Weird Norfolk: The ghosts of the Acle Straight.
- Credit: Nick Butcher
It's a stretch of road like no other in Norfolk, a spirit level which crosses the misty marshes to link a Broadland market town to the seaside.
The Acle Straight, a delight to drivers who aren't in a hurry, offers views across grazing marshes dotted with wind pumps with its patchwork of farmland and dykes that stretch for miles from Acle itself to Great Yarmouth, a journey of nine miles over reclaimed land which was once under the sea.
The road – also known as the Acle New Road – began as a turnpike road following an Act of Parliament in 1830 for making a new road across the marshes between Acle and Great Yarmouth with a branch road between Seven Mile House on the River Bure and Halvergate village.
Shortening the distance from Great Yarmouth to Norwich by three miles and five furlongs, the road was staked out inn 1830 and ditches were created on each side, 37 feet apart. Layers of willow brushwood, soil from the ditches and gravel created a road and willow trees were planted on either side. By April 1831, the road was complete other than for a layer of broken stones and shingle – it opened later that year as a toll road.
As its name suggests, the road is exceptionally straight – other than a curve where the Halvergate branch road joins it at a point which encompasses the new Hindu temple in the former home of the Stracey Arms, a preserved wind pump, a house and a humped bridge which spans the Norwich to Yarmouth railway line.
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It was close to this exact point where something very strange was spotted – the spectral figure of a man.
A driver passing the Halvergate turn-off, a notoriously dangerous stretch of the Acle Straight which has tragically claimed many lives over the decades, on their way to Acle watched in horror as a middle-aged man walked out into the centre of the road from the right-hand side and 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.
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And it's not the first time that ghosts have been seen on this stretch of road – other drivers have reported seeing a phantom horse and cart crossing the road directly in the path of oncoming vehicles while other drivers have reported having a sudden impulse to brake violently and for no apparent reason at certain points along the road, despite having seen nothing to lead them to the conclusion that an emergency stop was necessary.
Eighteen months after the Halvergate spirit was spotted, Bill Richardson was driving on the Acle bypass towards
Hemsby at around 7am when he had to slam his brakes on in order to miss hitting someone who had stepped out in front of his car.
'Someone suddenly stepped into the road in front of me' he said, 'they appeared to be wearing some sort of shiny uniform and swinging their arms as if they were marching.'At this very moment, a fellow early morning traveller heading down the carriageway in the opposite direction also pulled
up.Bill realised this had to be more than just a coincidence. He said: 'After a couple of minutes I pulled myself together and got out of my vehicle and walked over to the other car and spoke to the driver, a young lady, and I asked her if she had seen what I saw.'The young lady described what had caused her to make the unexpected pit stop- a description of the very same man crossing the road who had, just like Bill's mysterious marcher, vanished completely. 'This was a very weird experience for me as I would expect if was for the lady of the other car' said Bill.
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