In return, the witch asked for one, undisclosed wish.

Slipped the potion during a hunting party to King’s Lynn, the bewitched Sir Godfrey Haslitt of Bastwick fell for Lady Evelyn.They married in Norwich and swept home for the wedding breakfast.

But a skeleton kidnapped the bride at midnight in a carriage.

Lady Carew could only watch from afar as the coach reached the bridge, burst into flames and crashed into the waters, realising this was the witch’s one wish.

LEY LINES

Crisscrossing the country, whether well worn ancient pathways or direct lines between places of spiritual and historical interest, there are many ley lines around the Broads.

One runs 4.5 miles from St Mary’s church in Rockland St Mary to Trowse Newton, passing through St Peter’s in Bramerton, through the ruined Saxon round tower of St Mary’s in Kirby Bedon, through the haunted churchyard of St Andrew’s to the 13th century church, also called St Andrew’s at Trowse.

Britain’s most famous ley line, St Michael’s Ley, starts with the sunrise at Hopton-on-sea, not far from Great Yarmouth on May 8, and follows the path of the sun through Glastonbury and Avebury to the Mount in Cornwall, a point of ancient mystical importance.

SECRET TUNNELS

At Ludham, in the midst of the Broads, a menacing dragon dug itself a labyrinth under the village, venturing out through an entrance between the Carpenter’s Arms and the parish church.

One warm day, as it lay outside in the sun, a brave resident blocked up its entrance.

Furious, it flew away and battered the walls of nearby St Benet’s Abbey, before slinking into a tunnel under the gatehouse.

Legend also tells of a mysterious tunnel beneath the ruins of Bungay Castle to Mettingham Castle, said to have been dug at the command of Oliver Cromwell, while the now ruined Augustinian priory at Hickling is said to be haunted by a monk who disappears down a tunnel that leads to a marsh drain half a mile away.

GHOSTLY PEDESTRIANS

The Acle Straight, the road running from Norwich to Great Yarmouth, has one main curve where the Halvergate road joins it and this stretch has claimed many lives over the decades.

One driver saw a middle age man walk into the centre of the road – straight into the path of their car.

With no time to stop, the figure turned to look at the driver and as he did so, the car passed straight through him.

Others have seen a phantom horse and cart crossing the road in the path of oncoming vehicles.

Two other drivers spotted, at the same time, a spectral uniform-wearing figure marching in the road.

Yet more drivers report having a sudden impulse to brake despite having seen nothing to make them feel an emergency stop was necessary.

Intrigued? Read more fascinating tales from our county with Weird Norfolk.

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