Wednesday, 29 December 2010
Ghosthunting in Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire is one of the loveliest counties in England. It stands at the head of the Bristol Channel, where the mighty River Severn could first be bridged, and much of its ancient prosperity relied on the fact that the produce of its fertile fields and mineral-rich rocks could be exported easily over the seas to hungry and profitable markets.
The county is dominated by hill and river. The River Severn runs through the area from north to south, its broad valley providing farmland as fertile and productive as any in the country. To the east rises the towering escarpment of the Cotswold Hills. Rearing to almost a thousand feet in height near Cheltenham, these hills dominate and influence the whole landscape. Not only are they striking physical features in themselves, but the soft golden sandstone they produce has been used to build most of the local villages and towns. The beauty of the stone is deservedly famous.
And Gloucestershire has more than its share of hauntings. There are some ghosts here that have their counterparts elsewhere: there are white ladies, black dogs and men in grey scattered round and about there are across all England. But some of Gloucester's ghosts are quite unique. The unearthly spectral screams that tear the night apart at Berkeley cannot be matched elsewhere and the ancient shadow men who lurk around the prehistoric burial mound near Bibury may be the oldest phantoms in the country. And the Mickleton Hooter is quite frankly bizarre.
The lanes that wind over the Cotswolds and spread across the lower land make this a delightful county to explore. There are modern roads, of course, the M5 cuts down the Severn valley while A40 slices east to west, but these arteries of modern thundering motor traffic have left much of the landscape strangely untouched. The Saxon minster at Deerhurst is as tranquil now as it was when the holy monks prayed there more than a thousand years ago. Chipping Sodbury is as perfect a country town as you could hope to find and every bit as charming as it was when an alchemist carried out an experiment that was to have repercussions down to the present day.
There is no knowing what supernatural phantom or spectre may lurk around the next corner. And phantoms can crop up in the most unexpected of places. Castles and churches are obvious candidates to house a ghost, but a modern shopping arcade is more surprising for a venue and even otherwise quiet roads can provide a home for a spook.
Gloucestershire is without doubt one of the most attractive and most haunted counties that can be found. Exploring its lanes and villages has been a wonderful experience, while the towns and the city of Gloucester have proved to be both welcoming and well thronged with otherworldly spirits to interest the travelling ghosthunter. But the most impressive thing about Gloucestershire has been it sheer splendour. It is a county to reward every traveller.
Ghosthunter or not, get out there and discover Gloucestershire. It is well worth the effort.
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