Distance: 7 miles
Ghostly Rating *****
Route: Hollingbourne - Ringlestone - Hollingbourne
Map: OS Explorer 148
Start/ Parking: Hollingbourne, close to the church.
Public Transport Hollingbourne is on the railway, though it is almost a mile from the station to the village.
Conditions: This route is largely over quiet country lanes, with one lengthy stretch over a public byway.
Refreshments: The haunted pub at Ringlestone offers good meals.
This is a hilly outing taking the walker over the rolling North Downs and dipping down into the valley of the Snagbrook. In places the hills can be steep, but they are not too demanding as the steepest sections are on country lanes where the tarmac surface makes for easy walking. The route offers magnificent views south over central Kent and west to Maidstone as well as some unusual and idiosyncratic phantoms.
1) Park in Hollingbourne and make your way to the church.
Back in the mid 17th century Lady Grace Gethin was a noted young beauty among the local gentry in this part of Kent. Her devotion to God was as notable as her good looks and she regularly attended worship here at her parish church. One Sunday young Lady Grace suddenly leapt to her feet in the middle of the service, gave a strangled cry and collapsed in a faint. Anxious relatives and villagers clustered round, but it was some time before she regained her senses. When she did, Lady Grace explained that she had witnessed a vision so remarkable that the good folk of Hollingbourne carved the poor girl a beautiful tomb, inscribed with the story and set it up in the chancel of the church.
The tablet remains to this day and reads:
“She was vouchsafed in a miraculous manner an immediate prospect of her future blisse for ye space of two houres to ye astonishment of all about her and being like St Paul in an inexpressible transport of joy thereby fully evidencing her foresight of the heavenly glory in inconceivable raptures triumphing over death and continuing sensible to ye last she resigned her pious soul to God and victoriously entered rest.”
The next day Lady Grace died secure in the faith that her vision foretold her journey to heaven.
Wherever her soul may have gone, her ghost returns occasionally to Hollingbourne. Her slight figure, wearing a straw bonnet and dressed in the height of fashion for the era when she live, walks slowly from the lychgate across the churchyard.
2) From the church, follow the main village street northward past the Dirty Habit pub and a crossroads. Continue straight on up a steep hill out of the village.
This hill is haunted by a phantom horseman, who trots along quite sedately as he rides up the hill. This is the phantom of a man named Duppa who lived in Hollingbourne House, at the top of the hill, in the 17th century. This particular ghost appears to be quite normal and solid when he is seen. There are no semi-transparent bodies to give away his spectral nature, nor does he ride in mid air. He can, however, be recognised by his hat with a broad, floppy brim and by his highly ornate spurs that jingle as he trots along. His ghostly nature becomes startlingly apparent when he reaches the gates of Hollingbourne House, where he vanishes into thin air.
This is an extract from GhostHunter Walks in Kent by Rupert Matthews