Thursday, 22 April 2010

Ghosts of Culpepper's Dish, Dorset

This short walk takes in varied woodland scenery from mature oak forest to sterile commercial pine plantations. There are impressive views and enclosed forests. Much of the undergrowth in the southern part of the walk is composed of rhododendrons and, at the appropriate time of year, these make a truly spectacular display of blooms. Of the three phantoms that may be encountered here, by far the most famous is Lawrence of Arabia whose house at Cloud’s Hill is owned by the National Trust and is open to the public during the summer months.

The Walk

1) Park in the small car park owned by the Forestry Commission which is located on the lane which turns east off the B3390 just south of Affpuddle and runs to Bere Regis. As you exit the car park on to the lane, Culpepper’s Dish is behind the hedges directly in front of you. This impressive hollow is exceptionally steep and very deep. It is possible to climb down into it, but this is a scramble and the ground is very slippery when wet. Great care should be taken. Having viewed the dish, return to the road and turn right.

This stretch of road is haunted by a small group of ghosts which can be both seen and heard. Tramping steadily along the lane in perfect step with each other come four men carrying a coffin on their shoulders. There are no other mourners accompanying this cortege. It can only be assumed that this is the recreation of some funeral from long ago which ended at the little church in Turner’s Puddle, for there is no other cemetery within easy reach in the direction the men are walking.

2) About 50 yards from the Dish this lane is crossed by a footpath. This is part of the Rambler’s Association’s Jubilee Trail. Turn left along the path signposted to Morton. Follow the path downhill and across a patch of open heathland. Cross the first track the path meets, but turn right along the second track. A few yards along this track, look down the slope to the left to see the sinister waters of Rimsmoor Pond.

The stories that swirl around this bleak place are many. The pool is said to be bottomless and its waters are strangely deadly for no fish or other water creatures are to be found in its dark, silent expanse. There is said to be a malevolent spirit lurking here that lures passersby to their deaths. It was one such death some years ago that led to the haunting of this dismal place.

A young man from Briantspuddle was returning home after a convivial evening out with friends and foolishly chose to ride back by way of Bryants Heath, and to skirt the waters of Rimsmoor Pond. What happened exactly willl never be known. The young man never came home, nor did his horse. Next morning his friends set out to trace his steps. When they reached the high ground above the pond, they saw the ground had been torn up by frantic hooves and the bushes torn aside as if some dreadful fight had taken place. Ominous skid marks showed where the horse had slid down the steep slope, straight into the waters of Rimsmoor Pond. Of the man and his horse there was no sign, just the empty wind blowing across the dark waters.

To this day the fading light of evening will sometimes show the doomed young man riding along the path towards Rimsmoor Pond. As he reaches the top of the rise, the ghostly man glances down towards the pond with a look of horror. Then he vanishes. Whatever happened to him was frightful. Best to avoid this spot after sunset.

3) Return to the road, turn right and walk about 300 yards before turning left to return to the car park.

This is an extract from Ghost Hunter Walks in Dorset by Rupert Matthews.

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