Saturday 18th July.
Claire, Jay and myself had decided to risk the weather and pop over to the Lake District for a little adventure. Claire had produced a full itinerary so an early start was a must, much to the annoyance of Jay who claimed he had swine flu as soon as I picked him up.
After a slight detour up the A1 instead of the A19 (I told them I that I didn’t know the way and that they should guide me), and a stop off for chocolate in a local shop where Jay pretended to be cockney, we were motoring to our first location of the day, the stone circle known as ‘Long Meg and Her Daughters‘. Having never actually been in a stone circle before I was quite excited as we drove up the little track to the farmers field where the circle was located.
Supposedly one of the finest in the north of England, the circle has a diameter of about 350 feet, the second biggest in the country. The stones probably date from about 1500 BC, and it was likely to have been used as a meeting place or for some form of religious ritual.
Local legend claims that Long Meg was a witch who with her daughters, was turned to stone for profaning the Sabbath, as they danced wildly on the moor. The circle is supposedly endowed with magic, so that it is impossible to count the same number of stones twice. If you do manage to get the same ‘magick’ number and whisper it to Meg, then the spell will be broken and Meg will awake.
Always up for a challenge NGI set off individually counting each of the stones in a clockwise direction, dodging (sometimes unsuccessfully – Claire) the many cow pats that covered the area. Then the same act was repeated counterclockwise. To tell you the truth I was expecting to get a different number the second time, but imagine my surprise when the number was the same! I thought that I must have been chosen by the Gods to unlock the mystery of Long Meg and her Daughters. It was slightly disheartening to find that both Jay and Claire had got the same numbers too, which meant that I wasn’t quite as special as I had originally thought. Still all our ‘magick’ numbers matched so we MUST have been correct in our calculations. We trotted up to Long Meg herself and took turns in whispering the number to her. The ground didn’t start to shake and no loud groans could be heard coming from the stones. Maybe Meg just wanted an extra 40 minutes lie in. We left a couple of ‘gifts’ for Meg which consisted of a couple of coins and a piece of chocolate and then trotted off back to the car to visit our second location – Castlerigg Stone Circle.
Castlerigg Stone Circle is one of the most visually impressive prehistoric monuments in Britain. The stone circle is on the level top of a low hill with views across to Skiddaw, Blencathra and Lonscale Fell. There are 38 stones in a circle approximately 30 metres in diameter. Within the ring is a rectangle of a further 10 standing stones. The tallest stone is 2.3 metres high. It was probably built around 3000 BC – the beginning of the later Neolithic Period – and is one of the earliest stone circles in Britain. Although its origins are unknown it is believed that it was used for ceremonial or religious purposes.
There were a couple of dozen other visitors at the circle as we trotted up to the circle to admire the stones and the beautiful scenery and everything wad peaceful and serene. That was until Jay made the mistake of daring Claire to walk into the middle of the circle, hold her arms aloft and shout ‘OM!”. He should have known better than to dare Claire who immediately begin to stride towards the circles centre in her spike heeled boots while Jay and myself tried the very best to make ourselves invisible. Claire did indeed shout ‘OM!’ and the circle was filled with nervous laughter. With that, we made our excuses and left. A pub was the next thing on our agenda and we could have really done with a drink.
Sitting at the top of the pass is the junction of two roads, one leading to Ambleside, the other to Windermere is the Kirkstone Pass Inn. Subject to the vagaries of wind, snow, horizontal rain, and mountain mist, this long, low building with blackened beams and a stone floor provides a welcoming open fire in winter. Proclaimed to be the third highest pub in England, it is, purportedly, riddled with ghosts, so this seemed like the ideal place for NGI to have a drink and a bar meal.
One ghost is of a woman who attempted to traverse the road in a snowstorm and died along the way. Supposedly her spirit lurks about the building. Another is that of a coachman dressed in 17th century clothing that mysteriously appeared in a photograph taken in front of the inn in 1993. The ghost, who was the great, great grandfather of the family photographed, followed them home and now lives with them.
There are tales of a frightening grey woman and the ghost of a lost hiker who worked at the inn and now plays poltergeist tricks there. Another ghost, that of a woman hanged for murdering her child, haunts a nearby tree, appropriately called the Hangman’s Tree.
The only scary thing that NGI found at the Inn were the prices, although it has to be said that the Inn itself is really nice and my burger was tasty. It would be great to do an investigation at the place in the future.
Having been fed and watered we were up for a little bit of walking so we pushed on the Aira Force. A local waterfall with a ghost story attached to it. Emma was the name of the maiden said to have drowned in the waters. Waiting for her true love to return from knightly duties, Emma waited by the river everyday, often falling asleep there. When her hero eventually came home and found Emma sleeping, he awoke her – startled, Emma fell into the water and was drowned. Her white spectre may still haunt the area. It was here that Jay claimed to have lost his footing, slid down a hill, and had to be rescued by some passing visitors all in the space of 5mins while mine and Claire’s backs were turned. Hmmmmm.
After our stay at Aira Falls it was time to take to the road once again to travel to Brougham Hall. Brougham Hall, set in its own park, is the historic country seat of the Brougham family. A fortified home has existed on the elevated site since the late 1400s. The Broughams of Brougham (Westmorland) became extinct in 1608, and a James Bird purchased the estate in 1676. John Brougham of Scales (Cumberland) brought the estate back into the Brougham family in 1726. Rebuilding of the Hall took place in 1829-1847 and again in the 1860s when Lord Brougham, the Lord Chancellor, lived in the home. It became known as the Windsor of the North due to the visits by King Edward VII and the future King George VI.
There are many stories concerning the goings on a Brougham hall. Soldiers have been witnessed walking along the corridors of the hall and in the grounds on numerous occasions. Unknown sounds are often heard echoing around the corridors of the hall and objects have been witnessed moving under their own accord. One of the legends surrounding the Hall is that of a skull which is walled up somewhere in the walls of the hall that can be heard wailing on dark nights. It is said that if the skull was ever removed from the Hall that ‘bad things would happen’.
As the day was getting on we took this opportunity to grab a drink and sit in the Halls pleasant grounds while chatting about all things ghostly and our crazy theories regarding the paranormal. No ghosts made themselves known to us during our brief stay but I would love to arrange to return to do an investigation at this place sometime in the future. Well, if it’s good enough for ‘Most Haunted’ then it’s good enough for NGI!
Finally it was my turn to indulge myself with a visit to the village of Croglin. The legend of The Croglin Vampire has always been one of my favorite tales since childhood, and as I was this close the the village, there was no way on earth that is was going to miss out on paying the it a visit. The story concerns a certain Miss Cranswell who was staying at Croglin Grange (probably what is now Croglin Low Hall). One night she awoke from her sleep and was compelled to look out of the window in the direction of the darkened churchyard at the bottom of their long lawn, and noticed something that looked like a pair of red eyes in the vicinity of the churchyard. After a short while she checked herself for her foolish superstition and slowly drifted to slumber. On the verge of sleep she was suddenly jolted awake by a low rustling from outside the window. Sitting bolt upright she again saw outside the window burning like coals in the night were two points of light, which she now recognised as the demon eyes of some humanoid creature who was grasping at the window pane. She tried to scream but sheer terror prevented her making a noise. The creatures monstrous hands unpicked the lead from the triangular panes, causing the small glass panels to give way and allowing it’s grey corpse-like hand to reach in and pulled the latch. The window swung inwards in one slow motion and the figure climbed through the gap with a cat like ease. Miss Cranswell could now hardly breathe let alone scream for before her stood the towering figure of a man, pale, almost translucent with bright burning eyes and blood red lips. He stepped to the bed and in one movement grasped her hair with gnarled hands, and pulled her head back as if to deliver a vampiric kiss.
Miss Cranswell’s brothers, sleeping in separate rooms were aroused by a loud high pitched scream that seemed to shake the very walls of the Grange. In a moment they were before their sisters door. The door was locked so they smashed through with a poker, eventually breaking through into a devastating scene. There was a stench of mouldy decay in the air and upon the bed lay their sister, blood pumping from arterial gashes in her neck. One of the brothers rushed to the open window and just caught sight of a shadow flitting across the bottom of the lawn near the churchyard. They managed to stop the blood flow and revive Miss Cranswell, the next few hours were spent in the attempt to save her life.
Miss Cranswell then took a trip to Switzerland to recover from her ordeal but she was return to Croglin soon after. She once again took her place in the room overlooking the churchyard. Once more the figure of a man appeared at the window and picked the leaded glass to gain entry to the bed chamber. This time the two brothers were lying in wait in the shadows, as the figure came to step into the room they both loosed shots at the creature. There was a low howl and the creature sped off at in the direction from whence it came. Not wishing to follow such a night creature into its domain the two brothers waited for daybreak.
On arriving at Croglin church the brothers and some of the other villagers noticed that the entrance to the crypt was open. All around were the scattered remains of broken coffins and gnawed human bones. One coffin stood alone in the corner and seemed to have been left untouched by the chaos. The villagers wrenched off the coffin lid, inside wrapped in mouldy clothes was what they assumed to be a vampire. Its eyes were cold and lifeless in the daylight but a fresh pistol wound was gaping from one of the creatures legs. The villagers dragged the coffin and its demonic contents out into the churchyard and burned the lot to ashes.
Much doubt had been cast on the authenticity of this story over the years, but to visit the site of the story was still a great thrill for me. The actual hall itself is a private property, so we instead headed in the direction of the churchyard and home of the undead creature. The churchyard itself was pretty much what I was expecting to be honest and did have an eerie feel to it. It was not hard to imaging a vampire making it’s home there. Claire found a bundle of wooden stakes around the back of the church (I think they were really fence posts) and proceeded to exorcise Jay in the ancient and approved manner, much to my delight. With my vampire cravings satisfied we bundled back into my car and set off on the long journey home.
I really enjoyed my day out in the lakes and I look forward to our next trip, although by this point I was starting to feel like Jay’s swine flu had moved on to claim another victim in me.